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. @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.

  2. @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!

  3. @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.

  4. @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!

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

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

  7. @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…

  8. @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.

  9. 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

  10. @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.

  11. @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.

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

  13. @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…

  14. @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.

  15. @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.

  16. @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.

  17. @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

  18. @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!!

  19. @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!!

  20. @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….).

  21. 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.

  22. @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.

  23. @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.

  24. @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.

  25. 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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