The three virtues: Mind, Body, Machine.

La Vie Velominatus: Santoku

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In Japanese, “Santoku” means “Three Virtues”. Exactly which three virtues it is referring to is unclear, but I am fascinated by the idea of a single word with such a rich, if ambiguous, meaning. I have several kitchen knives that goes by this name, and within the scope of knives the three virtues are generally accepted to mean fish, meat, and vegetables. But if I know anything about Japanese culture, then two things are certain: that the three virtues in question depend on the application, and that I know absolutely nothing about Japanese culture.

In Cycling, we also have three virtues. These are the Mind, the Body, and the Machine.

The Mind.
The mind is the heart of the organism. It is what drives the body towards fitness and strength. It is what drives us to find the limits of our will, our body, and the machine as a cohesive unit. It is our conduit into The V; just as the body, it must be trained and disciplined. Without the mind, the body lays at rest and the machine leans gathering dust against the wall. It is, however, susceptible to doubt. Doubt is an insipid thing that creeps through our veins and burroughs in at that little point at the base of our skull where it meets the neck. It tickles at our nerves and whispers in our ear to undermine the strength of the body.

The Body.
The body is the engine of the organism. Through the disciplined practice of training and learning to ignore the natural impulse to yield to both pain and common sense, it becomes strong. We break our muscles down so they rebuild themselves again, a bit more robustly. Over time, it becomes a tool. An instrument of intimidation. A weapon even. The body serves at the pleasure of the mind; a strong mind can draw unexpected performances from the body. A strong body can bolster the morale and encourage the mind to draw more from it, but it can only exhibit an influence; the body is never in control of the mind.

The Machine.
Who hasn’t laughed at the redneck wearing a “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people” t-shirt? While I commend the author’s ability to assign responsibility, guns definitely make the job a lot easier. It is the same with the bicycle; the bike is not what makes a rider fast, but a good one makes it a lot easier. The bicycle is almost a sentient being, we often show more affection and concern for the state of the machine than that of our own bodies. But the machine also exerts a huge amount of influence over the the entire system; a bicycle in perfect working order serves to inspire the Mind to find the limits of the body. A failing machine – or even a creaking pedal or squeaking chain – will send the mind into a descending feedback loop of morale which ends, most often, in a Millarcopter.

To achieve our potential as Cyclists, we must respect our Santoku: the mind, the body, and the machine. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus // Reverent // The Bikes // The Hardmen

  1. I love arguments that have three parts and especially arguments that divide things up into three parts and prioritize the parts. I really especially love arguments that divide things up into three parts and prioritize the parts according to the relative effectiveness of focusing one’s efforts on each of the parts.

    There’s a small business in the San Juan Islands that is widely thought to be a world-class provider of instruction in the art of coastal kayaking. Its name is Body Boat Blade, which is intended to signify the system that comprises these three objects as well, I think, as the relative priority of the objects in the system: the beginner wants to know what to do with his or her paddle, the intermediate understands that different boats behave differently from each other, and the advanced understand that the actions of the body as a whole are most determinant of the behavior of the system.

    Mind and body will always be more important than machine and blade.

  2. In the absence of any frames made of ginsu, I must rely on a katana made from Columbus…or in the case of my n+1 LeMond, Reynolds.

  3. It’s a good thing you didn’t see this photo as a kid @frank, you’d have spent the next few years riding around with only a pinkie securing one hand on the drops!

    In relation to the article itself, the power of your mind is ludicrous in its control over the rest of the system. Have been in a bit of a funk work wise recently, which kinda has me “avoiding” having to get up & start the day. Because I do most of my riding in the hours before work, I’ve noticed that demotivation (along with staying up for the tour) has seen my riding drop massively over the last month.

  4. What’s this article about? I got distracted gazing at the Prophet’s awesomeness and didn’t read it.

  5. @Mikael Liddy

    It’s a good thing you didn’t see this photo as a kid @frank, you’d have spent the next few years riding around with only a pinkie securing one hand on the drops!

    In relation to the article itself, the power of your mind is ludicrous in its control over the rest of the system. Have been in a bit of a funk work wise recently, which kinda has me “avoiding” having to get up & start the day. Because I do most of my riding in the hours before work, I’ve noticed that demotivation (along with staying up for the tour) has seen my riding drop massively over the last month.

    Try a post work ride. I commute to and from work, and the ride home is always faster. It really helps to clear the mind of the days stresses.

  6. @VeloJello

    @Mikael Liddy

    It’s a good thing you didn’t see this photo as a kid @frank, you’d have spent the next few years riding around with only a pinkie securing one hand on the drops!

    In relation to the article itself, the power of your mind is ludicrous in its control over the rest of the system. Have been in a bit of a funk work wise recently, which kinda has me “avoiding” having to get up & start the day. Because I do most of my riding in the hours before work, I’ve noticed that demotivation (along with staying up for the tour) has seen my riding drop massively over the last month.

    Try a post work ride. I commute to and from work, and the ride home is always faster. It really helps to clear the mind of the days stresses.

    This. I’ve been moved to a different office an hour’s ride away. I don’t have to add much to that to make it feel like a ‘proper’ ride, 40-50k.

    I also get to stroll through the office in my lycra with my guns looking terrifying.

  7. ‘Millarcopter’!!!

    Love that!! :0)

  8. @RobSandy

    Best part of the day, strutting through an office full of woman, me in full lycra, and catching their eyes drifting south!

  9. @nobby

    ‘Millarcopter’!!!

    Love that!! :0)

    Here’s the classic clip of the Millarcoptor in action

  10. @VeloJello

    @nobby

    ‘Millarcopter’!!!

    Love that!! :0)

    Here’s the classic clip of the Millarcoptor in action

    Ace!! There ain’t NOTHING Casually Deliberate about that effort

  11. @VeloJello post work used to be pretty regular as well, however with a 7 month pregnant wife (carrying twins) at home dealing with a 2yr old all day, my services are generally required at home post haste to give her a break!

  12. @RobSandy I’m only 5k away from the office, but the hills that border Adelaide to the east are only 20 minutes away once I’ve dropped my bag off there, so if I get there a couple of hours prior to starting work I can generally get ~50k & 1,000m of climbing in.

  13. @Mikael Liddy

    @VeloJello post work used to be pretty regular as well, however with a 7 month pregnant wife (carrying twins) at home dealing with a 2yr old all day, my services are generally required at home post haste to give her a break!

    Quite understandable. Best of luck sir!

  14. Though it be blasphemy, I’ve always struggled with the trinity (always seemed like a cheap way to rope in the first century polytheistic folks). Maybe if Father Kellerman had used more bike references in his homilies, then maybe I’d be better set with the concept.

  15. @Mikael Liddy

    @VeloJello post work used to be pretty regular as well, however with a 7 month pregnant wife (carrying twins) at home dealing with a 2yr old all day, my services are generally required at home post haste to give her a break!

    Congratulations Mikael, all the best over the next wee while.

    Conversely to your demotivation to work reducing your riding, I find the early morning ride is what gets me out of bed in the first place, and eventually in to work. Maybe use a ride as motivational fuel to get you to the office on time. When we don’t ride, coming back to the bike is never a pleasant experience, so maintaining some base fitness I find is key, and motivates continual riding for me.

    Kudos to you for 1000m in 50k. My bunchy is that much over 75, with a 20k home again at the end of the day. Would prefer the 50 I reckon.

    I’ve had 2 weeks off the bike sick and injured, I am dreading the lack of fitness on my return, but looking forward to swinging a leg over all the same.

  16. @Mikael Liddy

    @VeloJello post work used to be pretty regular as well, however with a 7 month pregnant wife (carrying twins) at home dealing with a 2yr old all day, my services are generally required at home post haste to give her a break!

    You poor, sweet, doomed soul. Take note fellow Velominatus – following this year’s Vuelta it’s likely we shall not hear from Mr. Liddy until the Classics of 2020.

    Correction – we shall hear from him, but probably just updates on his breeding and blimping (good thing he got that new bike).

  17. @Beers

    yeah, that’s usually the theory, the 1am finishes that come with Antipodean tour watching make getting out of bed at 4 slightly touger.

  18. @DeKerr

    it’ll look good hanging on the wall for the next 12 months…

  19. What is The Prophet holding in the other 4 fingers, a peach? An orange? Nothing like inhaling some sugar before the next climb!

  20. @David Booth Beers my guess would be an orange segment.

  21. Thanks Frank. The slightest squeak from my Pinarello Treviso would drive me insane thus not able to concentrate and enjoy the ride. My buddies thought I was nuts. Until I found and corrected the problem there would be no peace of mind for me!

  22. @VeloJello

    @nobby

    ‘Millarcopter’!!!

    Love that!! :0)

    Here’s the classic clip of the Millarcoptor in action

    Putting that back into the Lexi; such a classic moment.

    I love his account of that in his book – which is one of my favorite Cycling AB’s ever.

  23. @gilvelo

    Thanks Frank. The slightest squeak from my Pinarello Treviso would drive me insane thus not able to concentrate and enjoy the ride. My buddies thought I was nuts. Until I found and corrected the problem there would be no peace of mind for me!

    The Principle of Silence, my friend. You are a kindred spirit, obviously. Anyone who can ride with a noisy machine is no friend of mine. I rode with a work colleague recently who recounted in detail his 9-month quest to isolate and fix a creaking noise in his drivetrain. It turned out to be a chain link, apparently, which he described with palpable relief.

    These are the sorts of people I can work with.

  24. Mind, Body, Machine should be a slogan or something. Great article. Hey, anyone else notice that Merckx is running “right side front” for his brakes, while the other guys go with “left side front”? Just an observation.

  25. @Mikael Liddy

    It’s a good thing you didn’t see this photo as a kid @frank, you’d have spent the next few years riding around with only a pinkie securing one hand on the drops!

    In relation to the article itself, the power of your mind is ludicrous in its control over the rest of the system. Have been in a bit of a funk work wise recently, which kinda has me “avoiding” having to get up & start the day. Because I do most of my riding in the hours before work, I’ve noticed that demotivation (along with staying up for the tour) has seen my riding drop massively over the last month.

    Work and all its “funkiness” is a major player in the black dog syndrome round my parts also. I too am in a similar state of affairs and I feel your pain.

    8pm rides with the Ay-ups are the only things that keep the “dolphins” going and early Saturday mornings. I feel like a coal miner most Thursday nights.

    When I see pictures on instagram of smiley people spending days upon days riding and sipping espresso’s, I call bullshit !

    C’est la vie

  26. @frank

    @gilvelo

    Thanks Frank. The slightest squeak from my Pinarello Treviso would drive me insane thus not able to concentrate and enjoy the ride. My buddies thought I was nuts. Until I found and corrected the problem there would be no peace of mind for me!

    The Principle of Silence, my friend. You are a kindred spirit, obviously. Anyone who can ride with a noisy machine is no friend of mine. I rode with a work colleague recently who recounted in detail his 9-month quest to isolate and fix a creaking noise in his drivetrain. It turned out to be a chain link, apparently, which he described with palpable relief.

    These are the sorts of people I can work with.

    I’ve just resolved a horrid clicking noise which sounded like it was bottom bracket related. It stopped when I lubed the freehub (on advice from Leonard Zinn, actually).

    But now the front of my saddle has started squeaking/groaning.

  27. @Mikael Liddy

    It’s a good thing you didn’t see this photo as a kid @frank, you’d have spent the next few years riding around with only a pinkie securing one hand on the drops!

    It’s also a good thing that @frank‘s impressionable years didn’t coincide with Froome. One light bulb shagger is more than enough.

  28. There is always a moment when your mind gives your body permission to quit. The mind is King.

  29. @oldensteel

    Mind, Body, Machine should be a slogan or something. Great article. Hey, anyone else notice that Merckx is running “right side front” for his brakes, while the other guys go with “left side front”? Just an observation.

    That’s absolutely fascinating, I have never seen that before!

    I would guess that he’s on an Italian teammate’s bike, as in every image I’ve seen of Eddy he’s a right/rear rider. I’ve just flicked through my new 525 book and there doesn’t seem to be one single image of him riding right/front…

    Right/front used to be known as “Italian style”, as almost all other nationalities rode the opposite (correct) way.

  30. @Oli

    @oldensteel

    Mind, Body, Machine should be a slogan or something. Great article. Hey, anyone else notice that Merckx is running “right side front” for his brakes, while the other guys go with “left side front”? Just an observation.

    That’s absolutely fascinating, I have never seen that before!

    I would guess that he’s on an Italian teammate’s bike, as in every image I’ve seen of Eddy he’s a right/rear rider. I’ve just flicked through my new 525 book and there doesn’t seem to be one single image of him riding right/front…

    Right/front used to be known as “Italian style”, as almost all other nationalities rode the opposite (correct) way.

    Mind, body and machine seem to be taking care of this for me (the impulsive inner chimp) quite nicely at the moment as I’m running right/front on my #1 and left/front on the #2 without any problems at all. Driving Mrs Chris’ manual causes more problems than bikes with mismatched brakes.

    I’d swap #1 to left/front, a much prettier cable route, but I’m scared of the internal routing of the rear.

  31. Looking again at the prophet’s photo, then the current tour reveals just how shockingly awful Froome’s bib length, style, position on the bike, stem staring, (add whatever other transgressions) can be.

  32. My form is not what it could be right now, but I recently received a replacement fork for my steel custom. I installed it and tuned up the bike; first ride back on it was this morning. I took great enjoyment in its silent and flawless performance.

    @Mikael Liddy

    @Beers

    yeah, that’s usually the theory, the 1am finishes that come with Antipodean tour watching make getting out of bed at 4 slightly touger.

    Stop watching Mr. Michelle Cound ride around France. Every time I watch him on the bike it puts me off riding. Fuck that.

  33. @Ccos

    Looking again at the prophet’s photo, then the current tour reveals just how shockingly awful Froome’s bib length, style, position on the bike, stem staring, (add whatever other transgressions) can be.

    Fueled by Chocolate in the Bidon?

  34. @Ccos

    Looking again at the prophet’s photo, then the current tour reveals just how shockingly awful Froome’s bib length, style, position on the bike, stem staring, (add whatever other transgressions) can be.

    Fashion changes, good taste is a constant.

  35. @oldensteel

    @Oli

    Never noticed that before either, but The Google found me a few other examples, all ’68 or earlier, maybe early ’69.

  36. @frank

    @gilvelo

    Thanks Frank. The slightest squeak from my Pinarello Treviso would drive me insane thus not able to concentrate and enjoy the ride. My buddies thought I was nuts. Until I found and corrected the problem there would be no peace of mind for me!

    The Principle of Silence, my friend. You are a kindred spirit, obviously. Anyone who can ride with a noisy machine is no friend of mine. I rode with a work colleague recently who recounted in detail his 9-month quest to isolate and fix a creaking noise in his drivetrain. It turned out to be a chain link, apparently, which he described with palpable relief.

    These are the sorts of people I can work with.

    Okay, disclaimer first. I haven’t put in shit for miles/kilometers in the last year.

    With that said, an active rider having a noise for nine months is bad, really bad. Having that noise be the chain?

    Okay, I’m gonna say it. … You’re not riding enough to wear out a chain in 5 or 6 months? Shame on you!

    Now, excuse me while I go and change the TV channel. …

  37. I really enjoy picking out the subtle differences in these photos (and applying reverence of course). I’ve worked on many different types of machines, some wheeled, some not, and with anything mechanical or scientific, you’re always looking for the slight differences that influence the whole (ie: Merckx being maniacal about his position). However, with a rider like Merckx, the brakes seemed merely a decoration anyway.

  38. @oldensteel

    I really enjoy picking out the subtle differences in these photos (and applying reverence of course). I’ve worked on many different types of machines, some wheeled, some not, and with anything mechanical or scientific, you’re always looking for the slight differences that influence the whole (ie: Merckx being maniacal about his position). However, with a rider like Merckx, the brakes seemed merely a decoration anyway.

    I think most here can agree this is important historical research. At least that’s how I justified my decreased productivity today. The Prophet was fanatical about his equipment, so this was no accident, nor a team mechanic setting it up wrong. I found a number of photos from ’66–’68 with him using right-front, but mostly with right-rear. A couple that could be ’69, but not definitively, and nothing later. But why?

    PR ’68, speaking of reverence:

  39. How freaky! I wonder if there’s anything about it in my new copy of 525? I shall investigate further…perhaps I’ll ask him next time we are chatting.

    Like that happens…

  40. @Mikael Liddy

    When I’m low on motivation I reach for Le Métier, guaranteed to make me want to ride my bike. If you haven’t read it Mikael, check out @steampunks superb review

  41. Training the mind is something that many riders neglect to their perril I find.

    “No technology can increase the energy of the willpower of the rider, nor can it lesson the doubts which sometimes overwhelm him”

    The Badger

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