The Dot by Lachlan Morton
Lachlan Morton's new book tells the inside story of his Alt Tour
Read an exclusive excerpt from Lachlan's new book.
28 June ⁄ Redon ⁄ 846 km
The final 15 kilometres to Redon were fast. Propelled by a large rain storm, I hardly noticed the ripping tail wind. I chose to focus on the rain. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. The crippling knee pain I’d been nursing the entire day had returned in a big way. I’d folded the cardboard from a block of chocolate to fashion a sort of wedge under the sole of my shoe an hour or so earlier. The latest attempt to rid myself of pain and keep the dream of Paris alive. It worked, briefly. But now, as the sky opened up, the sharp pain reminded me just how fragile this attempt at beating the peloton was. I’d barely begun and could hardly manage a pedal stroke. My brain raced at a manic speed trying to problem solve. If I’d paid a little more attention before starting, I wouldn’t be in this mess. I decided I’d take two days off, rest the knee, then attempt to regain the lost time. It was the only solution. Why two days? No idea. I told myself this but I didn’t believe it for a second. I couldn’t give two shits how nice the campsite next to the river was. I was in a crisis. My body had immediately found its weak point and it was debilitating me.
Realising I still had to sort some dinner, I hung my gear and headed for a nearby supermarket. My brain continued at warp speed searching for solutions. I couldn’t bring myself to put my feet back in my riding shoes so I sat them on top, triathlon style. As I pedalled I realised the pain was less severe, so much less severe that my foot was self-selecting its position. It was finding the spot it wanted to be. Right away my head slowed down and I knew what I had to do. I didn’t need to rest, I needed flat pedals and shoes. I arrived at the supermarket and no shit, bikes lined the entrance. After a number of very confusing interactions with multiple store employees, it became apparent that this store didn’t sell pedals, it sold bikes. About 50 euros later I pedalled back to the campsite with two bikes. Two bikes, a new pair of sandals and renewed hope, Paris was a thousand miles closer than it was twenty minutes ago.
29 June ⁄ La Flèche ⁄ 1050 km
I made record time packing up my bike in Redon. My entire outlook had shifted 180 degrees since the prior evening thanks largely to the cheap flat pedals now attached to my bike. I was unreasonably certain this would end my knee troubles. The prospect of pain-free riding through the French countryside filled me with a childlike enthusiasm to get on my bike, as though Santa had just dropped it down the chimney. I was still realistic. I knew these pedals would slow me down. There was a reason all serious cyclists rode clipped in. I hadn’t ridden flats since I was a kid. They were for play bikes, toying around with no purpose. There was a reason I’d endured that steep learning curve at age seven, falling over countless times, to master the clipped in pedal. From that age I’d always had purpose when I rode, therefore I needed the serious tools for the job. I figured I’d be riding three to five kilometres an hour slower on average. This would mean up to 60km less each day. But in this game motion is progress and any losses could be made up when I got back in my racing shoes.
I hurried out of the campsite in dense fog and jumped straight into a fast tempo. I awkwardly pedalled with a ferocity that suggested I was already making up for lost time. The sandals felt great. The grip they held with the pedal was remarkable. Still something was off. I reached for the pedals like I would on my brother’s bike. The seat was too high. I’d failed to account for the low stack of my new set-up. I jammed on the brakes, lowered my seat a full centimetre, and jumped back aboard in what was my best F1 pit stop impersonation. Ohhh. There it was! Wow. In those first few pedal strokes I made that connection with the bike that usually takes years of micro adjustments. A feeling that with constant equipment changes and new sponsors had eluded me for years now. My body to the bike was like my foot in this sandal, a perfect fit. I felt grounded on my bike. I watched my GPS computer with amazement as the speed came freely. My body was no longer adjusting to the bike and it felt like it was finally moving in the way it desired. With no pain and no restraints I was moving faster than I had on any of the previous days. With so many factors turning in my favour I pushed with the kind of intensity you reserve for a short time trial. I was a kid with a brand new bike trying to show dad how fast he could go.
“I gained a sense of freedom that somehow made my whole mission more simple.”
As the fog burnt off I settled into a more suitable tempo. I realised that doing away with the race pedals was symbolic of something more. I was doing away with another cycling tradition that smothered me and the way I desired to ride. I gained a sense of freedom that somehow made my whole mission more simple. I felt free to set my own rules, work through the route on my own terms. I’d regressed to a time before purpose dictated all the rides I went on, but this felt more like progress. Knowing I’d packed my old pedals in the frame bag for when my knee could handle them, I became saddened even at the idea that there would come a time when purpose would overcome my new freedom and they’d make their way back onto my bike. I pushed the thought out of my head and for now, simply enjoyed this new-found appreciation for the act of pedalling.
Head to Rapha.cc to read the rest of the story and relive Lachlan’s Alt Tour.