Look Pro: En Danseuse

Look Pro: En Danseuse

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Clad in skin-tight clothes and cleated shoes, we walk with all the grace of a chicken with a repetitive stress injury. Yet once astride our machines, hovering above the tarmac and enraptured by the sensation of flight, we are transformed into a picture of fluidly harmonic articulation which belies the power and skill that drives us forward. Years of fine-tuning our position, together with thousands of kilometers passed under our tires have built to perfect our magnificent stroke and continue to blur the lines between rider, machine, and passion.

The still is shattered, however, as we move out of the saddle in search of more speed and power. Once an elegant creature, the rider is spontaneously transformed into a beast of bobbing head, swaying saddle, and protuberant elbow. It is a complicated matter, this business of riding out of the saddle, but when done correctly can embody all the grace and power of the seated cyclist. The French understand this well enough to have given mastery of this art a special phrase, en danseuse, which means that the rider exhibits all the elegance and beauty of a dancer when riding out of the saddle, particularly when going uphill. Few Pros embody this, and even fewer enthusiasts.

It’s not beyond the grasp of the Velominatus to Look Fantastic while standing. Next time you lift your caboose off the saddle, keep these points in mind.

  • Stand on the hoods or in the drops. This is Standing 101: absolutely never, under any circumstances, no matter what anyone tells you, whatever is happening, in spite of any special circumstances, ever, stand on the tops. Grab a handful of hoods or the drops when standing; these postions help get your weight lower and farther forward and give better control than do the tops, which are awkward and wobbly. Also shy away from the bend of the bars just above the hoods in favor of the hoods themselves; this is better than the tops, but not as stable and powerful as the hoods or drops.
  • Move to the V-Locus. The temptation is great to let your elbows flare out and stick your ass out like you’re trying to red-eye the rider behind you (and maybe you are, I’m not judging), but you should keep as much of your mass centered over your bike as possible. Shoulders down, elbows bent, hips forward of the saddle. Practice shifting your body forward and back a bit to weight the front and back tires differently and learn how it affects traction and power. Your weight distribution will need to change as the gradient does and on different kinds of road surfaces.
  • Go with the flow. As you stand, let your bike sway back and forth naturally in rhythm with your strokes. Don’t hold it too still or you’ll risk draining energy into holding the bike in place that could otherwise go into your pedaling action. On the other hand, don’t let it sway so much that you’re just swinging your bike around needlessly because you think it looks cool.
  • Hold your line. If Greg LeMond could have pointed his bike in one direction, he would probably have won the sprint against Gianni Bugno at Alpe d’Huez in 1990. Your tendency will be to let your bike swerve around as a result of the heaps of power you’re dishing out from your massive guns, but not only is that dangerous, every change in direction means a loss of energy and inertia. Some movement is natural, but don’t overdo it.
  • Lower your cadence. You’ll want to shift into a slightly higher gear just as you rise out of the saddle; standing gives you access to additional power, but it is also inefficient because you’re holding your body up with your legs and arms. Lowering your cadence helps steady your body and move it less.
Keeping in mind the principles above, below are some stylistic considerations.
  • Avoid the Bopping Betty. You’re trying to look like you’re dancing, but steer clear of doing The Bop. Alberto Contador is the master of this particular faux-pas, in spite of his astonishing speed. But assuming you’re carrying more weight on your upper body than a Spanish Beef-Eating Uphill Specialist, you’re going to want to keep the torso reasonably still; its the heaviest part of your body and every time you lift it up, it wastes energy.
  • Don’t Be a Handlebar Humper. We love our bikes, but not that much; try to keep from thrusting your hips into your stem like Lance Armstrong. Its a passable technique on dry roads, but riding with your weight so far forward not only looks distressingly sexual, but will unweight your rear wheel too much and you’ll find yourself slipping when the road pitches up or becomes damp.
  • Avoid the Monster Mash. Though you want to change into a lower cadence, you also don’t want to overdo it. Cadel Evans and Greg LeMond are two riders who come to mind as trying to mash their bikes to death, climbing out of the saddle in a monster gear.
  • Channel your Pantani Power Ranger. I don’t know why it’s so hard to climb in the drops like Pantani did, but it’s also wicked fast. If you’re looking for some extra power, go searching for it in the drops. You’ll burn out quickly, but you’ll get up over the hill quickly too.
  • Go Gorilla. Ask a Pro how they go so fast, and they usually look at you quizzically for a while before eventually giving an answer somewhere between “why would you go slower?” and “push harder on the pedals”. My favorite piece of advice is this: try to break your handlebars. Standing is all about counter-acting forces, and you can’t do it without using your handlebars, so try to break them. You won’t. Probably.
Example Photos:
Slideshow:
Fullscreen:

Diabolical Finish: 

Almost every climbing style imaginable (and some not) can be found in the 2010 Fleche Wallone finale:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2itSMsLvRo[/youtube]

*Thanks to G’rilla for inspiring this article.

// Look Pro

  1. @frank Amen to that, bro.

    @graham d.m. There are so many good embrocations for the legs I’m surprised that you’d use a product designed to reduce chafing on your testicles instead! Seems an unusual choice to me when there are so many dedicated products around…

  2. @Oli in all honesty man, I’m just totally green on some things and I was using that in the chamois and was getting ready to Rule #9 it one morning and decided to give it a whirl and it worked pretty well and it just sort of stuck, At any rate, I really should branch out to the real deal, huh?  I’m definitely still learning.  My first  anniversary as a devoted cyclist was August 1.  So thusly, use real embro not nut cream….seems so obvious doesn’t it!

  3. Two brief stories about my oldest, now 17, who is a huge sports fan.

    When he was probably five years old, we were over at a friend’s house to watch a mountain stage of the Tour. As different cyclists appeared on the screen, he would immediately identify them. Pantani, Virenque, Ullrich, Armstrong, etc. My friends were blown away that he could identify them on sight.

    Second story:

    At one of his first Little League practices when he was seven, he was asking all his teammates who their favorite pro cyclists were. I’m pretty sure at the time his favorite was Super Mario. The other boys were looking at him like he was from a different planet. 

  4. @Flying Crowbar

    Two brief stories about my oldest, now 17, who is a huge sports fan.

    When he was probably five years old, we were over at a friend’s house to watch a mountain stage of the Tour. As different cyclists appeared on the screen, he would immediately identify them. Pantani, Virenque, Ullrich, Armstrong, etc. My friends were blown away that he could identify them on sight.

    Second story:

    At one of his first Little League practices when he was seven, he was asking all his teammates who their favorite pro cyclists were. I’m pretty sure at the time his favorite was Super Mario. The other boys were looking at him like he was from a different planet. 

    Awesome! I love that!

  5. Resting your wrists on the Tops, not choking them like a chicken helps look pro whilst climbing. I have spent a fair bit of time working on my out of saddle endurance, it really seems to demoralize fellow competitors when you just keep standing. No good at being in the drops though, I need to work on that next.

  6. @all

    Bag balm was originallly designed to soften up cow udders.  Farmers, both my Illinois grandfathers included, determined this salve helped heal irritations, cuts and other farm-related skin issues.  I use it on my hands all the time, but never thought about using it as a chamois cream.  It might actually be worth trying .

    As far as an embrocation use, I’m sure graham d.m. has his reasons.

  7. For years I’ve played a game called “Ride like the pros”.  It started when I was BMXing.  Though I lacked the jumping skills of others I could snap out of the gate like nobody’s business and getting out of the gate first is 70% of the race in BMX.  The reason that my gate is so good is because I watched lots of video of races and did what the pros did.  While other guys were pulling back or up on the handlebars as the gate dropped – thus making their momentum go up or back – I was slamming my hips into the bars just like the pros were doing and I reaped huge dividends (and a state championship) by mimicing the pros.

    Now I play the same game but on the road bike.  However, now I do it merely for entertainment.  I got Hincapie’s, Ullrich’s (right down to the facial expression), and Vino’s stroke down.  I’m working on Tommy V’s now too.  Earlier in the season I was doing and awesome Andy Schleck by DNF’ing or going off the back of all my races that wasn’t quite as entertaining.

  8. @niksch

    @all

    Bag balm was originallly designed to soften up cow udders.  Farmers, both my Illinois grandfathers included, determined this salve helped heal irritations, cuts and other farm-related skin issues.  I use it on my hands all the time, but never thought about using it as a chamois cream.  It might actually be worth trying .

    As far as an embrocation use, I’m sure graham d.m. has his reasons.

    @all and @oli;

    For all you spending half your paycheck on some fancy boy embro know this; Bag Balm is the shit of you wanna run knee warmers on cold rainy days out. It’s thick, so its like a layer, but without clothing. Mix in a bit of Max strength Tiger Balm and your legs are toasty. Keeps the guns smooth. The new stuff is indeed hotter, but it’s always all oily like rubbing yourself with chain lube.Just don’t use it during summer I’d think. Too warm.

  9. @graham d.m. Fair enough, I was just surprised is all.

    @scaler911 I feel educated now. Personally I’ll stick to my baby oil and wintergreen mix on my legs, but if it works for you I don’t see why you shouldn’t use the bag balm…

  10. Anyone else recall the sports science paper from a few years back that looked at the best way to climb given your body weight? I think it related to the change in heart rate caused by getting out the saddle to climb – little guys, there wouldn’t be much change so climbing out of the saddle was beneficial. Guys over weight x, I think it was mid 70kgs, their heart rate would increase more from the effort of lifting themselves out of the saddle and climbing, meaning the exertion wouldn’t be worth the extra speed and they’d be better off sitting and climbing. I only remember this for confirming that a) I’m too fat to climb and b) if you’re gonna come last in a hill climb, it’s much more nonchalant looking to do it in the saddle, spinning away than it is to be out of the saddle flailing away to come 34th out of 41.

  11. I’m guilty of both handlebar humping and a touch of the monster mash…. Got some work to do.

  12. @minion

    Anyone else recall the sports science paper from a few years back that looked at the best way to climb given your body weight? I think it related to the change in heart rate caused by getting out the saddle to climb – little guys, there wouldn’t be much change so climbing out of the saddle was beneficial. Guys over weight x, I think it was mid 70kgs, their heart rate would increase more from the effort of lifting themselves out of the saddle and climbing, meaning the exertion wouldn’t be worth the extra speed and they’d be better off sitting and climbing. I only remember this for confirming that a) I’m Too Fat To Climb and b) if you’re gonna come last in a hill climb, it’s much more nonchalant looking to do it in the saddle, spinning away than it is to be out of the saddle flailing away to come 34th out of 41.

    never read the article, but can believe it. I often watch the lighter boys easily dance up the hill where as I gain 5-10 bpm if I have to stand. I have made the biggest gains by getting a large rear cassette and spinning up the hill and if I have to chase down the small boys simply upping the cadence.

  13. @minion

    Yeah, there is a lot to that. Finally losing some weight I noticed it is sort of painless to ride out of the saddle. In the heavier days it was ,”sit down now big fella, or you won’t make it up.” It’s not just the effort of getting out of the saddle that raises your HR if you are big, it’s having all that mass being supported by your legs instead of the saddle. It’s more efficient to stay seated.

    Frank, maybe this helps me look better climbing but it’s not going to make me faster. And these days I’ll settle for that. I need a new engine and to lose many more kg to climb better. Neither of which are going to happen.

  14. Even ditching all the winter crap when the weather improves (Jackets, knee warmers, spares, lights) feels like it makes a difference. For some reason I think Ullrich was the example from the study of the heavier rider which isn’t exactly heartening  for people who might think losing weight will get you across that arbitrary line.

  15. @The Oracle

    Great article, Frank.  Although, given you all were within a hair’s breadth of the man, I’m a bit surprised this article does not include a picture of Boonen conquering the classics this year:

    Also, while not depicting a climb (I don’t think), check this out:

    Found here:  http://paintingletour.blogspot.com/2012/04/tom-boonen.html

    jesus T***y F******g Christ Boonen gives me the horn. In a non gay way

  16. @Joel

    I’m guilty of both handlebar humping and a touch of the monster mash…. Got some work to do.

    Don’t worry, as far as needing work, you’ve got plenty of company here!

  17. @minion

    @The Oracle

    Great article, Frank.  Although, given you all were within a hair’s breadth of the man, I’m a bit surprised this article does not include a picture of Boonen conquering the classics this year:

    Also, while not depicting a climb (I don’t think), check this out:

    Found here:  http://paintingletour.blogspot.com/2012/04/tom-boonen.html

    jesus T***y F******g Christ Boonen gives me the horn. In a non gay way

    See, it can happen to anyone.

  18. @minion@scaler911

    Women want to be with him, men want to be him.

  19. @frank

    @Ron

    I think Boonen’s Classics bike(s) this year was a fine example of keeping a modern bike totally classy & sharp. Simple black & white for the most part, but then the tan sidewalls with the carbon rims just looks boss. His hubs should have been black though. If you are going for carbon bits & a black/white theme, gotta keep the wheels black too.

    No kidding – those tan sidewalls…I’m thinking that the only tire choice of the Velominatus should be natural. I’m so sick of all black and colored sidewalls.

    That said – you are way off on the black hubs. Black hubs are an abomination for the same reason black sidewalls are. Gleaming metal bits, baby.

    I love that Zipp still makes a beautiful, silver hub. Love it.

    Does Continental make gum sidewalls?

  20. @RedRanger

    @frank

    @Ron

    I think Boonen’s Classics bike(s) this year was a fine example of keeping a modern bike totally classy & sharp. Simple black & white for the most part, but then the tan sidewalls with the carbon rims just looks boss. His hubs should have been black though. If you are going for carbon bits & a black/white theme, gotta keep the wheels black too.

    No kidding – those tan sidewalls…I’m thinking that the only tire choice of the Velominatus should be natural. I’m so sick of all black and colored sidewalls.

    That said – you are way off on the black hubs. Black hubs are an abomination for the same reason black sidewalls are. Gleaming metal bits, baby.

    I love that Zipp still makes a beautiful, silver hub. Love it.

    Does Continental make gum sidewalls?

    Yup! They call the color “natural” I think.

  21. By the way,I something is wrong with my upload photos function anyone else has the same problem?

  22. at 54kgs, I like to get out of the saddle in the drops on a climb.  I channel my own “farzani”

  23. Today’s my burfday.

  24. @frank

     
    That picture, right there, is the perfect example of how to Look Pro while standing. Elbows in, shoulders down and back, hips towards the V-Locus. Awesome!!
     
    I’ll kick Tomeke’s ass
  25. @Cyclops

    Today’s my burfday.

    Happy Birthday! You are truly awesome on the bike as well.

  26. @Cyclops

    Today’s my burfday.

    Happy burfday, One-Eyed Wonder…..Cyclist!

  27. @Cyclops

    Happy birthday!

  28. @Cyclops

    Happy birthday young man

  29. Happy Birthday, Cyclops!

  30. @Cyclops love that stupid grin on your face while the guy in the background is so deep in the pain cave he can’t imagine a way out.

    Happy Birthday good sir.

  31. @Cyclops
    Happy birthday, hopefully the cycling gods looked on you favourably today!

  32. @Cyclops

    Happy B-day

  33. @Flying Crowbar

    Well, I contemplated, cogitated, and ruminated on my form while climbing with @sgt this morning, but I was so far into the red zone that I couldn’t do much about it. 

  34. @minion

    Even ditching all the winter crap when the weather improves (Jackets, knee warmers, spares, lights) feels like it makes a difference. For some reason I think Ullrich was the example from the study of the heavier rider which isn’t exactly heartening  for people who might think losing weight will get you across that arbitrary line.

    I commute to my office with my laptop and clothes in a backpack; it’s about 45km each way with significant enough climbing. I don’t know what that pack weighs, but it’s less than the amount of weight I’ve lost in the last few years.

    Amazes me that I coils climb at all because riding with that pack seriously puts the brakes on and kills the lower back. No wonder I used to suffer from backaches.

    But there’s a lot to the theory, without having read the article. None of this stuff is linear; what works for one weight class won’t for another, and it comes down to leg strength vs weight versus cardio versus mental.Complicated mess.

    For example, spinning doesn’t work for me; I might spin up in the 90-110rpm range when riding a flat a bloc or casually spinning, but I climb in the 70-90 rpm range. Below that I overlook the guns, above it I overclock the HR. it might have to do with my naturally high hr, maybe (resting ~45, max 202) that if I raise it by spinning I redline too easily.

  35. @farzani

    at 54kgs, I like to get out of the saddle in the drops on a climb.  I channel my own “farzani”

    My VMH does the same thing. She isexactly Pantanis height and weight and rides exactly Like him uphill (well, slower…)

  36. @Flying Crowbar

    @Flying Crowbar

    Well, I contemplated, cogitated, and ruminated on my form while climbing with @sgt this morning, but I was so far into the red zone that I couldn’t do much about it.

    Sounds like you need to think less. Just channel the V, contemplating, ruminating, and cogitating will only lead to one conclusion: you’re not in good enough form to do what you want to do.

    You’ve got to be the perfect amount of dumb; something @’clops has mastered!

  37. Great article – Also when in a group make sure to power up as to not throw your back wheel into the rider behind you when standing, unless he is a total jackass and needs to be dropped.  The same holds true when returning to the saddle.

  38. @Steampunk @ El Toro

    Nice stuff. The only thing missing (and alluded to elsewhere on the site) is making sure you don’t drop the bike back as you stand up. With or without company on your wheel, this is not cool.

    Refer to a Disney Principle: “If you are going to do it (animation), then make sure the audience sees it.”

    An intentional and clear move (standing) allows a rider behind to see that you are changing your position. Coming off the saddle smoothly, using the legs only to stand when in a tight bunch. No pulling on the bars. No push back.

  39. @Cyclops Hope your day was great. More experience and age — awesome!

  40. The best practice for riding out of saddle is practicing 1000 m time trial starts on the track.
    It includes everything, from standing in the drops, over the V-Locus to trying to break your handlebars.

  41. great one Frank

    lots of good points as i read down the thread, it sucks being out of the loop for a couple of days, cause getting caught up is like getting spit off the back and clawing your way back into the group.

    The kicker is on ‘out of the seat climbing’ or simply ‘nailing it’ is it is a completly different discipline as you well point out.  Some of us, me…, don’t hardly ever come out of the saddle.   in a group ride, in fact, it can be dangerous since most really don’t perform this with souplesse.  Thus, when climbing…my buddies will remark ‘why the hell don’t i get out of the saddle’, but my spin is good and i don’t necessarily see the need to.  Now, on days that we are out to break one anothers legs, then I do come out, most often when I am on a flat piece of road and need to pin my ears back and really drill it.

    I agree, while the hoods are a safe place to grab, the evolution of the STi shifting has totally lead to the ruination of the beauty of the drops to some degree, in fact it may have confused our whole geometric concepts/thinking on the ideal positons, and the tradition of grabbing the drops out of the saddle and nailing it like an incindiary dog like Yates et al use to.  Not that I am a purist or anything, but it is as you mention a harmonious balance we find ourselve in when able to perform.

    So, i far prefer the drops when coming out of the saddle.  There is no doubt a ton of power to be gained in it, but it also will tick you over into the redline much quicker, so be careful.  They say it takes ~25% more energy to perform the same workload from the seated position, to grabbing a handful of the drops and coming out of the saddle.

  42. @RedRanger Another choice for a gumwall Conti:  http://www.conti-online.com/generator/www/de/en/continental/bicycle/themes/race/racetyres/grand_prix_classic/grand_prix_classic_en.html

    I used a set of the standard GPs in 700×28 for Rouge-Roubaix and they worked well – the engine, not so much…

  43. In case you haven’t heard or read yet, a documentary on Marco is in the works.

    http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/12810/More-details-emerge-of-Marco-Pantani-cinema-documentary.aspx

  44. @frank

    @minion

    Even ditching all the winter crap when the weather improves (Jackets, knee warmers, spares, lights) feels like it makes a difference. For some reason I think Ullrich was the example from the study of the heavier rider which isn’t exactly heartening  for people who might think losing weight will get you across that arbitrary line.

    I commute to my office with my laptop and clothes in a backpack; it’s about 45km each way with significant enough climbing. I don’t know what that pack weighs, but it’s less than the amount of weight I’ve lost in the last few years.

    Amazes me that I coils climb at all because riding with that pack seriously puts the brakes on and kills the lower back. No wonder I used to suffer from backaches.

    But there’s a lot to the theory, without having read the article. None of this stuff is linear; what works for one weight class won’t for another, and it comes down to leg strength vs weight versus cardio versus mental.Complicated mess.

    For example, spinning doesn’t work for me; I might spin up in the 90-110rpm range when riding a flat a bloc or casually spinning, but I climb in the 70-90 rpm range. Below that I overlook the guns, above it I overclock the HR. it might have to do with my naturally high hr, maybe (resting ~45, max 202) that if I raise it by spinning I redline too easily.

    Do you still commute using a back pack or have you gone to the rack/pannier model? Started finally doing the commute (20-30k depending on location) on manageable days, found a decent pack, still working the “fit.” Its either side, lower back or neck depending on the day that gets tweaked. Haven’t decided whether to build up my broken cross frame that has the various braze-ons when I get it back or just keep working with the pack. None of my current rigs have the braze-ons for that shit. Not a word, @scaler, about n+1, not a word…

  45. Just to chime in…I ride a bike everywhere. My commute is pretty short, only about 10-15 minutes, but I’m riding around town (city) all day long on the bike. I now have a cross-commuter that just got upgraded with a rack. It has full braze ons for fenders, rack, two bottle cages, and some on the seat stays. Still getting used to it, as strapping stuff down can be more of a pain than tossing it in a bag. And, just started using some borrowed panniers to see if I like them. The verdict is still out. Riding “naked” is pretty awesome. But, takes getting used to the weight, getting out of the saddle with weight, maybe only having weight on one side. I do think I’ll come around to it, especially with a nicer bag.

    Commuting is so sweet. I think I’d go bonkers if I had to be in an automobile much these days. On a bike you are always going. My mind/body/spirit are just not prepared to handle sitting still, especially in traffic.

    Anyway, long-time backpacker user, rack and panniers seem pretty sweet though. Then again…still coming around to having so much junk on my bike…fenders, rack, panniers, when I love me a sleek road bike.

  46. @Mikael Liddy

    @Cyclops love that stupid grin on your face while the guy in the background is so deep in the pain cave he can’t imagine a way out.

    Happy Birthday good sir.

    Hey, that’s me back there!

    But yes I was deep in the pain cave that day. It was the Whidbey island cogal last year, which was 130k of endless rollers. I was dying that day.

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