We are bipedal creatures. Fact. Bipedal locomotion sucks. Also a fact. This makes being a human somewhat challenging in the sense that we don’t have opposable toes or a tail with which to swing from tree limbs. Swinging from your tail seems a little bit like bliss, if you ignore the associated demotion back into the Food Chain.
We Cyclists elect to circumvent these shortcoming by pushing our legs around in circles rather than in whatever shape makes a walking pattern or a tail-swinging pattern. It’s quite unnatural, riding a bike, and even the most casual study of the common Cyclist will reveal that most are not terribly good at it.
Which is why the graceful Cyclist is such a pleasure to watch; the mastery of the unnatural. A Cyclist who coaxes the pedals about their arch with fluid grace and power is not so much an athlete as an artist. This is a creature who has dominated the nature and become something wholly of another world.
Rising from the saddle in search of more power is perhaps the pinnacle of the art. Planting our butts in our saddle provides a solid platform from which to crush the pedals; it’s a handy way to keep our limbs from setting off in independent orbits. But when we’re really on the rivet and in the search for Speed Plus One, that rump is going to have to get lifted up into the air.
The most skilled in this craft are a beauty to behold. In one fluid motion that does nothing to limit the venom in their stroke, they rise out of the saddle and allow the machine to sway beneath them in response to the power being applied by each thrust to the pedals. The saddle sways from side to side in an almost hypnotic rhythm as the rider suffers without revealing any external signs of the effort they are applying.
The only hint is that the amplitude of the saddle’s sway increases as the power does. And when the time comes to return to the saddle, the amplitude is reigned in and brought back to home with perfect precision and no loss in the pedal stroke.
Cadel Evans looked horrible out of the saddle; he gave the impression he was trying to strangle his machine for some untold afront. Sean Kelly, on the other hand, could rise out of the saddle without you even realizing he was standing, so smooth was the transition.
On my best days, my saddle returns to me in perfect unison; I am one with my machine, a symbiotic lifeform. Upon a visit with the Man with the Hammer, I almost need to coast in order to return my rump to its home on the rare occasion that I manage to lift it off in the first place.
Mastery of this art is one I continue to pursue. Vive la Vie Velominatus.