In the interest of full disclosure, I feel it is my responsibility to warn you that this article might accidentally make you a better cyclist. Even though it breaks protocol, the subject of this edition of Look Pro involves the power of the mind, not just aesthetics.
As we established previously, The Rules can be transcended if the rider has the proper mentality. Take, for example, the sweat band that Hinault is wearing in this photo. Though he gets off on a Rule Violation through a technicality (no Rules about sweat bands), the way that thing is creeping up past his hairline, you might think he just stepped out of a special session with Richard Simmons. That said, from a technical perspective, calling it a “sweat band” is erroneous, since sweat bands don’t work for Badger Perspiration (pure Iron) and that it is actually a device used to absorb your opponent’s anguish and convert it directly into hardonium, the core element of The V. The point is, he pulls it off because he’s the Badger, and the Badger can do whatever he damn well pleases. Lame sweat bands and all.
A good deal of The Rules focus on the little details of good taste and style that help you look Pro, such as how to wear sunnies, the proper length of socks and bibs, positioning on the bike, and the accessories that are and aren’t allowed. But try as you might to Look Fantastic, unless you apply liberal doses of Rule #5, nothing you do will go far to help you avoid the Gyllenhaal Syndrome.
The good news is that Rule 5 is not measured in absolutes, but by relative increments. Whether you are throwing your leg over a top tube for the first time, a recreational rider, a racer, or a Pro riding a bike around a track for 60 minutes, to observe Rule #5 means that you push yourself beyond a level you previously thought possible. This is the crux of becoming a better cyclist; your limits are dictated more by the mind than by fitness; to push beyond your limits is to will your lungs to breathe a little deeper, demand a bit more from your legs, and to steel your mind against the constant pleas from your lungs and legs to mercifully halt the effort.
The bad news is that the work in pursuit of Rule #5 is never done, for every step closer you come, Rule #5 takes a step farther away. As your fitness increases and your body learns to cope with the demands you put on it, the bar creeps ever higher (see Rule #10).
In your pursuit of Looking Pro, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Meditate on The V, as Hinault is doing here. Before starting, prepare your body for the pain to be found on the road by visualizing the effort. Visualize the road, and the points where you will suffer the most. This sways the locus of control away from the road and toward your mind. If it helps, apply the V-Cog to your top tube as a reminder.
- Your mind is your worst enemy. Do all your thinking before your start riding your bike. Once the pedals start to turn, wrap yourself in the sensations of the ride – the smell of the air, the sound of the tires, the feeling of flight as the bicycle rolls over the road.
- When engaged in an effort, never think about the pain. This is analogous to “looking down” when walking the tightrope. You don’t need to know how much you hurt or how much longer you can sustain the effort – that kind of information is catnip for the Man with the Hammer.
- Quitting is a plague, the ultimate Anti-V. Unless your name starts with “Jens” and ends with “Voigt”, you will experience your body begging your mind to quit during an effort. But if you quit once, the temptation to do so again will quickly spread to the next effort, and the next, and so forth until you end up riding the couch, dishing out Rule #5 to an unfortunate bag of Frito-Lays. If, for some reason, you find yourself pedaling squares with absolutely all the air gone from your lungs before reaching your objective, pick a spot farther up the road and soldier on with the effort until you reach it. This tricks your mind into believing that it didn’t quit and goes a long way towards maintaining the steely resolve required to be a hardman.
- The only thing worse than the pain you feel during an effort is the knowledge that you quit. Think of it this way; the harder you go,the sooner it will be over.