Look Pro, Part VIII: The Phantom Menace

Look Pro, Part VIII: The Phantom Menace

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Casually Deliberate is at the core of Looking Pro; it’s something that comes from a lifetime spent on a bike, becoming one with the machine. There are two components to this phenomenon, two organisms forming a symbiotic bond and working together in perfect harmony towards an end.

The Machine. Immaculate. Every piece of kit in its place, adjusted to the millimeter; il posizione must be set up precisely to maximize the V-Locus. The Principle of Silence reigns supreme; no creaks, no squeaks – no Rattle, just the Hum from the tires and spokes as they cut through the air. Every last detail is looked after; the frame is spotless and the bars perfectly wrapped.

The rider. A paradox. Victim at the hands of the Man with the Hammer, yet conqueror of their own physical limitations. Perched on the saddle, the rider is comfortable as the legs spin with deceptive ease. Every movement is perfect and carefully controlled, yet nothing is given undue consideration. The hands reach out and rest easy on the bars. The back is simultaneously arched and flat as the body finds the ideal balance between transferring maximum power to the pedals while keeping the shoulders low and narrow to punch the smallest possible hole through the air.

Nothing conveys this notion as much as riding in the Phantom Aerobars. The forearms resting on the tops, hands draped loosely in the air, clutching at nothing but wind: physics are seemingly defied as somehow the rider manages to not only steer, but also coax the leverage from the arms required to propel the machine forward. In a word: Grace.

It is paramount that any rider who endeavors to Look Pro learn to ride in this difficult position. But beware: one must take care to avoid crashing while practicing; not only is crashing while trying to Look Pro un-casual, it is monumentally un-Pro. That’s a tip.

  1. Because your arms are resting on the bars with your hands dangling unsupported, you will need a Magnificent Stroke with a smooth upward motion in order to provide the counter-balance that your arms normally provide.
  2. You will also need a strong core to support your body and avoid supporting your shoulders by leaning on your forearms too much. Not only will this become uncomfortable, but the added weight on the bars will make the bicycle unstable.
  3. Find the V-Locus. Your bike must be set up properly, allowing you to ride in a neutral position in order to minimize undue torquing or twisting.
  4. While unsightly and generally frowned upon, older model Shimano shifters with outboard shift cables make for a kind of crutch as you learn to ride in this position; avoid clutching the cables too firmly, but it is permissible to hold them loosely to provide some modicum of steering and leverage.
  5. Watch where you’re going; you don’t want to be hitting potholes or road furniture while conducting what amounts to a high-speed balancing act.

One last consideration, the gut you’ve been nursing since discovering that beer is the ideal post-ride recovery drink may actually help keep your forearms unweighted. I recommend you keep testing that theory until it becomes true.

// General // Look Pro

  1. Also Michele Bartoli was a regular user of the phantoms…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBt155gMbp0

  2. Nice piece frank. I’ve seen a few of Le Tour riders in this position and it makes me think they are relaxing into the ride when I know they are laying down some V, especially in the last 5km of the stage. I have to assume this position on my rubbish bike in order to help cut through a head wind (It’s a mountain bike with straight bars). I can’t keep it up for long and feel really unstable.

    I’m new to the Tour. I’ve never watched it before and it is an inspiration. Is this a good year or is it my inexperience of cycle racing?

    And just for ChrisO… I can’t believe the ENORMITY of the upcoming mountain stages. I hope Jonny Hoogerland continues in the race.

    JoD

  3. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Riding the phantoms FTW in a monument with a smile on your phace is badass. +1 for the video.

  4. @John of Denbigh
    Welcome. This year’s tour so far is really good. I would say too much carnage and too many GC riders having to abandon but the racing has been spectacular on every stage thus far. In all, a great introductory tour for you, the bar is high now.

  5. @ChrisO

    @John of Denbigh
    Let’s go with “gi-normous-ness”. (Can’t say I spelled that right.)

  6. I’ve been scouring the web and my cycling magazines to no avail but I know I saw a picture of Spartacus on the phantom aerobars on the cobbles of PR last season.

  7. @Matt

    @RedRanger

    Awesome. I aspire to ride in this position. It makes you a bad ass.

    But beware. Only a small mistake can make your ass bad.

    A-Merckx.

  8. @Cyclops

    He was blasting at the front of the peloton on that cobbled stage of the TdF 2010 (stage 3?) with some Phantom Aerobars.

    Looked amazing leading the whole bunch with a subtle grin on his face.

  9. @Cyclops

    I’ve been scouring the web and my cycling magazines to no avail but I know I saw a picture of Spartacus on the Phantom Aerobars on the cobbles of PR last season.

    You’ve mentioned that before and I know what picture you’re talking about. The only problem is he’s not on the cobbles. The shot in question was taken on the tarmac, just after he rode off a secteur of stones; they are in the background but there’s smooth road between him and the stones. It was a Specialized advert. So, in effect, you can’t find that picture because it doesn’t exist.

  10. Boom in the Phantom Aerobars in the rain, off the front, lone attack!

  11. Dutch monkey Lars Boom goes phantom aero off the front!!!!

  12. Lars Boom rockin’ the phantoms right now…and he’s caught. Bummer.

  13. Boom goes into the PAB’s trying to hold the peloton at bay.

  14. @earnest, @Jeff in PetroMetro, @frank, @Cyclops
    Ha! Great minds…

    Millar rockin’ the phantoms now…

  15. @Marko
    Too right that there have been too many crashes (particularly motorbike and TV car carelessness!) and we have lost some top riders. Being from the UK I was gutted when Bradly Wiggins crashed out. I just hope he’s on form again for the Olympics next year.

    As for the bar being high – too high I suspect and my only excuse is this. More V is called for and get out and train!

    JoD

  16. Hmmm… a pic from the recent rest day. He’s still the Man in my book.

  17. @Mikeweb

    I saw this the other day and wanted to post it with some negative commentary.

    Then I got afraid that his guns would find me while I’m unawares and annihilate me without mercy.

    As you say, though: still the Man. Wisdom.

  18. We forgive them.

  19. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    Last year I was in Berlin and with some help of the people at Villa Pasculli, I had an interesting chat with Timm Koelln (the author of this photo).
    Ah! And he speak a great Italian too…

  20. @Mikeweb

    Hmmm… a pic from the recent rest day. He’s still the Man in my book.

    Best to simply point out the greatness of the adidas scuffs on his feet and leave it at that lest things get, you know, weird.

  21. @Minion

    @earnest

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    As far as I’m concerned, Spartacus can break any rule he wants.

  22. @Mikeweb
    He is wearing the Swiss national champion jersey. He can take the sleeves off if he wants I must say. The Rules exist to Look Pro. If you *are* Pro, don’t you Look Pro by definition?

  23. Yep. I was hoping to avoid the thread descending into the homoerotic.

  24. Ok, so back on topic,
    I’ve to say that I’m not a lover of the phantom aero for myself, to me looks like a distracting position.
    I think it’s a position that require a great amount of hours spent riding, maybe the total amount of hours I ride are not enough to be accustomed to.

  25. If you all remember, we’ve talked about the scuffs here.

  26. @Pedale.Forchetta
    I just bought Kolln’s book, “The Peloton”. What a masterpiece.

    Pedale, your life is my dream life. If you told me you lived on the shores of Lake Como, I would not be surprised. I guess that’s the price one pays when one lives in Italy: ride with pros, make friends with world-famous authors and photographers, be a world-class photographer (which you are), watch pro racing live and in person, drink negronis, ride bikes, eat good food, go to bed, get up, and repeat.

    How do I get a work visa in Italy?

  27. @Minion
    But he is soooooo Faboo!

  28. Based on the metrics and content analysis of this thread, those who drop into the phantoms are also those who are strong in the TT. Would we see the likes of Griepel or the Pocket Grimpeur in the phant posish? Not sure.

  29. @marko
    I remember. i have a pair. Frank has a pair. Faboo has a pair. If that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.

  30. @Minion

    @marko
    I remember. i have a pair. Frank has a pair. Faboo has a pair. If that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.

    Hehe. I hadn’t kept up with discussion and read this. I took it to be referring to PABs. Now that’s a funny idea. I’m going to upgrade to a lighter set of PABs.

  31. Bartoli, how frikkin cool, going onto the PAB’s in the finishing straight at Liege! Class…

  32. @brett
    Calling Brett and other Welly-based Velominati. Stage 11 replay is being shown at D4 bar from 6:30 to 8am Friday. Karl from Adventure Travel has organised apparently. Good chance for a catchup. I’ll be wearing the red & white carnation…

  33. @Bianchi Denti
    Sweet, but probably won’t make it as I’m going to attempt to avoid the result all day and watch it on Fri night at a mate’s place…

    Welly velominati = Welliminati btw…

  34. @Cyclops
    I thought it saw that, too – and Google Image search failed me so hard.

  35. legalize spinaci!

  36. However skinny these lads may be, they are fit & strong in my book. I’ll take a cyclist over an NFLer any day. Let’s play a game: who live longer and will fewer insane health issues?

    Cool photos!

    As for the “phantom menace” I go bonkers when they do this, especially if they are the sole remaining break away lad, like BOOOM today. “Yes, I am hauling my arse off. Yes, I am getting chased by 178 angry, wet met. Yes, I lack aerobars. However, I’m going into TT mode, I’m going to work it, and I’m going to look good doing it.”

    Sweetness.

    I also LOVE seeing the lads names on their jerseys, however small or tucked in. Awesomeness. It’s like a little reminder that they are living and breathing, not just gods. Though, they still are stunning with their form.

    Velcro, on!

  37. @Ron

    However skinny these lads may be, they are fit & strong in my book. I’ll take a cyclist over an NFLer any day. Let’s play a game: who live longer and will fewer insane health issues?

    Professional cyclists living longer with no health issues??? C’mon Ron. Think we might need to be a few more years on from the EPO era (esp 2003/4 when about 8 pros died in a year, not from accidents) before cycling can claim to that title…

  38. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    For an American I think would be easy… And thanks for your words!

  39. PABs & CasDel…boy, if you miss even one article around here you could be in the dark on things…

    Marcus, very true. I guess I was referring to you average PRO cyclist, one who might take some uppers, a bit of champagne after a win. Plenty of low-impact, high mileage sporting though, and lots of massages.

    I was thinking these lads are going to be in better shape down the line than a guy who weighs 330 pounds and made a living smashing his head into things.

    But, as you point out, who knows what will happen to guys who raced for years on EPO, DHEA or other powerful substances.

    Good point.

    And I totally missed the tri-jersey on Cancellara. I think I was blinded by how white his princesses are in the photo.

    Oh, and the announcers were talking about how touchy PROs are about their shoes the other day when Thor had a shoe issue. I have a pair of shoes that are giving me a hell of a time with cleat placement. All the way back, middle, left, right. Do you guys have a system for setting the cleats or what? I’m talking when you get a totally new pair of shoes and haven’t worn that model before. Whenever I think I have it set, I’ll go on a longer ride and bam, sore feet. Ugh.

  40. @Ron

    I had a bike fit recently and though I wasn’t initially impressed with their thoughts on saddle and bar height the bit that worked best for me was changing the cleat angles.

    I have one leg a bit shorter than the other. Not so much that I limp but enough that you can see the difference in the impression my arse has made on my Brooks saddle.

    That was also affecting my knee when I was riding but a small insert in one shoe plus a change to the angle of the cleat on that leg has made a big difference. It’s not much but I would never have done it by myself as I have always had them on the centre line.

    My moral of the story – if it’s giving you trouble get someone to look at it properly. With lasers and shit.

  41. @ChrisO

    @Ron
    With lasers and shit.

    I laughed. Nice. And I’m glad you got your fit sorted.

  42. I reckon bike fit is an ongoing process of adjustment and adaptation. I don’t really like the idea of going to a shop and getting “a” (definitive, now I fit my bike forever) bike fitting done. When you consider it as a series of small changes over time, I reckon you get a much better perspective on it.

  43. @Minion
    Indeed, but blindly adapting to a poor fit can feel “fine” if you don’t know what a good fit feels like. And proper fitting can lead to more efficient and more powerful performance, which can be impossible to know you’re missing out on.
    Getting a knowledgable fit done will give a solid base upon which to build over time.

  44. @mouse
    He got Gilbert to show up, that accounts for 95% of all panache.

  45. Great article! Recently discovered my Phantom Aerobars – and I like them! Feels natural, casual, yet the power from legs – wow! Gotta work on being able to maintain that.

  46. I tried this the other day without much success! That said I was suffering somewhat at the time.

    I spent last week in Naples, Florid on holiday last week and took my bike with me to keep up with my new found ability to get out of bed early and ride. I end up riding on five of the seven days and clocked up 235km which is way above my usual weekly mileage. 151km were on group rides with Naples Velo which was a first, I’d never ridden in a paceline or at that sort average speed. I got dropped on two of the rides, the first time I dropped myself on an out and back ride when I realised I was riding just below my maximum heart rate and was sure of the route back so I bailed out on the out bound leg with the thought that a brief respite would allow me to get my heart in order and get back on when they caught up with me on the return leg. In the end I managed a decent enough pace that I was only caught at at the last set of lights before the start/finish. Looking back I should have stayed with the group.

    On the second occasion I was dropped climbing a bridge. I was gradually catching up, standing and sprinting until I had to sit down for a moment and then standing again but a second bridge killed the chase. I carried on for a bit but again turned and headed back and managed to get back up to speed and cover the 28km back to base before being caught. My average speed for the whole ride was 39.7km/h, my usual solo pace is about 32km/h.

    It was after I was dropped and was trying to put my lungs back in that I tried the Phantom Aerobars, having seen their Casually Deliberate use on the Tour. My poise and balance went and any pretence at a magnificent stroke evaporated rapidly. The only was to main any sort speed and dignity was to get back in the drops and get my head down. For the first time I found my self truly comfortable on the rivet and can only imagine that I was approaching some sort of novice V-Locus.

    A big thanks to the Naples Velo riders for some great rides.

  47. @Chris

    My average speed for the whole ride was 39.7km/h, my usual solo pace is about 32km/h.

    Youch. Baptism of fire. Have fun, tho’?

  48. @Blah

    @Chris

    My average speed for the whole ride was 39.7km/h, my usual solo pace is about 32km/h.

    Youch. Baptism of fire. Have fun, tho’?

    I really enjoyed ridding in a group and riding at a whole new intensity! I just wish there was more of that going on around where I live. I was doing OK with the pace being set by the group while on the flat but the bridge caught me out and I burnt some matches trying to get back on. I was catching up gradually but realised the second bridge would undo all the work even if I could catch up before I got to it.

    Hopefully we’ll be back over there on holiday and I’ll be peaking! Next holiday is 2 weeks in Southern Spain which is going to be considerably hillier than Florida!

  49. @Chris

    Hopefully we’ll be back over there on holiday and I’ll be peaking! Next holiday is 2 weeks in Southern Spain which is going to be considerably hillier than Florida!

    The step up to group rides can be a bit startling. Your average speed, after cracking, sounds high as a high thing, so it’s no great shame at all. Good luck next time, and have a ball in Spain!

  50. @Blah

    @Chris

    Hopefully we’ll be back over there on holiday and I’ll be peaking! Next holiday is 2 weeks in Southern Spain which is going to be considerably hillier than Florida!

    The step up to group rides can be a bit startling. Your average speed, after cracking, sounds high as a high thing, so it’s no great shame at all. Good luck next time, and have a ball in Spain!

    The average speed was for the whole ride, not just after I cracked. Stepping up to group rides was a bit daunting, I found it quite hard to keep a consistent distance from the rider in front. Taking turns at the front was tough and it was hard work getting on a the back fter taking pull (the bridge coincided with trying to get back on after a pull). I’d say I’m a pretty good bike handler so I dind’t find the closeness of it to be something to worry about, it added to the fun.

    I suspect Spain is going to be pronounced with a silent “S”, it’s going to be super hot, very dry and steep. Being close to the Atlantic coast it may also be a bit windy. Fuck Yeah!

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