In most situations, silence is an ominous thing that signals impending doom. Having never been in any danger myself, I base this largely on my experience watching box-office movies. As a general rule, I use Hollywood as the principal source of information on all subjects as they relate to doom and politics, principally because I’m loath to do any “reading” or “research” of my own; the more thinking an actor or actress can do for me, the better. The more glamorous they look, the more trustworthy they are.
For the Cyclist, however, silence signals efficiency. Noise is loss; every creak, squeak, click, clack, groan, moan, or other emanation of sound from our machine or body is energy escaping the system. Energy that we put into the system through hard-fought application of The V. That includes uncontrolled, dog-like panting or wheezing, and the creaking and clicking of body parts, by the way.
Sound is energy carried on waves of vibrating air. Sound escaping our bicycle or body as a consequence of us applying pressure to the pedals is evidence that some portion of our energy is being expended to produce noise instead of moving us forward. This makes noise intolerable and infuriating in equal measure and in extreme circumstances may precipitate a Rule #65-violating Millarcopter. Drivetrain noise means loss with every link of the chain that passes through the derailleur and over a cog. A click in the bottom bracket or a creaking in the cleat signals energy poured into compression of bearings or plastic, not speed. Wheezing or panting indicates air converted from V-giving breath into the useless rattling of a larynx.
Silence the machine, control your breathing into a steady, muscle-fueling source, and maximum V will follow. The mind fixates on noises and is distracted from The Work; it is only through the Principle of Silence that we may find Rule #6.
But riding a quiet bike is far from riding in the silent vacuum that signals impending danger. On the contrary, a silent bike submits us to the genuine beauty of our Sport: the whisper of the wind in our ear, the song of a bird who encourages us along our way, the crisp click of a perfect shift, the rhythmic patter of rain on our helmet, cap, or the tarmac as we carve our path along La Vie Velominatus.
But the most beautiful sound of Cycling has come to me late in my life as a Velominatus. My reluctance to ride sew-ups has for many years denied me the sublime sound of a handmade tubular rolling along the road. This world opened up to me early last year when I finally built a set of Golden Tickets for my introduction to the Hell of the North. This year, almost by accident, I wound up riding my CafÃ© Roubaix Arenbergs for all of Keepers Tour 2013, glued to the best set of tires available – the FMB Partis-Roubaix. The amplifying qualities of the deep-section carbon rim allows the supple hum of the handmade tubular to sing like Merckx’s mighty rollers upon the rock of Mount Velomis.
This sound inspires. It is a reason to get out to ride. It is a reason to be a Cyclist. This sound is a reason to live.
Vive la Vie Velominatus.