In defiance of Gravity

Gravity

Gravity

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Gravity is the most unavoidable force on Earth, with the possible exception of Stupidity. And like with Stupidity, you can take measures to reduce its influence on you, but you won’t get rid of it completely, assuming you’re staying on this planet. From the very moment we’re born, Gravity takes its unrelenting hold on us – which isn’t altogether bad because I learned from watching Despicable Me that as soon as someone is smart enough to invent anti-gravity serum, someone will be stupid enough to leave a skylight open.

We Cyclists protect a secret from the rest of the world: we can defy gravity. Riding allows us to float a few meters above the ground, suspended in a cloak of V. Add a little speed to the mix and a maybe few sweeping switchbacks and we are as close to achieving human flight as we will ever get.

Once we trade flat roads for the hills, Gravity reveals its true secret to us: the mind can overcome physical limits when we form the cohesive unit of bicycle and rider. There is a symbiotic bond that forms; Gravity pulls us down toward the bottom of the hill, and we require our strength to counter its force and scale the heights. The strength required to achieve this takes a heavy toll on our body, and it is only through focus and determination that we keep the legs turning over smoothy. Riding back down the other side, we learn to fool Gravity and explore the intersection of centripetal force, friction, and our old friend Stupidity.

With practice, we learn that our mind can drive us to overcome the the physical limits of not just our bodies, but Gravity itself. Its hold on us remains, but the effects are greatly diminished. In defiance of Gravity, we rise to touch the heavens and ride where angels fly.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus // Tradition

  1. @Beers

    Ah, Hills, almost vomited at the top of one of the regulars this morning, marvellous realisation of mind over body

    I had to choke one back myself yesterday. I thought at the time of how weak I must be, but your comment has made me feel so much better. It was actually a mind over body win. Shut up body!!

  2. @Marvellous

    A little shot of the valley. Total of 104kms completed, 1500m of total climbing, sunburnt and torn hamstring after the second ride of the year here…… After the snow disappears you understand….

    Can you feel the depth of my envy from here?  That looks like a fine and pleasant misery of a climb.  Sweet.

  3. @Marvellous Oh man what I wouldn’t do to ride up and down and around that scenery. I can only imagine I’d probably be going awfully slow for a couple of weeks just taking it all in. Beautiful.

  4. So I’m riding with this young lady tonight:

    as she prepares for her first ever crit as a licensed Jr racer this w/e. A local race festival called Sunny King. And we take a last climb up a hill from where we’d parked, turn back to head down and she says, “Can we go fast?” Needless to say, I believe she gets it. Because that my friends is when we embrace gravity! After all,  going down hills is the reason for climbing ’em in the first damn place. Cheers, all, RC

  5. ‘The mind always fails first, not the body. The secret is to make your mind work for you, not against you.’ – Arnold Schwarzenegger

    In the same veign, this is my favourite V-article.

    By the way, as you wonderfully alluded to, zero gravity is a bad thing; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNQdSfgJDNM

  6. Cyclists require an abundance of stoopid, but in return are wiser above earth

  7. If Mr Newton and his mate Mr Galileo werent such smart arses maybe gravity wouldnt exist, thereby enabling me to climb hills much faster !

  8. …….   but then if that were the case would I descend as quick as I do, which for me, is the exhilarating bit about going uphill in the first place.

  9. “I don’t think there are other sports where a normal trained person can climb mountains and feel great. Someone well trained, when he climbs a mountain, feels like a god.
    This is the magic of cycling.”

    – Valentino Campagnolo

  10. @Barracuda

    If Mr Newton and his mate Mr Galileo werent such smart arses maybe gravity wouldnt exist, thereby enabling me to climb hills much faster !

    But you would need dead straight hills (well straight everything!).  You may not have seen this I posted elsewhere…..

  11. @wilburrox In my case the last one of the day is to get home as I live on the top of a hill.  Though it does mean that I can arrive at the top and have zero reserve – bar getting up the stairs to have a shower.

  12. @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

  13. @Barracuda

    If Mr Newton and his mate Mr Galileo werent such smart arses maybe gravity wouldnt exist, thereby enabling me to climb hills much faster !

    I’m sure they got it wrong.  They defined it as a constant and I’m absolutely sure it is not and that it a) increases with the length of a ride and b) further increments with the length of a climb.  It’s the only reason I can think of as to why climbs seem worse at the end of a ride vs the start.  It can’t have anything to do with my fitness.

  14. @Teocalli

    I’m sure they got it wrong. They defined it as a constant and I’m absolutely sure it is not and that it a) increases with the length of a ride and b) further increments with the length of a climb. It’s the only reason I can think of as to why climbs seem worse at the end of a ride vs the start. It can’t have anything to do with my fitness.

    Absolutely spot on but you forgot to mention that if they’d got it right, either time spend ascending would equal time spent descending or they’d have linked speed to suffering and we’d go faster up than we would down.

    @Andrew Christensen

    Gravity NEVER sucks as bad as stupidity

    Stupidity in itself is just a state of mind that left alone merely allows us not to be troubled by our limitations and insignificance in the grand scheme of things. As such it cannot suck. It is only through blending stupidity with external influencing factors such as gravity or alcohol that we begin to get ourselves in trouble.

  15. @Chris  Nice one.

    @Andrew  There should be a link to the Darwin awards.  It is obviously a primary mutation otherwise it would have naturally selected itself out long ago.

  16. @LeoTea

    @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

    Gravity is easier to overcome than aerodynamics.

    If you go twice as hard uphill you go twice as fast.

    To go twice as fast into the wind requires eight times the effort.

    Apparently it’s physics.

  17. @silentC

    @Beers

    Ah, Hills, almost vomited at the top of one of the regulars this morning, marvellous realisation of mind over body

    I had to choke one back myself yesterday. I thought at the time of how weak I must be, but your comment has made me feel so much better. It was actually a mind over body win. Shut up body!!

    Not cycling, but a good indication that there’s some Rule #5 flowing through my youngest. His school selected him to run in the under 10s category of the regional cross country championships even though he’s only 8 to give him some experience of bigger competitions. Coming up a hill about halfway through he didn’t look like he was having too much fun but kept upping his pace to stick to a bigger lad. Afterwards, I commented that he’s looked a bit uncomfortable to which he replied. “I could taste sick in my mouth and was trying to work out whether I should stop if I needed to vomit or carry on running while vomiting”.

  18. @Chris

    @silentC

    @Beers

    Ah, Hills, almost vomited at the top of one of the regulars this morning, marvellous realisation of mind over body

    I had to choke one back myself yesterday. I thought at the time of how weak I must be, but your comment has made me feel so much better. It was actually a mind over body win. Shut up body!!

    Not cycling, but a good indication that there’s some Rule #5 flowing through my youngest. His school selected him to run in the under 10s category of the regional cross country championships even though he’s only 8 to give him some experience of bigger competitions. Coming up a hill about halfway through he didn’t look like he was having too much fun but kept upping his pace to stick to a bigger lad. Afterwards, I commented that he’s looked a bit uncomfortable to which he replied. “I could taste sick in my mouth and was trying to work out whether I should stop if I needed to vomit or carry on running while vomiting”.

    Ace lad!  Did he really say “vomit” at 8?

  19. @Teocalli His vocabulary surprises me at times. Unfortunately, so does his grammar which leans towards the chavy at times. “It was the acclivity wot like made me egurgitate”.

    To date we haven’t had any “innits”, though.

  20. @Chris

    @Teocalli His vocabulary surprises me at times. Unfortunately, so does his grammar which leans towards the chavy at times. “It was the acclivity wot like made me egurgitate”.

    To date we haven’t had any “innits”, though.

    Up to that point I was going to say that he obviously goes to a “Jolly decent school old chap”.

  21. @Teocalli He does, but they haven’t had him for long.

  22. @Chris

    @Teocalli He does, but they haven’t had him for long.

    Ha ha.  Nice.  Yes I guess not at 8.  Most of my school memories are around sport in some way or another.  So glad my parents made the financial sacrifice as I’d never have got the same quantity of sport elsewhere.

  23. @Teocalli Indeed, it was all about sports at my school but there were other benefits that I would never have enjoyed had I ended up in the state system; 20 years of enjoyable gainful employment despite a stellar underachievement in my A-Levels would probably be top of the list.

  24. @Frank Gravity is a lot like friction: there are times in life when we do our best to counteract its influence as best we can and other times when we try like hell to seek it out.

  25. @Chris

    @Teocalli Indeed, it was all about sports at my school but there were other benefits that I would never have enjoyed had I ended up in the state system; 20 years of enjoyable gainful employment despite a stellar underachievement in my A-Levels would probably be top of the list.

    Ha Ha!  We could have been twins!  I presume that also included a fair amount of causing your parents to tear their hair out over just scraping through exams.  One of the best reports I remember was “If David put anything like the effort into his academic studies as he does into his sport he’d be a straight A pupil”.  However the one that was clearly wrong was “David must learn that he cannot go through life relying solely on his natural charm” – that one has worked so far…………

  26. @Ccos

    @Frank Gravity is a lot like friction: there are times in life when we do our best to counteract its influence as best we can and other times when we try like hell to seek it out.

    I had one of those last night, fortunately I was in the car on the way to going cycling and not actually cycling.  Suffice it to say that everything in the back of the car ended up in the front of the car but I did manage to avoid the idiot who drove out in front of me and no damage to the bike gear that flew from the back of the car.

  27. @Teocalli

    @Chris

    @Teocalli Indeed, it was all about sports at my school but there were other benefits that I would never have enjoyed had I ended up in the state system; 20 years of enjoyable gainful employment despite a stellar underachievement in my A-Levels would probably be top of the list.

    Ha Ha! We could have been twins!… …However the one that was clearly wrong was “David must learn that he cannot go through life relying solely on his natural charm” – that one has worked so far…………

    Sssshhhh, we’ll be found out!

  28. @ChrisO

    @LeoTea

    @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

    Gravity is easier to overcome than aerodynamics.

    If you go twice as hard uphill you go twice as fast.

    To go twice as fast into the wind requires eight times the effort.

    Apparently it’s physics.

    I believe the force of stoopid is also a cube function.

  29. @wilburrox

    So I’m riding with this young lady tonight:

    as she prepares for her first ever crit as a licensed Jr racer this w/e. A local race festival called Sunny King. And we take a last climb up a hill from where we’d parked, turn back to head down and she says, “Can we go fast?” Needless to say, I believe she gets it. Because that my friends is when we embrace gravity! After all, going down hills is the reason for climbing ’em in the first damn place. Cheers, all, RC

    This photo, and her question, just made my day! Thank you for sharing. Awesomeness.

    And great article, Big Franck!

  30. That lead photo is bonkers too. It almost looks fake!

  31. Brilliant writing, again. Seeing the emotions of cycling – the suffering, the joy, the exhilaration put into words here keeps me coming back. LVV!

  32. @Teocalli

    @Chris

    @Teocalli Indeed, it was all about sports at my school but there were other benefits that I would never have enjoyed had I ended up in the state system; 20 years of enjoyable gainful employment despite a stellar underachievement in my A-Levels would probably be top of the list.

    Ha Ha! We could have been twins! I presume that also included a fair amount of causing your parents to tear their hair out over just scraping through exams. One of the best reports I remember was “If David put anything like the effort into his academic studies as he does into his sport he’d be a straight A pupil”. However the one that was clearly wrong was “David must learn that he cannot go through life relying solely on his natural charm” – that one has worked so far…………

    Well that also describes my 17 year old son who goes to a very good school, contrives to speak like a sarf lonnon gangsta and seems to think the world is just waiting to prostrate itself at his feet.

    It’s comforting to know he’ll end up like you two.

    Now, how do I break this to Mrs ChrisO…

  33. @ChrisO Ha Ha.  It’s a system that is well designed to turn out a very nice sort of layabout. Bertie Wooster is an excellent example.

  34. Jump ahead to minute 9 for a neurological vindication of this article’s premise and every rider’s experience:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/slomo.html

    First post here. Hello, friends.

    Ron

  35. @Teocalli

    @Chris Nice one.

    @Andrew There should be a link to the Darwin awards. It is obviously a primary mutation otherwise it would have naturally selected itself out long ago.

    Yes, and then there’s the quote “God loves drunks and idiots.” This explains somewhat the mitigating factors in the proliferation of stupidity and perhaps it’s paradoxical ability to prevent people’s self-selection for removal from the gene pool.

    Perhaps too a proclivity to then drive engine-revving pickup trucks near cyclists.

  36. @ohbejoyful

    Jump ahead to minute 9 for a neurological vindication of this article’s premise and every rider’s experience:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/slomo.html

    First post here. Hello, friends.

    Ron

    Nice one! It does seem to explain the reason we all get captivated by 2 wheels. I like the big picture of what the vid is about too and that may explain why I feel no guilt for my hours on the bike?

    Glad you joined in.

  37. @wilburrox All I see is pure Joy written on her face!

  38. @Teocalli I tried watching the video with no sound and it made absolutely no sense to me, although it probably wouldn’t even with sound…I assume a 5 wheeled bike wouldn’t be described as a V-Bike…

  39. @Bjarne Nordberg

    “I don’t think there are other sports where a normal trained person can climb mountains and feel great. Someone well trained, when he climbs a mountain, feels like a god.
    This is the magic of cycling.”

    – Valentino Campagnolo

    That, is a fine quote. And then we get to descent like gods too! Lord knows, steep descending on foot is the worst, it’s crippling. On a bike pure thrill.

  40. @ChrisO

    @LeoTea

    @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

    Gravity is easier to overcome than aerodynamics.

    If you go twice as hard uphill you go twice as fast.

    To go twice as fast into the wind requires eight times the effort.

    Apparently it’s physics.

    that’s why I got dropped every single time by my mates: Denmark gets plenty of wind but not that many “gravity assisted training places” . I do need to get my V-meter * 8 and apply healthy dose of Rule #5.

  41. @therealpeel

    @Teocalli I tried watching the video with no sound and it made absolutely no sense to me, although it probably wouldn’t even with sound…I assume a 5 wheeled bike wouldn’t be described as a V-Bike…

    I can understand that – without the explanation it would make no sense whatsoever.  It does with sound though.  The nub is that it turns out that in zero gravity you cannot turn on a bike.

  42. @Gianni Precisely! You run to the top of a hill and then what? Run down the other side? Big whoop… I like riding my bike up a hill as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. And to be able to do it faster than my buddies on a given day? Or even better in a race. And digging  deeper to do it? All great fun and satisfying. But as long as I’ve been riding a bike I’ve always looked at getting to the top usually meant good fun coming down. That’s when we fly. On the other hand, running? Ugghhh.

    That all said, the opportunity to take a ski lift to the top of mtn’s in order to ride a bike down? I guess that’d mostly be a big travel full suspension mtn bike kinda gig… that kinda thing doesn’t grab me so much. Maybe it’s the earning the ride down, after the effort to get to the top, that makes it more rewarding.  Cheers, RC

  43. @antihero Haha, first thing in season it is hell, but you can never get bored of cycling here for sure.  Come to Austria and take in the Alps!!

  44. @wilburrox  Hey it’s the bomb here.  I have lost 8kg since living here from last July.  The scenery and the variety is amazing.  Over the tops you can see is Italy – 18km, and if you follow the valley you get into Germany 60km, south of Munich.  A truly magnificent centre of cycling!!

  45. @antihero

    @Marvellous

    A little shot of the valley. Total of 104kms completed, 1500m of total climbing, sunburnt and torn hamstring after the second ride of the year here…… After the snow disappears you understand….

    Can you feel the depth of my envy from here? That looks like a fine and pleasant misery of a climb. Sweet.

    The Zillertal/Kitzbuhel mountains.  A cyclists paradise, the Tour of Germany uses this road pretty much every year.  I live on the pass over the top, so my cycling consists of up and down or vice versa.  When I am tired I just throw the bike in the car and drive to the valley either side for quiet unspoilt and safe cycling (totally unlike the UK where I am from….).

  46. Love gravity. The pleasure of the descent would be diminished without the fight against gravity on the way up.

    The only place that it’s acceptable to be a “gravity slave” is downhill skiing.

  47. @wilburrox

    . . . That all said, the opportunity to take a ski lift to the top of mtn’s in order to ride a bike down? I guess that’d mostly be a big travel full suspension mtn bike kinda gig… that kinda thing doesn’t grab me so much. Maybe it’s the earning the ride down, after the effort to get to the top, that makes it more rewarding. Cheers, RC

    This is why Rule #55 seemed self-evident the first time I read it.  Challenge  – Reward.

  48. @ChrisO

    @LeoTea

    @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

    Gravity is easier to overcome than aerodynamics.

    If you go twice as hard uphill you go twice as fast.

    To go twice as fast into the wind requires eight times the effort.

    Apparently it’s physics.

    This fact was pushing on me today as I rode out of town at 14kph and back in at 66kph, on the flats.

  49. @razmaspaz

    @ChrisO

    @LeoTea

    @Rob I’ll take hills over a headwind any day of the week. At least gravity is consistent. It doesn’t change strength or direction on a whim. Conquering a hill gives me a sense of achievement. Wrestling a headwind just annoys me.

    Gravity is easier to overcome than aerodynamics.

    If you go twice as hard uphill you go twice as fast.

    To go twice as fast into the wind requires eight times the effort.

    Apparently it’s physics.

    This fact was pushing on me today as I rode out of town at 14kph and back in at 66kph, on the flats.

    I am blessed with hills and wind.

  50. A typical road profile here in the Zillertal. Note in km and hm.  Currently riding a 50/34 compact with 12/32 out back.  The locals will employ triples, and the pros 53/39 with probably a 25/27 out back – this is true HTFU territory…..

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