Look Pro, Part IV: Don’t Look Down

Look Pro, Part IV: Don’t Look Down

by / / 93 posts

Shifting is perhaps the most pure expression of our art as Velominati. It is the conduit through which we control our cadence; it effects our power, our breathing, our heart rate. When those essential things come together with the rhythm of the road, we are cast in the spell of La Volupte. The more in-tune with our bodies we become, the more we rely on our shifting to keep our legs in perfect harmony with our bodies. Our shifts must be smooth, crisp, and precise, for any disruption to the rhythm may cause the spell to be broken.

The advent of index-shifting and contoured cogs have simplified the mechanics of the perfect shift, but they have not eliminated the artform. A finely-tuned drivetrain is essential, but is only one piece of the whole. Timing is critical: the shift must be delivered at the precise moment in the stroke when the chain is perfectly loaded to jump silently from one cog to the next. Shifting under too much pressure or at the wrong point can result in delayed, noisy, or rough shifts, disrupting our rhythm and ripping us from La Volupte.

We do not mediate on the shift and we do not look down at our gears; the shift is something we must feel. We must not be overly cerebral – instead, we read the signals from our body and the machine and sense the time to shift and react.  Over time, we also learn to sense when we are approaching the limits of the block and execute the double-shift to avoid crossing the chain. We do not look down.

These subtleties cannot be taught; they are artifacts of experience – evidence that the disciple has become one with the machine.

Disclaimer: The “Don’t Look Down” principle does not apply to Lando situations where we repeatedly push the right shifter while pedaling squares up some unholy gradient in the stubborn refusal to accept that we are indeed already in the lowest gear. Under these circumstances, it doesn’t hurt to give the gears a stern look in an effort to intimidate them into spawning a few more teeth on those biggest cogs.

// Look Pro

  1. @MAS4T0
    When it comes to interpretation of the sacred text, ours is not a religion of fundamentalist literalism, but of symbolic fundamentalism.

    “The V-cog is the sign
    The bike is the tool
    Eddy is the prophet
    Obey the Rules”

  2. @G’phant

  3. Excellent. I notice you don’t refute the accusation of being an engineer…(if you’re not unreserved apologies. Not something I’d accuse anyone of being without cause)

  4. Ah, quality banter.

  5. @ Marko – Great video, thanks for the link! Liked the music, loved the training ride in a full track suit, enjoyed the Kevin Kline look-alike coach, and am always pleased to see the older fleur de lis style adidas symbol. (though, has it been brought back? They were using that modern triangle deal for awhile).

  6. @minion

    You got me, you are correct…

    Actually you’re mostly right, I am not an engineer, yet. I will be when I finish my degree…

  7. @frank + @G’phant

    Thank you for that. Now that’s cleared up I am going to order some V team kit!

    I checked the rules for compliance, and only failed on rule, namely number 54. Is it acceptable to breach this one when in training for a mountain time trial?

  8. @ Steampunk – So you’re a historian, eh? Cool. I am as well, but I’ve kept it a big secret since so damn many of the Velominati know way, way more about the history of cycling than I have crammed into my head. Then again, I have to save space for the history I need to know to earn money to actual buy all the bicycles I have;)

    Cycling tales and history are put on my backup hard drive.

  9. I wonder if Grewal will be able to use his STI shifters without looking. Have you guys seen the article about his comeback on Velo News today? I hope he does well.

  10. Yep, been following the Grewal comeback. He’s an interesting fella for sure. Nice to have an athlete who goes beyond talking solely in cliches. His blog has some good reads, though I have to admit I don’t always follow him.

    Either way I wish him the best and will have an eye out for his results.

    His Trek 2100…it would be hard not to underestimate a guy showing up on that. He’d surely remind you mid-ride to not judge a cyclist by their steed. Especially if he had on his hiking boots!

  11. @Ron
    Sadly, historianing is not the best way to procure lots of funds for bikes. Or so I have discovered. But we’re not alone. There’s also an historian among the Keepers’ ranks.

  12. @Cyclops
    Yes. I’ve been following Grewal’s push to ride in the Tour of Colorado’s Toasted Sandwiches (Quizno’s Challenge?). I hope he makes it.

    More importantly, it’s great to see his local community and the cycling community come together for him. The dentist who’s fixing his teeth is a huge blessing. And he shaved. That picture of him with the Leopard frame shows he’s already got “the look”. Because of his age and his recent history off the bike, he’s definitely in the running for V-rider of the Year in my book.

  13. @MAS4T0
    Hehe, cool I should have mentioned I’m psychic. Wilkommen!
    The rules are a strict taskmaster and in a lot of ways breaking one or two reminds you of your imperfect status amongst the Velominati. To paraphrase Monty Python, hes not a velominatus he’s a very naughty boy.

  14. @MAS4T0

    Actually you’re mostly right, I am not an engineer, yet. I will be when I finish my degree…

    Figures, once you get your degree, you’ll stop saying things like this:

    Didn’t mean to irritate anyone, just thought that maybe you did use that vernacular in your part of the world (in from England).

    …and just get on with the job of being smarter than everyone.

    I was raised by an engineer, and my beloved dad would make the same comment. I was studying to become one when I realized that computers are mo’ bettah than rocks and metal. Engineering is too damn social.


  15. @MAS4T0


    Crap. Another smart fucking engineer who rides bikes. I’m surrounded by them, even on the interwebbietubes.

    @MAS4TO–don’t get into oil/gas/energy. You will be sucked into the black hole of the PetroMetro. Then you might gain 80kg and play golf. Just say no.

  16. I have really got to start logging in on a MUCH more regular basis. All of the attempts at wit that I have were used by other posts already. Shit stick.

  17. minion:To paraphrase Monty Python, hes not a velominatus he’s a very naughty boy.

    Jehovah Jehovah Jehovah… Funny shit!

    I was studying to be a historian when economics intervened… Now I sell stuff for a living and read history for fun. (BTW, early review of TourMen is quite positive)

  18. The article mentions Grewal crashed (on the new frame?) but it doesn’t really say what happened, beyond the frame took it worse than he did. And that’s awesome of a dentist to fix up his teeth. Good man!

    @ Steampunk. It ain’t so bad though. I’ve already picked up all my bikes just as a grad student. Hey, my clothes might be a few years old, but my kit and bikes are in fine shape! I know being a historian isn’t going to put me in the category of my brother, a banker, but I should be okay. I mean, I only need a bike with S&S couplers, a Ti bike, a cross bike, and a mtn. bike. Then I’m set.

    @ packfiller – Oh yeah, you can’t sleep on these guys. They’re sharp and quick. Gotta stay on top of things. They’ll deal you the short end of the shit stick if you ain’t careful.

    @ Jeff – Ha ha ha. I like golf as a sport, I hate it as a lifestyle sport. You know, the guy who is 80 kgs overweight, wears his swing jacket to mow the lawn and drive to the grocery, where he lets his wife do all the shopping. I get it, bud, you play golf.

  19. @Ron

    I only need a bike with S&S couplers, a Ti bike, a cross bike, and a mtn. bike. Then I’m set.

    Then you’ll decide the 26″ wheels you have a pretty good, but 29ers sound cool, too. You’ll have to get one of those. Yeah, and you have too much/little travel on the suspension, so you’ll have to get one with less/more. And your full sus is nice, but doesn’t climb so great, so you should really have a hardtail, too. But then lets not forget about carbon vs. alu. And, of course, it would be great to have an old-school chromo frame just for kicks.

    As for ‘cross, that bar-end shifter steel you’ve got is great for commuting, but now that you’re into racing ‘cross, you should upgrade to Alu with STI or Ergo. But that alu is a bit flexy, so add use that for training and get a carbon for racing.

    Don’t get me started on road bikes because whatever excuse you can think of to get another bike, you’ll need a similar version in dry/inclimate/wet conditions, so triple it at least.

    Yeah, right.

  20. @frank

    Don’t get me started on road bikes because whatever excuse you can think of to get another bike, you’ll need a similar version in dry/inclimate/wet conditions, so triple it at least.

    How about getting the exact same frame in BOTH available paint styles. And then there’s getting stuff for your significant other…

  21. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I think Grewal is definitely in the running for V-Riider of the Year but this guy might take it.

  22. @Cyclops
    I read somewhere he might be ready in time for Worlds. I have a deep respect for keirin racers, but I would never, ever, ever even try it.

  23. @Cyclops
    That is some HARDCORE V there, man!!! Too AWESOME!!!

  24. @Cyclops

    Thanks for the link about Grewal, that was a good read. I’m certainly going to keep a look out for news on that guy’s return – he looks like a natural.

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I want to try and check out some Keirin races when I’m in Japan next, hopefully later this year. It would be nice to throw some money down on one of those events…

  25. @mcsqueak
    I think of keirin as a combination of horseracing and sumo wrestling.

Leave a Reply