Friday, July 1, 2011


Have you ever heard of Shermer's Neck?

No, it's not a town in Nevada or upstate New York. It's a condition named after long-distance-cyclist and founder of Skeptic Magazine (and author of the recent book, The Believing Brain) Michael Shermer, whose neck muscles failed him about 2500 miles into the 3000 mile Race Across America (RAAM).

Those suffering from Shermer's Neck--which tends to afflict riders about 300 miles or so into this 10 day, 3000 mile race across the continent--take to extreme makeshift measures to keep their heads up: some fashion structural supports (from whatever's handy, including Pringles cans), others wind their helmets with duct tape and then fix that to their backs.

Obviously, anyone willing to tape their head to their back in order to keep bicycling across the country in the middle of June is not a normal person. They're a little crazy--and the RAAM, in which cyclists must average at least 300 miles a day (yay! basic math) with little or no sleep, will only make them a little crazier. (To find out just how much crazier, check out this fascinating episode of Radio Lab.)

As a testament to the sheer power and perversity of human determination there is little that compares to the RAAM (one competitor quipped that "Everest is more dangerous, but the RAAM is harder"), which is one of the reasons I'm excited about Amy Snyder's visit to the store on July 14th at 7pm. Snyder, whose experience as a triathlete provided her with insight into the limits of the mind and body, is the author of Hell on Two Wheels, a riveting chronicle of the 2009 RAAM, one of the closest and most controversial races in the history of the tournament.

So, if you're at all interested in any of the above--to recap: failing neck muscles! lack of sleep! terrifying visions of armed warriors on horseback (listen to the Radiolab episode)! bicycles!--and want to hear more by an author whose account of the race has been praised as "gripping" by the Wall Street Journal, please come join Ms. Snyder and the rest of the Thursday night crew on July 14th.

For more information, visit our events page.

Image from Bicycle Dreams, a documentary about the RAAM


Cozy in Texas said...

Interesting. I'd never heard of this.

Anonymous said...

Timm K├Âlln's The Peloton: Portrait of a Generation. Now that's a book.