The Red Kite Prayer

Back in the mid 1990s, I interviewed for an associate editor gig at the old Bicycle Guide magazine. Grant Petersen, at Rivendell Bicycle Works (for whom I was the web guy at the time), helped out with an introduction to Garrett Lai, who was the senior editor of the magazine.

Part of the interview process was a ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu from Santa Monica with Garrett and Joe Lindsey, now of the Boulder Report at Bicycling Magazine.

The other candidate, to whom the job eventually was offered, was Patrick Brady of the now-defunct Asphalt Magazine. Patrick also used to write for Belgium Knee Warmers as Padraig. Never got the chance to meet Patrick, though.

Patrick (still writing as Padraig) has recently launched a new blog called Red Kite Prayer; no, it’s not a religious site, other than its devotion to the religion of cycling. It’s name refers to the flamme rouge, the red kite that signifies the last kilometer of most major international races, especially the Tour de France … and more importantly, a seemingly ubiquitous gesture that every cyclist does when they reach the last kilometer or the last mile of an event.

As Patrick writes:

What unites each of them is a moment that inevitably comes after passing under the red kite. Each rider will bow his head as he summons the last of his strength for the finish. It’s the same bowing of the head that recreational riders will make before rolling to the finish of a century.

Summoning the strength to make a final surge to the finish is as universal as the urge to finish; no one wants to roll across the line in defeat and that final effort is the chance to accelerate to a personal victory that comes from the satisfaction of knowing you left everything on the course.

The psychology of riders can rarely be guessed, but the red kite prayer is a moment we all share, a search for our remaining strength as we summon the will to leave it on the road.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for both Patrick’s writing, and the excerpt above is a fantastic example of same. Bicycle Guide certainly made the right choice hiring Patrick instead of me, and I definitely look forward to continuing to read Patrick’s work. But sometimes I still wonder, “what if” …

Red Kite Prayer