I’m Not Riding My Bike

Specialized Road to Vegas Spread Specialized Road to Vegas Spread

According to the MRI my back is a mess. Something in the vicinity of T6 putting pressure on my spinal cord... I'm waiting for a neurosurgeon to give me the real prognosis when I eventually get to see him. In the meantime the bikes have been sitting idle in the garage as three and a half years of continuous mileage evaporates from my legs. I saddled the Enigma today for a 30-minute loop, took it absolutely easy and still felt lousy for an hour after I got back. There's no doubt something is seriously wrong.

I miss riding. The hundred miles I knocked out most weeks might not qualify as serious training but they grounded my opinions and gave voice to this blog. It's no big surprise that as the miles have declined so has the word count around here.

Where's Rapha

A while back someone asked what I thought about Rapha's new fall lineup. Many of you who found VeloDramatic because of my obsession with the iconic UK brand are probably wondering why the silence. Well there's no mystery. Things on my end have been quite different this year and several themes combined to reduce my cycling purchases. First off, the career switch has required a lot of new camera gear. Second, you can't "solicit" test gear if you're not actively riding. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, my closet is already stuffed with Rapha kit (at last count I have 9 Rapha jackets, 15 jerseys, 3 bibs etc., etc.). Have I bought my final product from Perren Street, not a chance, but for the time being I'm happy enjoying the pieces I've got. None of it shows any serious signs of wear and it looks as good now as the day it arrived (I only wish I could say the same for me)

Specialized Road to Vegas Spread

I will admit to missing those Fedex boxes and the excitement of peeling back the Rapha packaging, but I'd look pretty silly wearing the Paul Smith rain jacket sitting on the couch watching The Road to Roubaix while cleaning my cameras. Those of you who've been sampling the new lineup should chime in with your comments.

Specialized Road to Vegas Spread


I've completed the Specialized Vegas book (images above) and this week I'm off to Auburn CA for a two-day clothing shoot. There's also a big project in the works that picks up where the Tour for Kika left off. I'll have all the details in early December.

37 Responses to I’m Not Riding My Bike

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  2. Stephen says:

    Sorry to hear about the prognosis. Hope you’ve got better insurance than when I was self-employed!

  3. Todd says:

    I hope the neurosurgeon has good news for you and you can get the treatment you need. I hope you’ll be able to be back out on the road again soon. For now I hope you’re enjoying the extra rest and recovery after several long seasons of riding and shooting.
    I’m looking forward to reading and seeing more in the coming months.

  4. Austin says:

    I hope that you can feel better, and the surgeon can help you. Your blog is inspirational. Our thoughts are with you.

    • Austin, Todd, Stephen,

      many thanks for the good wishes. You wouldn’t have a spare vertebrae or two lying around, would you? The weird thing about all of this is I can’t think of a single incident that caused this. I came off the bike in 2009 but rode for nine months after that with no ill effects… which leaves the unsatisfying cause as general wear and tear.

      Thankfully I’ve got Juli’s corporate insurance looking after me, or I’d really be hurting.

  5. Richard says:

    This post strikes a chord with me, Michael. Illness has forced off the bike for almost 12 months now. Slowly getting back to it – but the time off’s been tough.

    So my sympathies to you, and also my best wishes for a speedy recovery. Hope you bounce back soon.

    PS – really chuffed to see your new career blossoming. The cream always rises to the top.

    • thanks Richard, fingers crossed we’ll both get back on the bike regularly in 2011. It’s hard to overstate just how important riding is to me; I’m sure it’s the same for you.

      • Richard says:

        Cycling’s very important to me on so many levels. That said, some of the (thankfully incorrect) medical news I’ve received this last year has helped to keep things in perspective and keep my frustrations down a notch. But yeah, now I’m getting over that hump it’s all about 2011 baby -2011! :D

  6. kurt says:

    Sustaining an injury that keeps one away from their primary sport is frustrating business.
    I returned to cycling after decades of abstinence that began with a horific crash that haunted any attempt to ride. After tearing my rotator cuff playing tennis, I watched 80 grand worth of lessons and court/club fees dissappear into oblivion. A year of rest, rehabilitation and an extra 25 lbs lead me back to the bike.

    Your stories helped me stay motivated thru a difficult time while I developing my form on the bike. Thank for that.

    This year I have ridden 5 centuries, climbed Mt Mitchel, dropped 28 lbs and continue to keep the weekly mileage above 200. I just returned from a business trip to Montreal where I rented a bike and circumnativated Montreal in 4C deg weather. Dripping with Rapha I was prepared for worse while I regulated my temperature with the layers of last year’s gear.

    I have established a full wardrobe of Rapha gear. My latest addition is the 3/4 bib. Although it is not new to the Rapha line up it is a solid performer. I love, love, love the chamois. The fit is perfect and my knees are fully protected. The new Deep Winter gear won’t be necessary in Miami but I find myself coveting it nonetheless.

    I was thinking about your situation while I was on a solo ride on Saturday. It seems a shame to have built a reader base of riders only to watch it evaporate with your cycling form. There must be another way to inspire riding related discussion while you are on the mend. I think we all have missed your commentary of the road, Rapha and other gear.

    I wish you luck with the pain. Pain can change more than a man’s sport.

    • Hi Kurt,

      Your story is really inspiring. Coming back after a devastating crash and a long absence helps me to put this all in perspective. I met with the neurosurgeon today and while there’s damage I’m not exhibiting the really troubling symptoms that would necessitate immediate surgery. I’m going to start some therapy and meet with another doctor to discuss treatment. Road biking is problematic, but we’ll see how the back responds. Maybe I’ll get back on the hybrid, and stop treating this like it has to be “road” cycling or nothing.

      thanks for the good wishes… while I’m on the mend I need to rekindle the writing around here.


      • kurt says:

        As you can see, we all wish you the best and are happy you are again tossing your thoughts out into the open for all of us to comment, discuss, advise and ponder.

        As I mentioned a long time ago… A community of strangers.

        While you are on the Hybrid… remember to invite Juli along and bring a picnic basket with your favorite fair. There are more ways than one to enjoy a bicycle trip.

        I wish you and Juli a Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. BR says:

    Bossman – Get healed up and don’t worry because the return is always sweeter then the first trip. The journey back begins when you think that you are all finished. It’s a bad pun…but it truly is a cycle. Cycling is where I have solved many personal challenges in my life so keep those tires pumped up and a few clothing items hanging on door knobs and bed posts as a reminder. Call me for any pace, distance, hour of night, etc that works for you. I have been enjoying some Friday night 10PM rides on the deserted trail to Los Gatos recently. Not a soul out there and it’s fun.

  8. Martin says:

    Life can truly be a pain in the ass and other places. I had 3 rides on my brand new steel 29er when I nearly cut through my hand with a power miter saw. I still can’t close my left hand. Whatever. It’s so obvious to your readers that you are and always will be a cyclist at heart and soul, we’ll ride for you in the meantime. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope you’re reunited with your steeds shortly, Godspeed…

    • thanks Martin, it means a lot that all you guys are pulling for me. I hate hearing those power tool stories, hope that hand of yours is back to 100% soon.


  9. kaiko says:


    i’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll get back on the bike before next year :)

    i know the feeling of not being able to ride as much as you want to/used to. i’m looking forward to more of your photography, though…a bad back might be keeping you off the bike, but that’s no excuse not to edit those amazing photos i’m sure you’re hiding from all of us!

    get well soon :)

  10. Jon Moss says:


    Wishing you a speedy recovery from a very cold England.

    You were, and still are, a passionate cyclist, and will always be, not to mention an inspiration when I was starting out a couple of years ago (many pleasant hours spent going through the blog archives and reading about the Enigma and Rapha).

    As to Rapha’s new AW gear, I, like you already have plenty. I’ve got the Cross jersey for the spring, and the skincare (very nice) but what I have been doing is selling a lot (Softshell jacket, gilet and fixed trousers) only to replace them all with a size down! A result.

    Best wishes,


    • Jon,

      Lucky man, one size down. I had that going for a while but sadly I’m heading in the other direction and thankful of I’ve still got a couple of original Rapha pieces one size UP. Juli isn’t helping things by getting serious about cooking and baking… I can’t win these days ;-)


  11. William says:

    I had a couple of prolapsed discs in June so I know what you are going through. I had no trauma either, just too much sitting badly and I think a transatlantic flight finally finished me off. I am still not back training and was told that it just takes time to recover. It is getting better all the time, but I would say that it is best to take the time and let it heal on it’s own over the winter and start afresh in the spring. I am hoping to get back into some sort of training in the new year. Waling seems to help a lot and it is nice to get some fresh air and stretch your legs in another way.
    I hope you heal up well and quickly.

    • Good advice William,

      I shot some mountain biking on Thursday and had to hike a bunch of gear in to the location. After the initial shock of the exertion, the heart rate settled down and I enjoyed the exercise. Just as you said it felt better to be doing something physical and I seem to have suffered to ill effects.


  12. The popularity seems to be there still Michael, bad news about the back but not all bad surely. When you’ve been very active it’s hard to slow down some. Maybe your body is telling you to rest a little from the constant cycling, I would of course council you to watch how you carry that camera equipment, I know how damned heavy that extra weight becomes. Proper distribution and plenty of rests. A good clear out each week of the camerabag will discard the crap that we stick in, “just in case”.

    Good Luck with the latest shoot, sounds good to me.

    All the very best

    • Hi Douglas,

      The shoot worked out well and as I just responded to William, the back survived a bit of hiking and carrying. Neurosurgeon tomorrow and I’ll find out what’s going on.


  13. Glyn Owen says:

    Another “get better” soon message from the UK.I started cycling about 18 months ago on a fairly basic Giant road bike. Thanks to you, Brian at the TWMP and the Rapha website I still have the Giant but it’s been joined by an Enigma Echo and a Colnago CLX not to mention a cupboard full of Rapha kit.It’s not all about the kit though, inspired by following the stories and pictures on my three favourite websites will result in over 10,000 miles in 2010. So once again get well soon and keep us all up to date on how you are doing.
    All the best

    • thanks Glyn,

      You’ve got both Brian and I represented in that stable of yours. Great bikes, and 10,000 miles is a really impressive mileage total… you’re really working at it and probably enjoying the best fitness of your life. Well done.


  14. franco says:

    VeloD: All the best with the Dr. stuff, diagnosis and recovery. We are all pulling for you. I am just returning to the bike now after a bad broke elbow – four months off. Keep working it. We love your stuff!


    • Franco,

      All these comments about you guys battling back from injuries gives me motivation to get riding again as soon as I can. In the meantime I’ll keep the images coming.


  15. layton says:


    In 2000, i was bed ridden for 4 months, unable to lift anything heavier than a very small
    glass of milk. The physical discomfort was constant and so extreme that even a 30 minute stretch of sleep was a blessing, and for all those interminable moment-to-moments, i felt as helpless as a beetle stuck on it’s back, without the strength or courage to flip, unable to move. I was down to a 110 lbs. somewhat resigned to my fate before the correct combo of meds were found and the corner was turned. It took nearly a year to get back to normal and when i did, i
    took up snowboarding and then cycling to keep the legs in shape over the summer, and
    then cycling as a passion onto itself. Today, I am off the meds, in the best shape of my life, the
    owner of 2 custom steel road bikes and a Cervelo S3 as well as an entire closet bursting with
    Rapha. Also, i’m embarrassed to say, i take (a guilty) pleasure in riding down every fellow cyclist encountered. No one likes to be passed, but I consider it all a celebration of life re-claimed. I don’t believe that there is a pre-ordained logic to our successes or our serious set backs, but i do believe that the set-backs our wasted if we do not glean anything from them. My lessons were that as a life long athlete, life is nothing without good health and the other is to live in the moment, always, because life can take a turn for the worst as quickly and unexpectedly as a careless driver.

    Given my own experience, I do empathize completely with your current physical circumstance and i hope your road to recovery is as swift as well…an S3. I guess the other lesson would be that it is always best to have at least 2 passions. In your case the 2nd being photography which you can still indulge.

    best regards,


    • Thanks Layton,

      Life eventually challenges all of us with injuries or illness I suppose, and when it happens it makes you angry that we take good health for granted when it’s there. Now I know what I’m dealing with there’s no excuse for me not to battle back. As I just replied to Kurt that might mean riding my hybrid instead of my road bike while this episode persists.

      thanks for positive thoughts. I’m thankful for the terrific VeloDramatic community and all the support.


  16. I am so, so sorry to hear about your back. I remember meeting you briefly at Interbike a year ago or so as you were just getting started (or re-entering) photography and I have really enjoyed reading about your riding and the pictures have been awesome! I hope you get some relief soon and are back on your bike!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Nice to hear from you. I’m lucky I’ve still been able to shoot and I’ve not lost both passions. I’m hoping for a return to fitness and riding in 2011.

      thank you for writing.


  17. Tim says:


    I have been a fan of your blog for about 9 months now and I can honestly say my wife hates you because of my new addiction to all things Rapha. She just doesn’t get that a $200 dollar jersey is a necessity not a luxury.

    When I was in college I race and my love affair with cycling has lasted all my life. However, there was a point where I could not ride without a lot of pain. The pain was as a result of getting seriously hurt when I was in the military when a cargo door on one the jets I crewed on decided to lose hydraulics and come crashing down on me. For years I could not sit, stand, walk or ride without serious pain. There were times my physical therapist had to wrap straps around me and pull me out of my car. I ate dinner lying on the floor. Over the years I spent hours in physical therapy and even gave a chiropractor a whirl. Drugs were a part of my life and the side affects started to really affect me. Cycling was totally out of the question.

    A couple of things I learned and that is you cannot quit and there are alternatives. One of the sports I took up was scuba diving. Once in the water I was neutrally buoyant and damn near pain free. Diving gave me an entire new outlook on life and something I took great joy in doing. As my condition got worse I continued to work with my docs to find solutions and eventually one came that really helped. A surgery called Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) Surgery was recommended and I decided to have the procedure. When I woke up from the surgery I immediately felt better.

    While I had been down I made a promise to my boss that if I ever got better I would ride the MS 150. It has been 9 years since the surgery and I have ridden the MS 150 7 times. I will not lie to you and tell you that I ride without pain because that is not the case. But I have found about 2 Tylenol per 3 hours makes the ride tolerable.

    Please feel free to email me. My advice is to do the exercises your doctor recommends, stay active, and keep a positive attitude. Do not think twice about getting a second and third opinion. I went to a sports doctor (orthopedics) and did just fine. The neurologist was of no help. On the bike I would get into a more upright position. Maybe rotate the stem if you have one that works both ways. Look at getting a different saddle with a little more padding (I know this sounds counter to the prevailing thought but it worked for me). Take a spinning class and learn how to stretch on the bike while riding if you do not know how to now. I found that riding 5-8 miles and jumping off for a stretch helped. If your back pain is serious enough adjust your goals. There could be a possibility that you may never get back to your old form and that is okay. Of all else fails then get into scuba diving and underwater photography and start a blog called Diverdramatic! I can turn you own to some super high priced diving gear and cameras and then your wife can come looking to kill me.

    Keep your head up and do not let this beat you.


    • Hi Tim,

      Great comeback story… thanks for taking the time to let me know there’s nothing necessarily “final” about the current diagnosis. I love the bit about Diverdramatic, you’re right of course, if it’s not cycling I’ve got to do something to stave off old age. Sorry I’m in your wife’s bad books, I’ve been pretty frugal with gear recommendations this year, it was starting to look like wives might band together and put a contract out on me.

      My dad actually had a fusion procedure in his mid 30s and it certainly has helped him. Since my problem is in the thoracic spin, it’s a more complicated operation. I’m starting some non-surgical treatment this week, and fingers crossed it’s going to help


  18. Dave Wyman says:

    OK, my turn for a story with a good ending.

    About five years ago, I injured my back. The pain radiated down from my lower back to the heel on my right leg – classic sciatic pain.

    Diagnosis: a bulging disk.

    Studies have shown that doing nothing usually results in a faster recovery than surgery or chiropractic medicine. I decided to wait out the pain, which included turning down the offer of a cortisone shot.

    For along time, it hurt to walk the dog – I had to stop every few houses and sit down, or lean against a lamp post. Early on, I had asked my doctor about riding my bike, and he said, “Don’t.” A month or so later, I went back to the doctor, and asked specifically what could happen if I got back on my bike.

    “Nothing,” came the answer, “except it’s going to hurt.”

    That day I was back on my bike. Each time I turned the pedals half a revolution there was a strange pai, emanating from somewhere deep inside my back. I can remember thinking, as I pedaled painfully up a hill, “If this pain ever goes away, I’ll never mind riding up hill again.”

    Gradually, the pain dissipated. One morning, eight months later, I stood over the porcelain bowl and realized the annoying tingling sensation I normally felt in my heel was gone.

    While the pain has come back on occasion, sometimes for a few months at a time, it has never come back as severely as that first major episode. Riding my bike always seems to help. And I never mind riding my bike uphill.

    Everyone is different, injuries are different. For many people, though, time proves to be the great healer.

    Good luck.

  19. HI Michael,

    May I suggest some pain management techniques and healing therapy’s Ive employed and researched.. its centuries old Chinese traditional Ba guan Qi ( essentially suction cups) I had a sharp pain for days in my shoulder blade and lower back probably from sleeping on a old futon ( straw mat) but that Ba Guan did the trick after 3 treatments. here’s some ref info might be useful http://med-vetacupuncture.org/english/articles/herbref.html

    I bought my own kit on ebay and have my wife and even my 4 year old Ba Guan me..

    also I tried moxibustion ( great stuff and you will see that in this Video on Chinese Accupuncture and Moxibustion from UNESCO

    blessings for a speedy recovery..
    PS: try to avoid surgery if need be.. those admitted in Bipedally usually leave on a BOneshaker..

    Willy Carmelo,
    LI, NY

    • Hey Willy,

      I’m going to check out those links which will make my Chinese mother-in-law happy. She’s a big proponent of traditional Chinese remedies. Thanks for the good wishes and suggestions.