East Fork of San Gabriel Canyon

Guest Article: The Line

Guest Article: The Line

by / / 48 posts

While the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,  for us road cyclists it is usually not the fastest. @RobsMuir ponders this while riding and retains such complex thinking when done with his ride. That is an enviable skill in itself. 

VLVV, Gianni   

The Line. The right track. To the sprinter it hardly matters, a few technical turns during a maniacal kilometer or two through the centre-ville. The track specialist knows the Line, yet it never varies; it remains fixed on the planks, lap after lap. For the rouleur crossing the Loire Valley, or the of the peleton kicking through the wine grapes in Northern California, or the randonneur facing long rollers across scores of miles, these riders seldom see the Line.

The grimpeur-the escalade spécialiste-studies the Line. So too does the descendeur-the plunging décroissant spécialiste, the madman who plays the piste all the way to the base. It is said few can combine these two specialities successfully. Yet for the true Keeper of the Line, these two skills are but different sides of the same black-gloved fist thrust defiantly high above a reverently-bowed head.

It’s easy to see the sweeping Line in the descent. Here, the Velominatus generally lets G work its impressive magic. The hands gently ride on the drops, the index and middle fingers calmly touch the hair triggers while all around is noise and fury. Precise attention to the Line brings maximum velocities and the reptilian brain slingshots the organism out of each compressible switchback. ‘The Falcon’ knew the Line; admire Paolo Savoldelli as a blur.

For the grimpeur, life is harder. The ascent brings a slow and relentless suffering, and the frontal cortex is free to ponder the moment. Rule #6 to the contrary, the climber is left with but two stark choices; either dwell on the pain, or observe the Line. The former is self-defeating, the latter binds the observer with the unspeaking brain stem. Therein lies strategy.

How best to thread the Line from bottom to top? As with descents, moving to the inside of each turn shortens the distance-a worthwhile endeavor. Those steepest hairpins, though, can kill the cadence when the tarmac climbs above twenty percent. Do you head toward the top of each tight turn, knowing that you’ll need to climb that much anyway? Or should the pedalwan observe the unwritten Rule known by some as the Center Line Rule (CLR)? When the road’s your own, following the Middle Way might lead to enlightenment…

And here’s where a contemplative climber can discern the Line threading somewhere in between. Anticipating the next turn, the grimpeur can see the subtle Line that sweeps first from the bottom, then gradually to the CL, pushing upwards to the top of the curve, and completing each turn near the mid-point again. Imagined targets in the road–a pebble there, a divot farther along, that tar snake up ahead-can bend the Line ever so slightly and bring it more solidly to mind.  Each turn brings a slight variation of the superior Line, and-like a mirage-it seems to drift as one approaches.  Yet, in the process, this precise observation distracts the conscious mind from the pain that lies too, too near the surface.

The Line becomes the locus of control and the focus of attention. The kilometers melt and the summit nears.

// Guest Article // Technique

  1. Very nicely written.  I fine treatise that gets me thinking – I can ask for no more!  

     

     

  2. Great article. I did use the CLR rule, once. Wet and white lines do not mix well though… was very slippy!

  3. Actually, Gianni, most of this blather was composed while riding!

    On the long climbs here in SoCal there’s fuckall else to do!  ;-p

  4. Oh, Chap-fucking-eau.

    Super writing, really takes me to my own thoughts. And wow what a pic.

    Chap-fucking-eau.

  5. @RobsMuir

    Actually, Gianni, most of this blather was composed while riding!

    On the long climbs here in SoCal there’s fuckall else to do! ;-p

    OK, well, I’m still impressed. I think of some brilliant things when riding then by the time I’ve baked the brain and made it home, these passages are no longer in da buffer.

  6. It is incredible how many things can go through your mind during climbs (and descents!). I was weaned on short, steep climbs, which mean the long ones offer a lot of time to contemplate the suffering, the pain, the fact that I’m not getting paid to ride my bike. But, it is those long, shattering climbs that demonstrate just how tough skinny lads in Lycra truly are as they take on the mountains at staggering speeds.

  7. The only thing going thru my mind when climbing is “keep the pedals turning”!

  8. Great article. As a former grimpeur, and someone that still likes going uphill, tho am not the climber I was at 22, I learned quickly that the shortest line up a steep, switch backed climb is almost never the fastest. The loss of tempo you get from hugging the fog line through a steep corner, and the effort required to get back into rhythm always ends in a net loss of speed. That loss can also be near impossible to overcome mentally. Finding the line that is the most consistent in regards to steepness is always the best, even if it means going 3m out of your way.

  9. It’s funny. I can like about spiritual things while climbing, but not work related things.

  10. think

  11. Great photo.  Topanga?  Mulholland?? Looks like somewhere like that.  I think my thoughts on a climb depend on who I am climbing with and how far out of my comfort zone I am…or not, depending.  On descents I try not to think at all and just be…I am a lousy descender, comes from taking up this sport relatively late in life.

  12. @scaler911

    Great article. As a former grimpeur, and someone that still likes going uphill, tho am not the climber I was at 22, I learned quickly that the shortest line up a steep, switch backed climb is almost never the fastest. The loss of tempo you get from hugging the fog line through a steep corner, and the effort required to get back into rhythm always ends in a net loss of speed. That loss can also be near impossible to overcome mentally. Finding the line that is the most consistent in regards to steepness is always the best, even if it means going 3m out of your way.

    Hear, hear!

  13. Doh!  East fork of san gabriel canyon….how did I miss that.

  14. Nice one @RobsMuir. Finding that sweet part of the camber is a skill unto itself. Depending on how much one likes or often is climbing (or if one is even able to do this, depending on the road one is on at the time what with traffic getting in the way) will make or break a good climber.

  15. Oh, forgot to commend you on the photo as well, excellent! Did you compose that shot whilst still on the bike as well?

  16. @il ciclista medio

    I’ve admired that bit of mountain chicanery for quite some time, both upwards and down.

    Sadly, it’s about 7/11ths down the East Fork which can only be had by climbing Baldy Road and Glendora Ridge Road (40 km) or by climbing Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) and then descending.  Again, another 40 km and 4,500′ or so from The Base @ the Euro Cafe,

    To get that lighting, one would need guns of steel or a predawn start.  One is long overdue, and the other isn’t worth contemplating without a double espresso.

    Indeed, the shot was captured through the windscreen of my Mini Cooper…

  17. @Robs Muir

     

    Indeed, the shot was captured through the windscreen of my Mini Cooper…

    Masturbation Principle I think, we would have all thought you were really (more) awesome.

  18. Great article! As a flat-lander (a half mile climb at 5% is a mountain where I ride), I often wonder what goes through the mind of someone climbing to heaven… This is very insightful.  I can only imagine my mind would start by being full of swearing, and then it would settle into a drooling, incomprehensible, thumb-sucking state.

  19. “I was on TV!!”

    http://www.localnews8.com/news/cyclists-take-part-in-idaho-falls-firstever-cyclocross/-/308662/22893570/-/kumm9jz/-/index.html

    You can see my on my bike at the :29 mark and then you can see me (The fat ass in the all black Eagle Rock Cycling kit) milling around in the staging area.

  20. @Cyclops  Congratulations! Your interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor. So close.

    I hope someone can straighten out young Dakota Bromley on Rule #93. I guess we can give him as pass as this Rule just came out and he is too young to effectively deal with part two of that Rule.

  21. @Gianni

    @Cyclops Congratulations! Your interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor. So close.

    I hope someone can straighten out young Dakota Bromley on Rule #93. I guess we can give him as pass as this Rule just came out and he is too young to effectively deal with part two of that Rule.

    Maybe Luke Jones can square him up. They look like they’re in the same class at Idaho Falls Elementary.

  22. Nice writing @RobsMuir.  Now that you have giving this part of my subconsious a name I realise that finding The Line is an important tool in climbing well – along with the legs, lungs and not being too fat to climb.

    Thanks.

  23. Since road design around here seemed to deal with inclines by sayuing, “Ah, just go straight up.”  I rarely ever get to worry about my line, other than simply following the white one.  I have found a few descents where I need to worry about turning, and they are quite fun.

  24. Great photo, sadly I had visions of someone on a trusty steed snapping this photo whilst mid stroke and only one hand on the bars, the admission of the mini cooper deflated me somewhat.

    None the less, agree with the sentiment and always, as a bad climber, but one who loves to climb, the art is in the line.

    Thats the challenge in scoping the next turn and preparing for what is perceived as the path of least resistance.

    Rhythm is everything!

  25. “…the admission of the mini cooper deflated me somewhat.”

    In avoidance of all things COTHO-like, I believe that it’s important to be straight with the crooked, rather than the converse.  Know that the East Fork is in my backyard, and that me mates yard this thing down on a weekly- or twice-weekly basis, and that only The Beast® has bested me on that 4.7 mi. descent.  And that was by only 0.2 mi/h faster. (This shall not stand!)

    Now I respect the V as much as the next man, but I would lose respect totally for any nimrod who might propose to snap a piccy while on such a fine piece of zoom!  (Present company excluded, of course.)  As noted above, Rule #93 dictates the correct approach to such a fine and sensual set of curves.  God, man!  Pay homage to the lovely woman!  Show her what the Man-Machine can do!  There are much better things to do than fumble with the damned iPhone.

    Indeed, the only way to photograph such a fine piece of pass, I would submit, IS from a lumbering (‘though nimble) Cooper!

    Are we clear?

  26. @RobsMuir no, I’m really confused, what’s mi ?

    “a fine piece of pass” Now that I understand ! Lexicon worthy even.

  27. @RobsMuir

    “…the admission of the mini cooper deflated me somewhat.”

    In avoidance of all things COTHO-like, I believe that it’s important to be straight with the crooked, rather than the converse. Know that the East Fork is in my backyard, and that me mates yard this thing down on a weekly- or twice-weekly basis, and that only The Beast® has bested me on that 4.7 mi. descent. And that was by only 0.2 mi/h faster. (This shall not stand!)

    Now I respect The V as much as the next man, but I would lose respect totally for any nimrod who might propose to snap a piccy while on such a fine piece of zoom! (Present company excluded, of course.) As noted above, Rule #93 dictates the correct approach to such a fine and sensual set of curves. God, man! Pay homage to the lovely woman! Show her what the Man-Machine can do! There are much better things to do than fumble with the damned iPhone.

    Indeed, the only way to photograph such a fine piece of pass, I would submit, IS from a lumbering (‘though nimble) Cooper!

    Are we clear?

    Crystal !

  28. ” a fine piece of pass ”    I like it !!!

  29. @Barracuda

    Cannot resist:

    Great photo, sadly I had visions of someone on a trusty steed snapping this photo whilst mid stroke and only one hand on the bars, the admission of the mini cooper deflated me somewhat.

    Fine piece of pass indeed!

  30. I know that road, the fucking wind is nasty up that damn climb, great bit of writing!

  31. @RobsMuir A great article, beautifully written.  Watch out @Frank you have a wordsmithing rival.

    In my delusions of grimpeur (I can’t remember who proposed that for the lexicon but it has to go in), I’ve realised that the CL and even the outside line are my friends, simply because I just don’t climb well for my weight.

  32. @Marko

    @Gianni

    @Cyclops Congratulations! Your interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor. So close.

    I hope someone can straighten out young Dakota Bromley on Rule #93. I guess we can give him as pass as this Rule just came out and he is too young to effectively deal with part two of that Rule.

    Maybe Luke Jones can square him up. They look like they’re in the same class at Idaho Falls Elementary.

    Holy cannoli. I don’t even watch my local news, now due to the Velominati I’m watching Idaho Falls local news? Wow. The places being a Follower will take me…

  33. Hmm, just read this NY Times article. Interesting perspective…coming from a guy who crashed his bike because he was inattentive and now only rides indoors…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/is-it-ok-to-kill-cyclists.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

    Still glad that the topic is being discussed with more regularity. Here in NC a recent newspaper article stated that September is the deadliest month to be a cyclist. We’ve had a few recent deaths of cyclists. Less than 1% of road users, but cyclists make up more than 2% of road fatalities.

    I was nearly hit by a woman at the end of my Saturday ride…she drove though the green light I had in my lane and yelled at me. And, she had a bike on the back of her car. Oh boy.

  34. @Ron A Seattle TV station tries to make a case for an epidemic of aggressive cyclists: http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/aggressive-cyclists-attacking-motorists-pedestrian/nbnXw/

  35. @Ron@G’rilla

    The NYT article was absolutely correct on one important point: Cyclists should always obey traffic laws and be courteous. And cars should stop texting and pay the fucking attention.

    As Cyclists, though, we have to take especially good care to never get aggressive; you’ll never get to someone by being angry and will only make the case for the Cyclist worse. I’ve had the best luck by stopping people at the next light and saying something like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but you really put me in danger with that move you just made…it really scared me and could have been really bad for both of us.”

    The goal is to keep someone from doing something dangerous in the future, not to make them hate cyclists even more.

  36. @frank

    …The goal is to keep someone from doing something dangerous in the future, not to make them hate cyclists even more.

    Spot on. There are enough dickheads on bikes riding through lights and on pavements as it is. The whole ethos of this site is To Do Things Properly and riding as we’d like other people to drive or amble/waddle is part of that.

    In other news, the pedestrian/cyclist relationship in my neck of the woods is getting  a bit shitty.

  37. @Chris I see what you did there, I like it.

  38. @barracuda

    Oh bravo!  In juxtaposition with “deflated,” this looks like it was all conspired.

  39. @Ron

    @Marko

    @Gianni

    @Cyclops Congratulations! Your interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor. So close.

    I hope someone can straighten out young Dakota Bromley on Rule #93. I guess we can give him as pass as this Rule just came out and he is too young to effectively deal with part two of that Rule.

    Maybe Luke Jones can square him up. They look like they’re in the same class at Idaho Falls Elementary.

    Holy cannoli. I don’t even watch my local news, now due to the Velominati I’m watching Idaho Falls local news? Wow. The places being a Follower will take me…

    The awesome thing about Idaho Falls is that I live about five blocks from downttown and yet if I ride for about ten minutes from my front door in the other direction I’m out in the country with not too much traffic to deal with and yet what’s even cooler is that I have an annual criterium that is literally nine blocks from my house and now I have a CX race that took me less that ten minutes to ride my CX rig to.
     

    Maybe I don’t want to move to Kentucky.

  40. @Cyclops

    @Ron

    @Marko

    @Gianni

    @Cyclops Congratulations! Your interview must have ended up on the cutting room floor. So close.

    I hope someone can straighten out young Dakota Bromley on Rule #93. I guess we can give him as pass as this Rule just came out and he is too young to effectively deal with part two of that Rule.

    Maybe Luke Jones can square him up. They look like they’re in the same class at Idaho Falls Elementary.

    Holy cannoli. I don’t even watch my local news, now due to the Velominati I’m watching Idaho Falls local news? Wow. The places being a Follower will take me…

    The awesome thing about Idaho Falls is that I live about five blocks from downttown and yet if I ride for about ten minutes from my front door in the other direction I’m out in the country with not too much traffic to deal with and yet what’s even cooler is that I have an annual criterium that is literally nine blocks from my house and now I have a CX race that took me less that ten minutes to ride my CX rig to.

    Maybe I don’t want to move to Kentucky.

    Idaho falls and Idaho in general is an amazing state. I have family in Rexburg. I truly envy your proximity to yellowstone as well. I seem to recall though that most of the area is rolling hills minus some lone mountain ranges. The tetons come to mind. Is there a good amount of mountain riding in the area?

  41. @DCR

    There’s plenty around here.  There’s a 10k climb just on the edge of town and then if you want to ride or drive a little there lot’s more.  There’s the Teton Pass, Pine Creek Pass, the road up to Targhee ski resort, etc.

    Look me up if you ever come out to visit family.

  42. @G’rilla, @frank

    I do believe this is a more appropriate response to the NYT shite…

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2013/11/shafted-again.html

    Truly a ROTHO…  (Do I have to spell it out?  Rant. Of. The. Highest. Order.)

  43. @frank

    @Ron, @G’rilla

    The NYT article was absolutely correct on one important point: Cyclists should always obey traffic laws and be courteous. And cars should stop texting and pay the fucking attention.

    As Cyclists, though, we have to take especially good care to never get aggressive; you’ll never get to someone by being angry and will only make the case for the Cyclist worse. I’ve had the best luck by stopping people at the next light and saying something like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but you really put me in danger with that move you just made…it really scared me and could have been really bad for both of us.”

    The goal is to keep someone from doing something dangerous in the future, not to make them hate cyclists even more.

    The problem with this approach is that it fails to make me the center of attention. Flipping off and then being chased by the driver of a step-in van downtown is so much more satisfying, like starring in an action movie.

  44. http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2013/11/shafted-again.html

    After a second reading, and restful night before The Ride, I do believe that BSNYC’s response should be elevated to a rant of high rank (ROHR).

     

  45. @RobsMuir

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2013/11/shafted-again.html

    After a second reading, and restful night before The Ride, I do believe that BSNYC’s response should be elevated to a rant of high rank (ROHR).

    I agree with every word of it.

    Somebody posted the original article on FB and my first thought was that anyone who basically rode their bike a few times and then decided to stay indoors because it was too scary was probably coming at bike safety from an odd angle.

    As for BSNYC’s advice about obeying laws he makes absolute sense. In London I generally obey them but in the 10% of cases where it makes no sense to do so for reasons of safety or logic I feel no guilt in ignoring it.

    Choice between going 30 metres the wrong way up a one-way street where I can see there is no traffic OR taking the correct right-hand turn (driving on the left remember) and having to sit in the middle of a stream of traffic with my hand stuck out praying that the cars, trucks and buses don’t hit me…

  46. @PeakInTwoYears

    @frank

    @Ron, @G’rilla

    The NYT article was absolutely correct on one important point: Cyclists should always obey traffic laws and be courteous. And cars should stop texting and pay the fucking attention.

    As Cyclists, though, we have to take especially good care to never get aggressive; you’ll never get to someone by being angry and will only make the case for the Cyclist worse. I’ve had the best luck by stopping people at the next light and saying something like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but you really put me in danger with that move you just made…it really scared me and could have been really bad for both of us.”

    The goal is to keep someone from doing something dangerous in the future, not to make them hate cyclists even more.

    The problem with this approach is that it fails to make me the center of attention. Flipping off and then being chased by the driver of a step-in van downtown is so much more satisfying, like starring in an action movie.

    @PITY, oh yes and Yes, love the adrenaline rush of dueling with Rovers, Cadi Escalades and tuned Hondas. There’s nothing better than fooling with them until they go compleatletely Stooopid! I have been riding off and on in cities, Boston, London, NYC and now Miami and I am convinced that riding like you are a car gets their attention and if they pull jack ass moves then the gloves are off.

    @Frank I know the goal but when the the bone headed stuff comes at you every day then how long do we roll over and play nice? I would love to go back to my 5 years of commuting across central London back in the early 70’s. Memories now seems to be a dream… I was the only cyclist most days. I obeyed every rule as did all the cars and life was slower and way less crowded.

    Now, however it’s a very different scene and I have riden in all of the above cities in the last 3 years. My old commute in London is an unbelievable frenzy of cyclists and traffic. NYC is NYC. Boston is pretty much the same just more and Mi-friggin-ami is a trip!!

    The weird thing is I love the hurley-burley of traffic, it turns me on and I use it to Rule #5 for fitness. Yes I think that my life expectancy is foreshortened, but I do try to use every bit of years experience to stay safe. When I am riding it is always with an awareness that stays locked on and loaded. Will I regret the future accident? Never, it is who I am and if it happens then life will change, as it does for all of us eventually. If the worst happens.. Then hopefully I won’t care and you all will have some more bad ass Cogals!

  47. Fantastic post. This line especially caught my eye:

    “Imagined targets in the road-a pebble there, a divot farther along, that tar snake up ahead-can bend the Line ever so slightly and bring it more solidly to mind. Each turn brings a slight variation of the superior Line, and-like a mirage-it seems to drift as one approaches.”

    Been there many times…

    Brilliant.

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