The Rider: Revealed – Bike Magazine Australia

After finally quitting racing in 2012, Krabbe kept riding with the Windjammers – and kept crashing (five times last year). “He’s a man of steel,” Santen says, in a tone of sober awe. At Krabbe’s “retirement” dinner, a Windjammers member (a musician) penned a Dylan knockoff, “Jamming in the Wind,” as a tribute (sample lyric, in honour of his erratic way-finding: “How many roads did he try in the North, before he knew his way around?”)

In Amsterdam, everyone seemed to have heard of Tim Krabbe – for different reasons. The manager at the Rapha store tells me she used to ride with the Windjammers. “Oh, yes, Tim!” When I told a professor at a local polytechnic I was meeting Krabbe, he said: “The chess player?”

A friend I had dinner with smiled in recognition and said “Het Gouden Ei!” (or, The Golden Egg, the original title of The Vanishing). Someone else pointed out that Krabbe had written the Boekenweekgeschenk – the “book gift” that is given away with every bookstore purchase during an annual literary festival in the Netherlands.

One night, at De Kring, a members-only literary club to which I had wrangled an invitation (Krabbe himself is a member), an older man in a tweed suit, after he had asked why I was in town, said “ah, De Renner” – as The Rider is known in the Netherlands.

After the ride, Krabbe – this man of many guises – and I return to his apartment, on a high floor of a large, modern black high-rise on KNSM Island, in the city’s far eastern reaches, one of a series of infill projects constructed on islands originally built to deflect waves. His living room is dominated by a sweeping view of the IJ River and the flat waterlands beyond.

“This is the widest part of the water,” he says, gesturing below. “Where cruise ships turn around. It takes them three-quarters of an hour.” When he was married (“luckily,” he notes, “my ex-wife is one of my most important friends”), he lived in a narrow canal house on the Leidsegracht, in the city’s centre. “It was very nice, but in some ways it was like a cage – on the brightest summer day, you needed artificial light.”

I get the sense that he likes being in this watery aerie, far from the town centre (but close to the best cycling), where he can work on his next book (“800 pages,” he jokes), play internet chess, and slip out for Windjammers rides. On the wall is a painting of a boy, which Krabbe tells me is of his son, Esra, painted by Tim’s father.

When he was in his teens, Esra (until then a “completely non-academic guy,” Krabbe says), developed an obsession with Japanese games and martial arts. It was no passing fancy: He began to learn the language and then moved to Tokyo to attend high school. He still lives in Japan, speaks Japanese better than Dutch, and, carrying his father’s athletic genes, has done competitive karate and kickboxing. Last August, Esra and his wife had twins, adding another facet to Krabbe’s profile: grandfather.

Copyright © 2016 Rodale Inc.