Bianchi Denti and Rigid on the Muur

Guest Article: In V We Trust

Guest Article: In V We Trust

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One of greatest cycling pleasures is riding with a mate. Riding ten centimeters off each other’s rear wheel for hours; trust is a beautiful thing. You swing over, ease your effort slightly so your mate rides through, you then tuck behind, in the draft, close and fast. It is the best. @Kah touches on this and other transcendent benefits from a ride with a mate.

VLVV, Gianni 

I sometimes wonder if the Rules were meant to be followed backwards, from 93 to 1. For example, the Principle of Silence in Rule #65 decrees that the bicycle should be silent. The mechanical benefits of a well-maintained steed are clear: respect for the machine and in return, speed and efficiency. Now, a silent bicycle with a smooth rider on board is well on his or her way to achieving Rule #6: a free mind via fluidly harmonic articulations.

I went for a road ride with my friend Brett today. The weather forecast wasn’t great, but he had spotted a gap in the passing showers and we meant to make the most of it.

After the usual early gasbagging we navigated traffic through town and settled into single file, and I was led towards the highway. For the most part we’re close enough that he fills my immediate field of vision, and I’m afforded to admire the ocean at my periphery and trust him with the road ahead. As I follow, I don’t really have to think twice about what I’m doing, but rather just respond to body language interlaced with hand gestures. We didn’t speak for a while, both seemingly left with our own thoughts as we swapped turns seamlessly.

As my legs started to settle into their own rhythm I got a chance to watch him ride. The cliche joke is that cyclists spend a lot of time staring at each others’ arses while out on our bikes (a thought commonly shared by the most homophobic). There are so many better things to look for when following a fellow Cyclist who knows what he’s doing. Brett has still shoulders, a good position, and an elegant supplesse to his pedal stroke. Similarly, watching his hand gestures gives a glimpse into his mood for the day too.

When I take my turn on the front, I try to emulate this stillness while maintaining our silent communication of the road conditions ahead. When I’m looking ahead at him, I’m not staring at his arse, I get to see through him – his experience of cycling means I am never surprised by the road conditions and for the most part our speed ebbs and flows rather than jerks and surges. This trust means eventually, slowly, finally – my mind cleared itself from the chatter that the typical work week leaves me with and a stillness follows.

I guess the difference between the tacit knowledge embodied by my riding buddies and the explicit knowledge that the Rules are trying to impart is the same as my Gran being a phenomenal chef; instinctively knowing just when and how to do the right thing, and how I have to Google how to hard-boil an egg. Obviously the difference is in our relative amounts of experience preparing food, but also in our interest and care in cooking. At some point, we just have to head out and learn through doing, transforming the theory of the Rules into innate knowledge.

As we rolled back toward the city, my legs burning from our earlier effort, my mind maintains that same stillness. Except now I’m more aware, awake, alive. I’m looking closely at my ally and adversary knowing he’s going to jump at any moment. When he doesn’t go, I have a dig (only friends attack friends right?), and this time I know whether he’s following when I hear the click-thunk of the derailleur engaging the sprint cog as we headed for the town-line sprint.

My world shrunk to the immediate visceral sensations of hurtling towards the end of the ride, tucked into the V-locus with my legs burning as I desperately try to gasp in air, I didn’t even care who got to the line first. For a few glorious moments, my mind was free.

 

 

// Guest Article // The Rules

  1. I went for a road ride with my friend Brett today. The weather forecast wasn’t great, but he had spotted a gap in the passing showers and we meant to make the most of it.

    Surely this is not @Brett, the Keeper, that you refer to, eschewing a few showers and Rule #9?

    Great article, I don’t get much of a chance to ride in a group or with others but I love it when you realise you’re comfortable with the skill of the rider in front and can cease worrying about them. 

    I can’t remember who it was who commented after the London Cogal that it was a measure of the standards to which the Velominati aim to ride that although half the group had never ridden together (and the other half had only ridden together once 18 months previously on KT12) the ebb and flow, coming together or easing back as conditions dictated made it feel familiar.


  2. One of greatest cycling pleasures is riding with a mate. Riding ten centimeters off each other’s rear wheel for hours; trust is a beautiful thing.

  3. One of greatest cycling pleasures is riding with a mate. Riding ten centimeters off each other’s rear wheel for hours; trust is a beautiful thing

  4. Arse starer!

  5. Really slick writing here! Nice, great for a Friday with some riding on tap.

    This is one of those things that rouleurs just will never understand – the simply joys involved in a spin with a mate. Nicely captured!

    Sprint cog. I like it!!

  6. Well said. I have always been amazed by the tightness of the bond which can form between cyclists even when we see each other infrequently. Some buddies I see just once a year but we flow together as smooth as the machines we ride when in a paceline. The buddy with whom you ride the most though, you often know their movements better than your own. The best times come then when your mind is free of all except your progress forward and everything is automatic.

  7. So true – riding with good riders who you trust is a wonderful experience.

    Sometimes you don’t actually have to know them well or even previously – it can be established very quickly by the way they ride – although it’s always nicer with friends.

    The other thing I love about these situations is that There Is No Need To Chat. Just ride.

  8. Great insights.  This trust you speak of is what gets me out the door at 5am to commute the 58kms with my teammate, in the dark, along winding bike paths and construction filled roads.  Just this morning, in a moment of awareness, it occurred to me just how closely I follow his wheel, without hesitation or concern.  I only hope I garner that same kind of trust.

  9. Great story. Until I moved last year I’d ridden with a group for many years, some nearly 30 yrs. I really miss those times, and look forward to making the trip to do a few Sunday rides, breakfast stop, and those country roads that used to be just out the door.

  10. Thanks for the article. I have the added privilege of riding with my brother. It’s funny: we have so much in common, so much to talk about, but we ride for hours without saying a word. We used to flick the elbow to signal the end of a pull, but don’t even do that anymore. Sometimes he stays in the wind too long. I know by a slight Cadel-like tilt of his head that he’s on the rivet and strangely enjoying it. My turn is coming shortly. Can I match his V and take him to the top of the next rise where we’ll repeat the cycle once more? He glances over his left shoulder and in one fluid motion, I ease forward as he slips on to my wheel. I can almost feel the suck behind me as I face the pressure from open road ahead. We both go to the drops at the same time, elbows bent and tucked in. We are one. Life is simple. Repeat.

  11. Great post.

    May I also praise the joys of riding with people you don’t really know, except on the bike? Big groups often have people you’ve never spoken more than “hey” to, and yet you trust them completely. You can read the size of the bump ahead by their hand gestures, and share their disgust at someone’s weak turn from a glance. And you know exactly which way they will jump around slower riders on a hill, and you know exactly how much space you need before you have them beat in a sprint. Maybe you have coffee together after and laugh at the fools who led out the sprint, maybe you don’t. Maybe you know their name, but that’s probably only after you saw it on Strava. I might be weird, but I don’t mind riding like that at all.

  12. @Chris Yes I made that comment and this article reminded me of it.  We must arrange an East, South or France cogal.

    I had a couple of buddies some years back and all 3 of us were about the same pace and could nail it up for hours saying little but riveted together.  My current buddies are not so experienced and this spring somehow I can blow them away too easily so I don’t often get the same feel as I’m mostly doing the towing.  I do quite a few Sportives and last year hooked up with a guy after a feed station on one of them and we just seemed to click.  We were together for about 50K turn and turn about to the finish.  We were both completely done at the end but just a smile, handshake and gasp of “Great ride mate” summed it up.

  13. Beautiful writing, contrasts nicely with an old Robert Millar article I re-read yesterday

    http://rouleur.cc/journal/racing/climberspeak

  14. On the same theme, just done a 50km 4-man TTT – proper group riding ! We’ve all ridden with each other but not together in a TT before.

    We were second by 16 seconds to the UAE national team, who were fully kitted out in TT rigs and disc wheels.

  15. I was pondering this just yesterday. Was sitting with three mates after a properly murderous ride which we spent mostly silent, swaps communicated with a short elbow flick and hazard warnings nearly redundant. Having ridden a few Gran Fondos and other events, it’s a bliss to ride with a neat, tightly-packed group, completely confident with each other  whether it’s 80km/h down a switchback road or gunning it through the local hills.

    @ChrisO No need to chat – which is why I still don’t know half my team member’s names. If the riding’s smooth, there’s no need to open the mouth. I know their bike inside out, but their dayjob is none of my business.

    Congrats on the TTT effort as well! Two of my teammates – the only ones who survived a massive crash (or the subsequent cut-off) on the first day of the Tour Arad – had to go in a two-man TTT against the six-man squads of local pros and the Russian and Ukrainian U23 squads. Main goal: Make the cut-off. Murderous effort, made it with a minute to spare…

  16. I moved a few years ago and left behind a great group of riding friends. Even two hours away seems like an insurmountable distance, especially since most of the riding around here is the antiquated type from before we had the good sense to put tarmac down to ride on. There is one major group ride up here, and it’s a lot of fun even though I usually get spat out the back (not to worry about my Five and Dime adherence, though, each ride I can stay with the group longer and longer). Although the vast majority of my rides are solo, there are a couple of people I ride with from time to time, and as the author states it is a glorious thing to just sit on a wheel or know that someone trusts you enough to sit on yours.

  17. This is a reason it’s so important for those of us that can do this, to remember to teach it when newbies get in the mix. None of us were born knowing subtleties of riding in a bunch (or with a single other rider for that matter), I know I wasn’t. I think that most of us train/ ride alone mostly, but do look forward to the big group rides. Knowing how to move about, signal the riders behind, all smoothly takes practice and a kind, firm hand of guidance. Once you have it down, it translates to riding with one or 2 mates, your regular bunch, or you can hop in with a train that’s passing you on the open road.

    Great article sir!

  18. @scaler911

    This is a reason it’s so important for those of us that can do this, to remember to teach it when newbies get in the mix. None of us were born knowing subtleties of riding in a bunch (or with a single other rider for that matter), I know I wasn’t. I think that most of us train/ ride alone mostly, but do look forward to the big group rides. Knowing how to move about, signal the riders behind, all smoothly takes practice and a kind, firm hand of guidance. Once you have it down, it translates to riding with one or 2 mates, your regular bunch, or you can hop in with a train that’s passing you on the open road.

    Great article sir!

    Yes…we have to teach it to anyone who shows the slightest interest.

    On one of my first group rides, I did a number of dumbass things, among them being cheeky enough to think that I could hang with a bunch of dudes that were way out of my league.   Those guys were totally unafraid to tell the rookie 1) what an asshole he was, and 2) how to stop being such an asshole.  Then they dropped my ass.  Did me a huge favor.

  19. @scaler911

    This is a reason it’s so important for those of us that can do this, to remember to teach it when newbies get in the mix. None of us were born knowing subtleties of riding in a bunch (or with a single other rider for that matter), I know I wasn’t. I think that most of us train/ ride alone mostly, but do look forward to the big group rides. Knowing how to move about, signal the riders behind, all smoothly takes practice and a kind, firm hand of guidance. Once you have it down, it translates to riding with one or 2 mates, your regular bunch, or you can hop in with a train that’s passing you on the open road.

    Great article sir!

    +1, and this is critical stuff for us Pedalwans who’ve come to the sport late, haven’t grown up with these sorts of rides, and whose local club consists of geriatric tourers.  I’ve found a few sites with explanations of signals, though there are inconsistencies — does anyone have a definitive resource, or does common sense and good judgement usually make up for differences in practice?

  20. @antihero

    @scaler911

    This is a reason it’s so important for those of us that can do this, to remember to teach it when newbies get in the mix. None of us were born knowing subtleties of riding in a bunch (or with a single other rider for that matter), I know I wasn’t. I think that most of us train/ ride alone mostly, but do look forward to the big group rides. Knowing how to move about, signal the riders behind, all smoothly takes practice and a kind, firm hand of guidance. Once you have it down, it translates to riding with one or 2 mates, your regular bunch, or you can hop in with a train that’s passing you on the open road.

    Great article sir!

    Yes…we have to teach it to anyone who shows the slightest interest.

    On one of my first group rides, I did a number of dumbass things, among them being cheeky enough to think that I could hang with a bunch of dudes that were way out of my league. Those guys were totally unafraid to tell the rookie 1) what an asshole he was, and 2) how to stop being such an asshole. Then they dropped my ass. Did me a huge favor.

    There’s some basic, good tips here: http://pelotonmagazine.com/wisdom/how-to-ride-in-a-pack/, but to he honest (and in my opinion), there’s no better teacher than being in the group. You’ll know who’s got experience just based on them riding like @kah describes in this article. Chat up the experienced guys, especially early on in the ride before the pace goes up, or at a rest stop, piss break. If they know early on, most of us experienced guys will take you under our wing, if even for a short ride to give you tips. It’s safer for us to teach you, and more fun for the pedalwan.

  21. Meant for that last post to be a response to @andrew.

  22. @scaler911 Cheers for the response and the info!

  23. @ChrisO

    On the same theme, just done a 50km 4-man TTT – proper group riding ! We’ve all ridden with each other but not together in a TT before.

    We were second by 16 seconds to the UAE national team, who were fully kitted out in TT rigs and disc wheels.

    Nice job. I love watching the TTT’s–everyone in the same kit, perfect formation, maximum efficiency.

  24. So true about teaching and learning. Unfortunately I think some people go to club rides and get what @antihero describes as a valuable learning experience, but they come away thinking everyone is arrogant and unfriendly.

    I think it comes from the basic concept of bikes being toys and for fun. They wouldn’t turn up at the local rugby/football club and expect to train with the A team even though they haven’t been there before and don’t know the rules. But with bikes they think they can stay upright so that’s all there is to it.

    Anyway, just got sent a nice shot of our team from yesterday. Not quite as tight as we should be but we were going across a couple of side roads right then and I think we were looking out for anything coming. The guy on the front, Jamie, is light but incredibly aero.

    I’m at the back in this one – better than I was in my first TT a few months ago but still need to get down and stretch more. It’s not a proper TT bike – it’s my Ridley Noah converted, so I can’t do much more except maybe lengthen the stem.

    Oh and the kit is not matching – our sponsor ordered the wrong skinsuits. The one I’m wearing is like a Cross weight fabric, so Jamie wisely decided to stick with last year’s lighter version. Unfortunately they didn’t have any left in my size.

  25. Oh fuck, I recall trying to hang with the big dogs at the VVhidbey Cogal last fall. Many lessons humbly learned, including the reminder from @frank and @urbanwhitetrash that it was time to apply Rule #65 and replace my chain, or fuck off.

    Then they promptly dropped me. Good times.

  26. This is the essence of why I ride. The mind clearing powers of a V and Dime ride. If you are on the bike in search of the man with the hammer, Rule #6 compliance will naturally follow. It normally takes a good 20 minutes for the internal chatter to subside but its at its most pure after an hour or more as you’re staring down the tunnel. No work issues, no velomihottie issues, no money issues, just the whirl of the cogs and cage, the hum of rubber, and your heart beat keeping time in your ears. 
    For some reason though during these most absent times my head seems to tilt ever so slightly to the left, or so I’m told.

  27. @andrew

    @scaler911

    This is a reason it’s so important for those of us that can do this, to remember to teach it when newbies get in the mix. None of us were born knowing subtleties of riding in a bunch (or with a single other rider for that matter), I know I wasn’t. I think that most of us train/ ride alone mostly, but do look forward to the big group rides. Knowing how to move about, signal the riders behind, all smoothly takes practice and a kind, firm hand of guidance. Once you have it down, it translates to riding with one or 2 mates, your regular bunch, or you can hop in with a train that’s passing you on the open road.

    Great article sir!

    +1, and this is critical stuff for us Pedalwans who’ve come to the sport late, haven’t grown up with these sorts of rides, and whose local club consists of geriatric tourers. I’ve found a few sites with explanations of signals, though there are inconsistencies “” does anyone have a definitive resource, or does common sense and good judgement usually make up for differences in practice?

    Practice, go on the Sunday group ride, do your time, at the back, watch, look and learn, but for F*cks sake do it where you won’t be a danger to anyone else. I mean this in the nicest possible way, thrashing yourself on the front for 2 mins is doing no-one any help, and as soon as the road points up you are just a hazard to be negotiated around, but hang in there, hold those wheels, go full gas for as long as you can cause sooner or later if you stick at it you will drive the group, lead the tempo up the climbs, and be there for the final.

  28. @andrew

    +1, and this is critical stuff for us Pedalwans who’ve come to the sport late, haven’t grown up with these sorts of rides, and whose local club consists of geriatric tourers. I’ve found a few sites with explanations of signals, though there are inconsistencies “” does anyone have a definitive resource, or does common sense and good judgement usually make up for differences in practice?

    Show a bit of respect for those geriatric tourers would be my tip number one.

    I don’t know where you are but in the UK any CTC ride will be filled with blokes who’ve been on more rides than you’ve had hot dinners.

    Some of them will tell you what to do, sometimes in no uncertain terms, but mostly it’s a matter of look and learn. It’s easier to do it there than trying to learn while going into the red-zone with the local chain gang.

    Audax rides – as definitely opposed to sportives – are also good places to learn with people who have a lot of miles in their legs and aren’t trying to prove anything.

  29. Very good article, all the reasons i ride whether it be a group or solo effort. As for the geriatric tourers, i owe a few of the boys  for towing me home after 160k solo and getting caght by the man with the hammer!

  30. Regarding the “cliche joke”, my usual riding partner is my VMH and I’m hapy to report that I do spend a considerable proportion of any given ride staring at her arse.

  31. @ChrisO

    Audax rides – as definitely opposed to sportives – are also good places to learn with people who have a lot of miles in their legs and aren’t trying to prove anything.

    I can relate to that.  Did a sportive yesterday and a bit after half way picked up a couple of wheel suckers.  Thought they would give be a break sooner or later but even with “meaningful glances” they just sat there for some 15K before accelerating hard past me then hanging the same pace 100 yards or so up the road.  Gits.  I couldn’t bridge back in the wind.  Compared to that at the start picked up with a couple of guys where we worked together really well till I punctured.  They even offered to stop while I fixed it even though we had never met before but I told them to go on.  I have also to admit meeting The Man With The Hammer.  Thought the course had about 8-900 meters climbing but turned out to have nearer 2,000.

  32. @ChrisO A fair point, well made, and taken. My desire to write an entertaining post got the better of me.  Thanks for the input, and congrats on the TTT.

  33. @piwakawaka this was my intro to group riding, except there were no hills just an inordinate amount of wind, I could never stand sucking wheel the entire ride so I would take my turns on the front until I couldn’t keep up. It was great motivation to keep riding… Hard.

  34. So many people don’t get that cycling only gets better when riding with friends with whom you create an unspoken trust. A bond that is hard to describe to those not in the know.

    To all the good mates out there.. cheers!!

    Cheers

  35. @max columbus

    So many people don’t get that cycling only gets better when riding with friends with whom you create an unspoken trust. A bond that is hard to describe to those not in the know.

    To all the good mates out there.. cheers!!

    trying to insert a picture from flickr here… not possible apparently. well fuck it then.

    imagine 3 cycling gloved hands tosting Chimays in post epic ride glory.

  36. cheers!

  37. @max columbus You can do it but it takes a bit of digging. I guess they’ve set it up that way to prevent people taking photos that aren’t theirs.

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