Anatomy of a Photo: Cornering on Cobbles

Anatomy of a Photo: Cornering on Cobbles

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A lot of things taken for granted in Cycling go swiftly out the window when cobblestones are introduced to bicycle and rider. The notion that your wheels should both be pointed in the same direction at any given moment, for instance, or that that they should in some way be in alignment with the direction of travel of the rider/bicycle unit, such as it is. Not true, in fact. As it turns out, wheels can move wildly in any maner of directions and not greatly impact forward motion. Another misconception is this notion that one needs to have their handlebars reliably in hand while whisking through a corner or that the direction the handlebars are pointing should be in the direction of travel. Also untrue.

Riding cobbles is a matter of going full gas over the secteurs, no holds barred. The faster you go, the more your bike cascades over the tops of the stones; as the bike flails along, the rider links together recovery after recovery to stave off the imminent crash caused by any of the above conditions going catawampus. Riding the pavé is basically like a toddler learning to walk: always one step away from a face-plant.

For me, though, the biggest challenge is recuperation during those intense efforts. Over the years, I have gotten good at faking it and stealing a few deep breaths during short windows of opportunity, like when the pressure comes off the pedals briefly when cornering. On the cobbles, however, this matter is complicated somewhat by the bouncing wheels, jackhammering of the bars and saddle, and the certainty of an imminent crash.

Which leads me to conclude that while endurance, strength, and interval training will all form critical elements of my training for Keepers Tour 2013, I’m going to also make a point of learning how to take recovery breaths with a tightly clenched bunghole as I try to keep from shitting myself. That’s going to be a differentiator for sure.

// Anatomy of a Photo // Keepers Tour // Look Pro // Nostalgia // Technique

  1. @mxlmax

    @Buck Rogers

    @mxlmax I think that was in regards to descending and cornering, no cornering on the pave’.

    That shot of him on the pave’ is just a millisecond in time. You cannot catpure pave’ cornering in stop motion, probably in the next frame his leg is going in the opposite direction!

    Obviously

    Not so fast.  It is a well established practice to take a millisecond in time and extrapolate minutes/hours down the road.  A prime example is Frank and the photo of The Prof with an “unorthodox” hand position.

  2. @Marcus

    @the Engine funnily enough – in the fucked way nearly every suburb in Melbourne nay Australia is named after some place in the UK (eg I live in Malvern), Montrose is a suburb out in the hills (or what pass for hills) – so when one says I am heading out to Montrose- it means a hard hill ride.

    Our only cobbles are not too challenging bluestone ones – but they are only in alleys – which presents a different challenge as a fall may result in a needlestick injury.

    The back alleys of Malvern/Caulfield were our cobble training grounds. One mate suffered a busted rim from getting wedged in between the bluestone, another a smal wrist facture from stuffing up a turn in them narrow alleys.

    Good times!

    View Larger Map

     

     

  3. @sthilzy

    Caulfield cobbles for my post above. (Can Google Maps, Street View link be posted?)

    Since seeing this in Winning back in 1985, this image of cobble rash has been imbedding in my mind;


    Yvon Frebert on the descent from the Intelvi in the 1985 Tour of Lombardy won by Sean Kelly – 171 starters, 32 finishers.

  4. @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

  5. Cobblestones (or how we used to call it in Poland: “The Cats’ Heads“) aren’t my favorite. They might be technically tough but what’s more important they are tough on my balls…

  6. @mxlmax

    Cobbles covered in shit!

    YES.

  7. I don’t think you can really compare cornering today to cornering 20 years ago. Think about the differences in frame sets in general. My #1 is a carbon compact frame with Speedplay pedals; ton’s of clearance, I can pedal through corners there’s no way I could on my standard steel framed #2. Even more so on #2 when I had Time Equipe pedals.

    I learned a technique for cornering in the 90’s to pedal through 90d turns by practicing this: i.e. left turn, hands in the drops, as you corner you push on the right drop keeping the bike more horizontal, “turning” the bars left while keeping on the gas with the pedals. It’s a bit disconcerting at first to get used to the right “feel”, but when you figure it out, you can pedal (see go faster) through the turn than those coasting. I use a variation of that on my #1 in crits with sharp turns, >90deg.

  8. @scaler911 i had an opportunity to practice some of those turns with a coach last year…really opened my eyes to what can be done to maintain speed in a turn

  9. Here’s my favourite cobbles video, you can see the tires skating across the tops of the cobbles, dancing around with no real control. The muscles are flopping about in a manner that looks like old people having sex. It’s quite glorious.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QSpuhIQg1A

    In Vancouver we have different type of cobbles, just east of Crackton (the DTES) you can find patches where the blacktop has worn away to reveal how we used to build our roads – with wood. I should get a shot of it, there’s not much of it left around any more as we erect condos as fast as we can.

  10. @itburns

    @mxlmax

    @Buck Rogers

    @mxlmax I think that was in regards to descending and cornering, no cornering on the pave’.

    That shot of him on the pave’ is just a millisecond in time. You cannot catpure pave’ cornering in stop motion, probably in the next frame his leg is going in the opposite direction!

    Obviously

    Not so fast. It is a well established practice to take a millisecond in time and extrapolate minutes/hours down the road. A prime example is Frank and the photo of The Prof with an “unorthodox” hand position.

    Chapeau!  Excellent retrieval of old thread post!  Made me laugh this morning.

  11. @Dan_R

    @scaler911 i had an opportunity to practice some of those turns with a coach last year…really opened my eyes to what can be done to maintain speed in a turn

    That’s the thing:  I never rode a single cobble until the day of the cyclosportif and I wonder if I had tried to maintain a little more speed in the corners if it would of helped? Probably not.  Most likely  just would have crashed really hard!

  12. @TBONE

    My God. Can we just stop the thread here. That video is everything.

  13. @TBONE

    Here’s my favourite cobbles video, you can see the tires skating across the tops of the cobbles, dancing around with no real control. The muscles are flopping about in a manner that looks like old people having sex. It’s quite glorious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QSpuhIQg1A

    In Vancouver we have different type of cobbles, just east of Crackton (the DTES) you can find patches where the blacktop has worn away to reveal how we used to build our roads – with wood. I should get a shot of it, there’s not much of it left around any more as we erect condos as fast as we can.

    Great vid! Although I would put it to some harder music, though.

    But that  is what actually hurt the worst for me near the end of the ride, my bouncing and tearing (albeit very small) biceps.  Man, they hurt, like everything else, like hell for weeks.

  14. @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    What beautiful evidence! Thanx The Potato Man!

  15. @itburns

    @mxlmax

    @Buck Rogers

    @mxlmax I think that was in regards to descending and cornering, no cornering on the pave’.

    That shot of him on the pave’ is just a millisecond in time. You cannot catpure pave’ cornering in stop motion, probably in the next frame his leg is going in the opposite direction!

    Obviously

    Not so fast. It is a well established practice to take a millisecond in time and extrapolate minutes/hours down the road. A prime example is Frank and the photo of The Prof with an “unorthodox” hand position.

    Does this even make sense?

  16. @TBONE

    Here’s my favourite cobbles video, you can see the tires skating across the tops of the cobbles, dancing around with no real control. The muscles are flopping about in a manner that looks like old people having sex. It’s quite glorious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QSpuhIQg1A

    In Vancouver we have different type of cobbles, just east of Crackton (the DTES) you can find patches where the blacktop has worn away to reveal how we used to build our roads – with wood. I should get a shot of it, there’s not much of it left around any more as we erect condos as fast as we can.

    Wow. That’s all I have to say. Just wow! I’m not sure my skinny, stick arms are up to the challenge (got %50 off my bicep tattoo cause they didn’t have to use as much ink).

  17. This article is an anomaly

    It is impossible to corner on cobbles

    Unless you invoke the help of pixies

  18. @mxlmax

    @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    What beautiful evidence! Thanx The Potato Man!

    Trouble is, that’s a dumb way to corner, especially if there are tyre grip issues. Paul Smart invented the knee out/body off the bike cornering style on a motor-bike to keep the bike more upright, helping with ground clearance and tyre grip,  notably on a dog of a Triumph.   Good reasons.  Weirdly, cos it works, it caught on.  Sure, bicycles have nowhere near the corner speeds but they don’t have anywhere near the grip either, not to mention the conspicuous absence of a suspension.

  19. @The Potato Man Or he’s pedaling. Still photos of a dynamic activity don’t really tell us anything conclusively.

  20. @Ken Ho I wouldn’t say it’s “dumb” at all, just different. I would suggest that pros renowned for their descending and bike-handling chops like Sean Yates and Davis Phinney might be in a better position to really feel out the limits of bike handling than a few internet heros like us. Motorbikes COG are a lot lower than cyclists so perhaps that has some bearing?

  21. @TBONE

    Here’s my favourite cobbles video, you can see the tires skating across the tops of the cobbles, dancing around with no real control. The muscles are flopping about in a manner that looks like old people having sex. It’s quite glorious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QSpuhIQg1A

    In Vancouver we have different type of cobbles, just east of Crackton (the DTES) you can find patches where the blacktop has worn away to reveal how we used to build our roads – with wood. I should get a shot of it, there’s not much of it left around any more as we erect condos as fast as we can.

    Great Video!! Must admit the airborne segment gave me chills.  Say what’s with the pussies sneaking down the shoulder near the end? HTFU!!

  22. @The Pressure

    The airborne shot and the extreme close ups are staged, not from the race… check out the chain on the small ring, feet not pedaling and no crowds. I read somewhere that those were staged shots.

  23. @Ken Ho

    Sure, bicycles have nowhere near the corner speeds but they don’t have anywhere near the grip either, not to mention the conspicuous absence of a suspension.

    Nor do they have the same mass (or pull) as a motorcycle.

  24. Yes, my thought was that he was on a curve, not a corner, and that he was pedalling to keep the power down.

    Sure, I’m an internet expert, but have done a few ride days and a couple of Keith Code Superbike courses as well as watched a lot of motorbike racing, and got to hang out with Paul Smart for a day once at Miisano.  Cycling races are not won or lost on corners, the way that motor-bike races are, so perhaps there is less attention paid to the finer art of it.

    On COG, the bulk of a rider +bicycle combo is the rider.  If anything, it makes more sense to get the riders weight as low as possible, even more so than on a motorbike.  Having the rider weight hanging on the outside of the bike makes no sense at all.

    Mostly though, it’s about front end grip. Being a good passenger is also critical to good cornering and Keith Code has a bit to say about that.

  25. @Oli

    Or he’s pedaling. Still photos of a dynamic activity don’t really tell us anything conclusively.

    To remain open minded, I first questioned if he were pedaling in this shot. He appears to be tucked* and leaving his left crank stuck* to the bottom. Classic 5 arm crank nice. Nice long stem too.

  26. @The Potato Man

    @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    Also refer to this shot for the front skewer position. But keep knee pressed inward.

  27. @sthilzy

    @sthilzy

    Caulfield cobbles for my post above. (Can Google Maps, Street View link be posted?)

    Since seeing this in Winning back in 1985, this image of cobble rash has been imbedding in my mind;


    Yvon Frebert on the descent from the Intelvi in the 1985 Tour of Lombardy won by Sean Kelly – 171 starters, 32 finishers.

    your spot on Finch Street is about 50 metres from my house…

  28. @Chris

    That brings back a dull ache in my fore arms just looking at it!

    Great photo, reminds me of these two going full gas into this corner

    Not sure if it’s a smile or just one long shout of “faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!”

    Out of the pan… from the cobbles onto loose grit. Gianni clenches everything.

    One, thanks Chris for posting this shot. And thanks Jess for being such a killer photographer. From my shattered memories of that day, I think I was already well behind you and many others. Still, I was crushing the massive 50 x 21 gear, not going as fast as the photo makes it look. And Bill was just enjoying the sufferin’.

  29. @mxlmax When you pedal it’s inevitable that a crank gets *stuck* at the bottom every half-pedal revolution. I agree that it looks more likely he’s coasting than pedaling but we don’t know, which was my point.

  30. Here’s Gustav Larsen doing it wrong.

  31. Did some offroad driving yesterday. Yes, driving. I know. That aside, similarly to riding the cobbles, after I finished driving this part of the course I said the same thing I did when I came off the first section of cobbles: “Oh, it can handle that. I don’t need to worry about all that other crap I do with this thing.”

     
  32. @Buck Rogers

    @Dan_R

    @scaler911 i had an opportunity to practice some of those turns with a coach last year…really opened my eyes to what can be done to maintain speed in a turn

    That’s the thing: I never rode a single cobble until the day of the cyclosportif and I wonder if I had tried to maintain a little more speed in the corners if it would of helped? Probably not. Most likely just would have crashed really hard!

    We have 100 year old cobbles in Seattle and had them in St. Paul where I grew up. I thought I knew what cobbles were.

    Not so much.

    The issue with cornering on cobbles as well is that you can’t stop pedaling because you pretty much come to a stop after 2 seconds.

  33. @frank – is it just me or is there something wrong, just wrong, posting this image from this poster on this site???

    Discuss….PLEASE!

  34. @The Potato Man

    @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    That’s a great shot. Those rims/tires look so tiny for his gargantuan form.

  35. @mxlmax

    @The Potato Man

    @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    Also refer to this shot for the front skewer position. But keep knee pressed inward.

    Front skewers usually get fucked up during wheel changes. Though, even if he likes it that way, it wouldn’t be his only Rule violation. Check out those shorts!

  36. @Rob

    @frank – is it just me or is there something wrong, just wrong, posting this image from this poster on this site???

    Discuss….PLEASE!

    I’ll also submit I was doing that instead of riding the Cogal.

  37. @frank

    @mxlmax

    @The Potato Man

    @frank

    How about this photo. Inside knee inside of his elbow. Looks like he is using the “lean your bike more than your body” technique here.

    Also refer to this shot for the front skewer position. But keep knee pressed inward.

    Front skewers usually get fucked up during wheel changes. Though, even if he likes it that way, it wouldn’t be his only Rule violation. Check out those shorts!

    The shorts are suited to accommodate the legs. His own set of Rules.

  38. @TBONE

    Here’s my favourite cobbles video, you can see the tires skating across the tops of the cobbles, dancing around with no real control. The muscles are flopping about in a manner that looks like old people having sex. It’s quite glorious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QSpuhIQg1A

    Merckx, that is awesome!

  39. @frank

    @Buck Rogers

    @Dan_R

    @scaler911 i had an opportunity to practice some of those turns with a coach last year…really opened my eyes to what can be done to maintain speed in a turn

    That’s the thing: I never rode a single cobble until the day of the cyclosportif and I wonder if I had tried to maintain a little more speed in the corners if it would of helped? Probably not. Most likely just would have crashed really hard!

    We have 100 year old cobbles in Seattle and had them in St. Paul where I grew up. I thought I knew what cobbles were.

    Not so much.

    The issue with cornering on cobbles as well is that you can’t stop pedaling because you pretty much come to a stop after 2 seconds.

    My local cobbles are gravel. C’est dommage. Donc, I ride the cx bike more often now that it is fall.

  40. Boy, oh, boy. The hairnet. The awesome, huge windshield, er, shades. The Daisy Dukes bib shorts. The white Belgian booties. The white bidon cages. The steel machine. The black rims + silver spokes + silver hubs. A lot goin’ on there! And, the awesome tricolour hat of the gal in the dress in the background!

    And then, then we get to the final two sentences from Frank. Ha! Amazing. I actually like to work on taking quick sips from my bidon during training rides when I’m out of breath as practice for races & rides. Nothing like cobble and clenched bodily valves, but along the lines of trying to practice for certain conditions.

    I generally hate replays of bad injuries or photos but gotta say, I love that photo of Gustav Larsen. Hoping he wasn’t too badly hurt, but it’s just such a goddamn shocking moment captured forever.

  41. @frank

    @Rob

    @frank – is it just me or is there something wrong, just wrong, posting this image from this poster on this site???

    Discuss….PLEASE!

    I’ll also submit I was doing that instead of riding the Cogal.

    That’s what our best roads look like over here

  42. @Ron

    Boy, oh, boy. The hairnet. The awesome, huge windshield, er, shades. The Daisy Dukes bib shorts. The white Belgian booties. The white bidon cages. The steel machine. The black rims + silver spokes + silver hubs. A lot goin’ on there! And, the awesome tricolour hat of the gal in the dress in the background!

    And then, then we get to the final two sentences from Frank. Ha! Amazing. I actually like to work on taking quick sips from my bidon during training rides when I’m out of breath as practice for races & rides. Nothing like cobble and clenched bodily valves, but along the lines of trying to practice for certain conditions.

    I generally hate replays of bad injuries or photos but gotta say, I love that photo of Gustav Larsen. Hoping he wasn’t too badly hurt, but it’s just such a goddamn shocking moment captured forever.

    A pedants writes – Gustav Larsson

  43. @Ken Ho

    Actuall, leaning your bike more than your body is a well established technique for cornering of road. It allows you to load your tyres more vertically for better grip and lets you stay on top of the bike should it start to drift (something I believe Kelly was renowned for). It is equally applicable to cornering on the road.

  44. On a different note, I feel much better about our roads here now after seeing the pics of the cobbles.  Our A roads are often nice, B roads are a mix, with lots of really coarse chip seal, C roads are rubbish though often smoother as the chips have sunk into hot tar over many summers.

    However, I’m never going to complain ever again.  If I were to do a Pave tour, I would prepare by looking for the roughest crap I could find.

  45. @frank

    Here’s Gustav Larsen doing it wrong.

    There is something about that picture that instantly made me think, “I don’t remember Fronk crashing….”

    For good measure – some random punter

  46. @The Potato Man

    @Ken Ho

    Yes, my thought was that he was on a curve, not a corner, and that he was pedalling to keep the power down.

    Sure, I’m an internet expert, but have done a few ride days and a couple of Keith Code Superbike courses as well as watched a lot of motorbike racing, and got to hang out with Paul Smart for a day once at Miisano. Cycling races are not won or lost on corners, the way that motor-bike races are, so perhaps there is less attention paid to the finer art of it.

    On COG, the bulk of a rider +bicycle combo is the rider. If anything, it makes more sense to get the riders weight as low as possible, even more so than on a motorbike. Having the rider weight hanging on the outside of the bike makes no sense at all.

    Mostly though, it’s about front end grip. Being a good passenger is also critical to good cornering and Keith Code has a bit to say about that.

    I think The Potato Man is right on this one.  I recall an article written by Bernard Hinault (no less) from Winning Magazine in the late ’80’s that describes the correct cornering technique.  He was unequivocal that it was not the motorcycle technique with the leg out, but rather the push the bike down across your shoulders technique.  The reasons for this were explained thus;

    On a motorcycle, you have the motor driving the wheels.  This acts by creating more force (centripital?) on the contact patch in a more horizontal (outward) direction.  The suggestion is that by leaning the leg out toward the inside of the turn, you are more effictively loading the contact patch in the direction the tire is wanting to go.

    On a bike, the wheels aren’t ‘self accelerating’ and so the prime contact patch is more in a vertical dimension.  By pushing the bike down and across your body, you are weighting the contact patch more efficiently in a vertical dimension.

  47. Proper cornering technique shouldn’t change based on terrain… Weight the inside arm & outside leg, countersteer into the corner and leave enough extension in the outside leg to compensate for a slide. Whether you’re tearing up the DH course at Mont-Sainte-Anne or blasting through the Arenberg, you’ve got the maximum of traction and control working for you following that technique.

  48. @sthilzy

    @sthilzy

    Caulfield cobbles for my post above. (Can Google Maps, Street View link be posted?)

    Since seeing this in Winning back in 1985, this image of cobble rash has been imbedding in my mind;


    Yvon Frebert on the descent from the Intelvi in the 1985 Tour of Lombardy won by Sean Kelly – 171 starters, 32 finishers.

    Another interesting point about this picture versus the Larsson one is that modern, strapless pedals have the advantage of releasing spontaneously in a crash. The Larsson pic being a fine case in point. Look at the Frebert picture; both he and the other rider have crashed and still have feet strapped in. This could not have been good for one’s knees as well as increasing the danger of being clattered by one’s bike as you tumble.

  49. Yeah, but if you hit hard enough, your feet come out of your shoes. When you crawl to the roadside, they’re still conveniently strapped to the pedals. I only used this tactic once.

  50. @mouse

    Back in the past when I rode a motorbike, someone told me the knee down technique was used by bike racers for two reasons, one to feel the edge of the track and secondly to actually decrease traction on the back wheel by pushing against the tarmac and allowing the rear (driven) wheel to keep spinning faster in the turn then once back upright on the straight there was no real need for acceleration – hence the wheelie popping on the way out of corners… Not sure how true all of this actually is but clearly that makes dropping the knee on a non-motor bike purely a matter of style as neither of these would play into riding.

    Keeping the bike more upright and shifting weight around though allows much greater traction at speed in the corner because more of the tyre is actually gripping in the direction of travel because more of the force is going down through the road and providing greater grip. When I did ride motor bikes, the weight shifting technique actually allowed for less steering and leaning, and therefore faster cornering to get round the same curves – and for Joe Blow riders like me was far more useful than trying to lean the bike right over and get the knee down. But it did rely on stabilising the bike by pushing as hard as possible on the highside leg – which is a technique someone alluded to here a while ago (can’t remember where) when cornering. It also seems to work quite well at slow speeds as well.

    On a bicycle, I reckon the weight shift technique works, as does countersteering (when at speed) but whether they originated in motorcycle or bicycle racing, who knows!? Would love to see pictures of a tophatted dude on a penny farthing with his knee down, proving that we the riders of the bicycle are the mothers of invention…. 

    I hated Physics at school, but I reckon if I’d listened a bit better I might just trust my bike in the corners a little more……

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