La Vie Velominatus, Part I: Finding the V-Locus

La Vie Velominatus, Part I: Finding the V-Locus

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Arms draped casually over the bars, wrists canted inward, knees tucked in neatly towards the top tube, bottom perched on the saddle’s rivet, chin dropped low to the stem. During maximum effort, all the elements of the rider seem to converge toward one point, an invisible spot on the machine where we may worship at the altar of the Man with the Hammer but elude his hammer’s vicious blow.

To the Velominati, this spot is known as the V-Locus, the sacred point where rider and machine are able to maximally channel The V. Where this point lies precisely differs from machine to machine and rider to rider, and can only be ascertained though careful and lengthy meditation. It is commonly found somewhere along the centerline of the frame, just shy of the head tube.

Take a moment to study this photo of de Vlaemicnk, pictured here having found the V-Locus. As your effort increases and you begin to channel the V, your body will naturally move towards this point. The elbows bend slightly at first. Your hands might slip from the hoods to the drops or from the drops to the hoods, but in either case, your wrists will roll inwards. As the effort further increases, your bottom will slip forward along the saddle until it comes to rest on the rivet. Shoulders arch inward, forcing your elbows down and out, crossing into the your leg’s airspace. To accomodate, your knees tuck inward at the top of each pedal stroke. Your head rolls downward, chin to the bars; you should be mindful to look down the road, though in this state of blurred vision your eyes serve limited purpose.

Locating the V-Locus takes time and mediation. As stated, it differs from bike to bike and from rider to rider, particularly among hand-built machines. After many long hours and kilometers spent in the saddle, you will start to become one with the machine, and the V-Locus will slowly begin to reveal itself to you. You will find that each of your bikes, however similarly built, has a different locus. Perhaps there is one that helps you channel the V more effectively than the others, but the V-Locus is always a fundamental variable of a bike’s personality. Take time to discover and understand it, and the V will grow within you. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus

  1. Has nothing to do with this wonderful article but a friend sent me this on face bo and I figured I would share it.

    For Frank

  2. @RedRanger
    That’s fantastic. And the answer to Steampunk’s question over at the Giro VSP thread: what to do now the Giro is over? Watch old clips of Pantani. Perfect.

  3. There’s something about that photo which just doesn’t fit with Frank’s description. I think it is the somewhat delicate references to one’s ‘bottom’. I can’t speak (and wouldn’t dare try to speak) for RDV. But I am pretty sure that, when he was channeling V-max at the V-locus, he wasn’t thinking ‘Ooh, my bottom is getting a wee bit hurty’. I think it more likely that he was thinking ‘F*ck, my arse hurts almost as much as my f*cking guns’.

    But, other than in respect of that uncharacteristic burst of coyness from Frank, this is another excellent contribution to the V-annals. (Or should that be the ‘V-bottoms’?)

  4. This is an incredibly serendipitous post. I just returned from a gravel ride and was meditating on virtually all the points you make in this article. Trippy.

    Firstly, after a morning spent swapping stems and cutting the steerer on my ALAN down, I jump on and immediately feel at home. There’s just something about that bike. We’re made for each other.

    Then, I think about how happy I am that the K-wings found a home on the gravel rig. I spend a lot of time riding Belgian Style on gravel and the flattish tops are good for that. Add to that the articulated bends and what those bars lacked on the road they more than make up for on gravel both on the tops and the drops.

    But what really hits me about that bike and this article is the V-Locus. Everything you say is true. I would add that the V-Locus also involves the lightest of touches on the bars. Floating over gravel at 35 kph, back flat, legs working like pistons, with the hands just barely touching is a beautiful thing.

    I’m close to declaring the ALAN as number 1. I love all my bikes but there’s a soul and connection with the ALAN I can’t describe aptly. The fit of it is old skool. Bigger frame, longer seat tube, short seat post, less of a drop between saddle and bars. Reminiscent of the pick of RDV above.

    Great article. I know just what you’re getting at here.

  5. excellent timing frank! Great stuff, i have no idea how you think of this but good stuff man!

    Today, i finally found that souplesse, timed perfectly on the first day of summer. You know, that locus you describe above, where pain is a bit farther off on the horizon where you can hit it like a freshman in high school, when you can drop your head, make your back horizontal, my hands prefer the drops personally, the legs spinning harmoniously in sychronicity at for me 115 rpm. The HR and breathing in perfect beat. The jaw drops, the sweat rolls off my forehead down directly to the top of my wet black ritchey stem, rolls off that to the tyre and splatters somewhere on my downtube. There is no sound there, just the hum and streem of the road. A lonely car. A dog. 3 small little towns, all asleep as the sun came up. This went on for the better part of 70k this morning, the warm up and then it was down, just me and the man and i finally found my legs, and never wanted to stop. Then the man w/the hammer so subtly dropped it as i hit the city limits coming back into town, but i knew it was coming, so it was a timed eclipse as i hit the roundabout…and it will happen tomorrow again, but in short intervals, and old man hammer will be quicker to drop, over and over and over.

  6. Great one Frank, I’m wondering if this is a V-Locus too…

  7. I choose this post who could be well be a classic itself to start my first comment avec une photographie classique de la haute-montagne and especially from the Tour De France : photo taken today at 18h heure française a the Col de Galibier ( alt. 2645m / 8677.82 ft ) … as it happens , even if the Col was opened for only two days, some Radioshack Team Members were already there to prepare the TDF … at the Summit was the sympathetic Chauffeur who seemingly climbed very well there from Briançon…Myself was coming from Bourg d’Oisans via La Grave-La Meije and the Col de Lautaret…

    The Radioshack Chauffeur

  8. aaargh! as new & French i can’t fathom to see how you can modify a precedent post? savez vous?

  9. I suppose it’s ironic that you picture Le Gitan in full flight. I was on the rivet, in the V locus, at a Rapha’s HOTN2 in April. I never knew you could ride that fast downhill on gravel. Awwsum!!!

  10. shit I forgot. Hey Frahnk when is my T-shirt due? Have you been to the post office yet?
    according to the bumpf they should have been sent two weeks ago. Did you send it by pigeon or what. I need to be the first person in Hackney spreading the word of Cog…

  11. @Alpin
    C’est une tres belle photo. Chapeau. Hey, Pedale.Forchettta, you’ve got competition. Or a team-mate.

  12. Another photos from today from this classic Climb…

    La Meije-La Grave 1450m alt.

    the Route of the Col du Galibier

    the lasts corners at 12-13%

    thanks for the comments ..but, hey! i still don’t know if and how you can correct your posts…??

  13. I enjoyed your article; while watching Giro again to cure my hunger for cycling on the TV.

  14. Alpin, you can’t correct posts once posted.

  15. @Alpin

    You really know how to make an entrance. The Galibier, two BMC’s, and The Radioshack Chauffeur. I love that he’s riding a Pinarello and not a Trek. Classy looking dude and I’ve been thinking of a fitting Lexicon entry for Radioshack Chauffeur. Who’s with me? Those pics are gorgeous and what better time to ride le Galibier than a limited opening. Chapeau.

  16. @Alpin
    Fantastic entrance! Le Galibier, two BMC’s, and the Radioshack Chauffeur. I’m thinking the Radioshack Chauffeur needs a Lexicon entry but can’t quite think of one that befits the video of that totally PRO dude the the RS gillet and Pinarello. Chapeau!

  17. Ah! Crocs have even made it to PRO children handle bar riders. Those darn things.

    Nice post, Frank! Just what I needed to ease the non-Giro phase.

  18. @G’phant

    I can’t speak (and wouldn’t dare try to speak) for RDV. But I am pretty sure that, when he was channeling V-max at the V-Locus, he wasn’t thinking ‘Ooh, my bottom is getting a wee bit hurty’. I think it more likely that he was thinking ‘F*ck, my arse hurts almost as much as my f*cking guns’.

    I can’t, for the life of me, understand why on Earth you’ve gone from a mention of a bottom straight to “hurt”. That one’s on you, mate.

    When you move into the V-Locus, the only pain you have the capacity to feel is that in your guns and a sensation more akin to “searing” than “pain” in your lungs.

  19. @frank
    Have just raised my seat and shifted it back quite significantly. Glutes and hams are now doing much more work, and are regularly letting me know. So that’s a possible explanation. Boarding school, of course, is another, I suppose.

  20. With the past effort, cold wings and altitude, some descents must be taken in the foetal position, who could well be an aerodynamically compliant V-Locus

    video : the Galibier Road

    video : the Summit at North

    video : the Summit at South

    In the last video you can still see the Radioshack Chauffeur photographying not his Pinarello or himself but his RadioShack Bidon in front of the Col du Galibier road sign…

    by the way , yes it’s a pro Bike from the Radioshack Team, but as we talked he told me that he preferred his old Trek from Astana… he tolds me the name of the rider but there i lost it… as he says to me this Radioshack member was also rding to the Galibier summit…

    Jani Brajkovic

    Team First ! Now that’s PRO…)

  21. sorry…

    the last video

  22. Souleur:
    The HR and breathing in perfect beat. The jaw drops, the sweat rolls off my forehead down directly to the top of my wet black ritchey stem, rolls off that to the tyre and splatters somewhere on my downtube. There is no sound there, just the hum and streem of the road. A lonely car. A dog. 3 small little towns, all asleep as the sun came up. This went on for the better part of 70k this morning, the warm up and then it was down, just me and the man and i finally found my legs, and never wanted to stop.

    Sweet. Loved reading this.

  23. @Alpin
    Wow, great shots – le Galibier is one of my favorite climbs. From both sides, it’s a brute – coming over the Telegraph it is part relief to descend briefly, part torture to break your rhythm. From the other side – over the Lautaret – it’s just such a massive climb.

    My favorite ride is to start out in Vizille or La Mure and to come over the Col d’Ornon, up the Lautaret, over the Galibier, through St. Michel de Maurienne (one of the most lovely towns in Europe) and back over the Croix de Fer. If you still have the juice in your guns, you can finish ‘er off by heading up l’Alpe d’Huez. That’s a cozy 4000-4500 meters.

    Ah, memories. Thanks.

  24. Nice photo and article, Frank. It’s the jersey I was talking about the other day, too – I’ll take that as a secret code that you want me to buy that jersey.

  25. A very timely article. Yesterday was a typical Memorial Day in southeast Idaho. 4C and threatening skies. The plan was 160k and LOTS of climbing. There is a lot of time to think when riding these distances and I focus on position and pedal stroke and whether or not I look like a stupid dork. Another thing that runs through my mind as the kilometers slide under my wheels is “You may not be a pro but that doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel like a pro.” There is a guy I ride with a lot and he was with us yesterday. He is a very nice chap and much stronger than I but I always want to throw a pump into his spokes as I yell “Scadicci, scaducci!!!” at him. When he’s in his drops he has his elbows locked and his arms bolt straight. I am in a lower position than him and yet my hands are on the hoods with my elbows bent. There is just so much wrong with this guy. The principle of silence is destroyed by his rear deraileur always being mis-shifted in between cogs even though he’s running top of the line SRAM Red. And don’t get me started on the sleeveless jerseys and girl socks that don’t show above his shoes. This guy can put a big hurt on me but I look way fucking cooler than him. The point is that any gorilla can spend 20 hours a week on the road and get extremely fit and ride people into the ground but why not do it and look like you belong on the bike while you’re doing it?

    Being meticulous in all things Velominat is actually a Win – Win situation. In the instance when a Fred shows up in cotton gardening gloves, a soccer jersey with pockets on the back that his wife sewed on for him and plastic bags duct taped to his feet in lieu of appropriate neoprene booties you can use this as motivation. “There is no way that I’m letting this guy place higher than me.” But in the other instance when a Fred shows up and crushes you you can always console yourself with the notion that you’re dialed in completely. You could easily fold into a pro peloton and nobody would be none the wiser. Besides, you are peaking in two months.

    Thanks Frank, for putting a name to what I have been doing – finding the V-Locus.

  26. @frank

    Hello & Bravo Frank for the “Vive la Vie Velominatus Spirit” !!!!!

    your site,with his intimate knowledge of the sport , your ethics and dry humor stands really apart in the sea of cyling relative blogs … thanks a lot for that!

    As i am residing in Grenoble; french speaking and english gargling , i can make you a free and fresh offer I could well be this day of June 8th your Velominatus Reporter for the “Contre la Montre / time Trial” of Grenoble …

    The Criterum du dauphiné as you all know is the first step for the Tour
    … and ASO has replicated at the meter this Dauphiné TT with the TDF one…
    it’s the very same as i understand it…

    The road loop chosen is quite the favorite of the trained racing locals : it’s really vallonné, short with 42.50 kms, not flat or urban and this could be more interesting than most TTs … A part from my iphone in the Jersey Pocket, i can use more or less professionnal photographic apparatus, perhaps could i take some actual V-Momentum in action ????

    we’ll see ! Yall have a nice ride !

    PS : at the last Dauphiné last year, Members of the public were asking myself for autographs..i was well done and “oiled” at the finish line with a full BMC kit coming inadvertently from the the Cols of Chartreuse ….as the PROs were downhill racing from the Chamrousse Summit at 1850m alt. ( one of fastest descents in the Alps) … as the BMC team wasn’t allowed on the Dauphiné then some fans were quite alarmed by the colors of my jersey…))))

    you can see the profil and carte there

    The Dauphiné Etape

    The Tour de france Etape

  27. The first time I experienced the V-Locus I was on sport bike, it was a Chiorda the Felice Gimondi bike, I remember that I found a low position were I could hammer on the pedals at high speed with less effort I was amazed it seemed to me like I made an incredible discovery. Since then I’ve always searched and found the V-Locus (in Italian ‘la posizione’) on every bike.

  28. It would appear that Grahame Obree mastered the art of finding the V-Locus. He even built a bike specially designed to maximize it.

  29. Nice one frank…again! I am in awe at times of how you manage to articulate precisley what most of us practice unwittingly.
    Excellent point on the difference between each bike as well. Once the V-Locus is found with each bike, then the elation that is felt is pure joy, far from any hurt, meaningless to ones mind.

    @G’phant
    It’s now getting a bit wierd, V-annals, v-bottoms and boarding school references? Next you’ll be giving us a Stephen Fry-esque tale of when you lost your virginity! Shame on you G’phant. I think a good spanking is in order.

    @Alpin
    You sure know how to sell yourself, chapeau!

  30. @il ciclista medio

    I’ve tried to. From the outside, this site seems like such an elite and restricted club , one could easily be quite nervous and try too much, ‘innit? ))..at the moment i’m not even a “prospect” , more a “suceur de roues” than an échappé and i know that…

    By the way loved Fry&Laurie..;)

  31. @Cyclops

    Being meticulous in all things Velominat is actually a Win – Win situation. In the instance when a Fred shows up in cotton gardening gloves, a soccer jersey with pockets on the back that his wife sewed on for him and plastic bags duct taped to his feet in lieu of appropriate neoprene booties you can use this as motivation. “There is no way that I’m letting this guy place higher than me.” But in the other instance when a Fred shows up and crushes you you can always console yourself with the notion that you’re dialed in completely. You could easily fold into a pro peloton and nobody would be none the wiser. Besides, you are Peaking in Two Months.

    SPOT.FUCKING.ON.

  32. @Pedale.Forchetta

    I was amazed it seemed to me like I made an incredible discovery. Since then I’ve always searched and found the V-Locus (in Italian ‘la posizione’) on every bike.

    Fantastic. Lexicon amended to include “la posizione”. Beautiful.

  33. @Alpin

    As i am residing in Grenoble; french speaking and english gargling , i can make you a free and fresh offer I could well be this day of June 8th your Velominatus Reporter for the “Contre la Montre / time Trial” of Grenoble …

    We will be in touch. This sounds fantastic.

  34. @Marko

    I love all my bikes but there’s a soul and connection with the ALAN I can’t describe aptly.

    Is that ALAN hand-built? Or is it molded? Seems to me it might be lugged and at least hand-assembled.

    @Marko, @il ciclista medio
    Those hand-built bikes have a much more prominent V-Locus than mold-built carbon frames. Through the little errors made by the builder, you get a real “character” to the bike. My XLEV2 is like that – there is something very…right about that bike. I just love it. It feels good. Even if it’s flexy, it just feels good. The TSX is also hand-built and amazing, but the EV2 has something a little apart. It lies just outside the realm of words.

  35. @Cyclops
    You have got to snap a sneaky pic of the plastic bags duct taped to his feet. I might even pay to see that. Hilarious!

  36. Frank… love the article… I’ve always admired the cycling position of people like Millar and Wiggins, particularly when they are in time trial mode… their butts right on the edge of the saddle, their backs low and flat… now I know why… they are trying to shift the v-locus further forwards to increase the angular momentum of their hurt and channel it into power. Awesome.

  37. As always, a great article here, Frank!

    I have three main road bikes and each is a bit different, despite having very similar geometry. Like many Fellow Followers, I’ve spent hours trying to locate the V-Locus aboard each of them. Even when you locate it, the quest is not over. You can, and must, continue to seek the position, the feel, the V more deeply.

    I love how often reading something on here, whether an article or a comment, makes me want to ride my bikes. I’m riding daily, so stoking this desire is saying something.

    I be it’s been posted at some point, but was watching this yesterday morning and it’s awesome:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxXqQqAc2pA&feature=player_embedded

  38. frank..your a son of a bitch man

    This article is now imprinted somewhere in the deep sulci of my sick mind, and now it pops up every now and then.

    Like this mornings ride…intervals again. 35k hard, (will do easy 35k home becasue i am a pussy.) Except this time, when my time drops and its ‘time to hit it’, i slide up on the rivet, head down, hands in the drops and now my mind says ‘V-loci accomplished knightrider’.

    Its a matrix moment I slip into, things go quiet, I zone out to only a momentary buzz of some sludgerock in my ears, the legs burn like hell and of all things I remember the comment someone quoted of Jens ‘shut up legs’….and now I am doing the same freaking stupid thing, in the red-zone, so out of cognizantly as I max out in the V-loci I’m hitting holes in the pave’, hitting dead animals, just nailing it w/my head down. Sailing.

    yeah, your a son of a bitch man. Grazie.

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