Look Pro: The Hunchbacks of Notre V

Look Pro: The Hunchbacks of Notre V

by / / 115 posts

The flat back position is perhaps the greatest lie ever told in sport, provided you ignore any of the racing we’ve seen in the last decade or two.

It is possible, I suppose, that when we talk about a flat back, what we really mean is that on an elementary level, all curves are really just a series of straight segments connected at an angle; while a rider’s back may look arched, it really is flat in an existential sense.

Because no one really rides with a flat back. Even riders who famously rode with a flat back, like Greg LeMond, actually rode with only the upper portion of their backs flat. In fact, the only rider I can think of who was as happy as a Texan in an Amgen factory while riding with a truly flat back was The Gypsy himself. It bears mentioning, however, that a search through the Velominati Archives shows only intermittent evidence of him riding with a truly flat back.

If you’ve ever tried to get your back completely flat, you’ll have noticed that it feels awful. Your shoulders tense up, your hips roll forward. It certainly doesn’t do your bits any favors. As you try to accelerate, your shoulders and hips tense up even more in an effort to keep the back as flat as possible.

There is a very simple explanation for this: The V abhors a straight line; it requires smooth curves in order to flow freely from the various V-Receptacles spread throughout your body and into the guns where it is processed and converted into Monumental Devastation.

As you pursue the V-Locus, keep the following points in mind:

  1. The key to a Magnificent Stroke is to find a tension-neutral position on the bike.
  2. Let your hips find their natural position. It will likely be somewhat vertical, causing your lower back to arch.
  3. Tension is the enemy. Relax your shoulders, elbows, hips, and neck. Even relax your fingers if you find them trying to strangle the bars.
  4. Like a Jedi uses the Force, let the power of The V flow from your arms through your lower back and hips, and down into the cannons.
  5. The harder you are hammering and the closer you are to achieving nuclear V-ission, the more important it becomes to keep your back and shoulders relaxed; you are wasting precious energy on staying tense. Use that energy to fire the the guns instead.

And yes, Cycling is hell for your posture. If that’s what you’re after, take up yoga.

Slideshow:
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// Folklore // Look Pro // Nostalgia // Technique // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @minion

    @Marcus

    @strathlubnaig

    agree

    @frank

    @Marko
    Whilst I shouldnt be one to throw stones when it comes to cautioning on offensive comments, c’mon, go easy on the priest/kiddy calls – you can do better (but I cant). Why not just say, “as happy as Minion and Marcus at a sheep shearing and sharing convention”.

    Or “As happy as Minion and Marcus at Foxy Boxing when it’s guest’s night and you get to smash each other wearing women’s lingerie”

    Photographic proof that you also swing for cows.

  2. @Deakus

    Strangely though with two prolapsed discs and 4 dehydrated ones and years of back pain, road cycling has actually “fixed” my back! I used to wake very sore every day of the year and take about an hour to warm up, my back would “go” at least twice a year necessitating 3 weeks or so on crutches…………start cycling again….pain free, back never slips any more…go figure? I put it down to strengthen the core which I guess is why Pilates and Yoga feature so heavily in this type of conversation. The issues with my back cannot be “fixed” it is just the muscles and ligaments around the injuries have strenthened to compensate.

    My dad suffers from something similar and cycling fixes it as well; his theory is that cycling builds up the muscles along your spine and keeps your vertebrae from squishing the discs. 

  3. @alexei

    Pozzato and Ballan both are pretty close to table flat in this pic from the 2012 Ronde. Not that it helped them any in the finale.

    That photo does a great job to perpetuate the Myth of the Flat Back. Have a good look and you’ll see the upper portion of their back may be fairly flat, but their lower backs are carved sharply to get there. Especially Ballan; it takes him until about mid-back to get flattish.

    That’s a beautiful position he’s got, though.

  4. @Marko

    @unversio

    @Marko One shot that day (slideshow) running across a field together gave the impression of the Beatles Abbey Road (photo) with extra members.

    That was the following Sunday during Roubaix. Good shot though as well and fun times. 5 minutes later we met Van Summie’s VMH.

    Let me convert this into command-line syntax for you for any event or photo taken during Keepers Tour:

    That was * during *. Good shot though and fun times. V minutes later we *.

  5. @frank

    @minion

    @Marcus

    @strathlubnaig

    agree

    @frank

    @Marko
    Whilst I shouldnt be one to throw stones when it comes to cautioning on offensive comments, c’mon, go easy on the priest/kiddy calls – you can do better (but I cant). Why not just say, “as happy as Minion and Marcus at a sheep shearing and sharing convention”.

    Or “As happy as Minion and Marcus at Foxy Boxing when it’s guest’s night and you get to smash each other wearing women’s lingerie”

    Photographic proof that you also swing for cows.

    I’m not fucking Welsh you sick fucker. That’s just disgusting.

  6. @frank

    @Deakus

    Strangely though with two prolapsed discs and 4 dehydrated ones and years of back pain, road cycling has actually “fixed” my back! I used to wake very sore every day of the year and take about an hour to warm up, my back would “go” at least twice a year necessitating 3 weeks or so on crutches…………start cycling again….pain free, back never slips any more…go figure? I put it down to strengthen the core which I guess is why Pilates and Yoga feature so heavily in this type of conversation. The issues with my back cannot be “fixed” it is just the muscles and ligaments around the injuries have strenthened to compensate.

    My dad suffers from something similar and cycling fixes it as well; his theory is that cycling builds up the muscles along your spine and keeps your vertebrae from squishing the discs.

    When my sciatic was at its worst back in June I couldn’t walk from my bed to the ensuite crapper in my house but I could ride for hours relatively pain free – just so long as I wasn’t daft enough to get out of the saddle heading up hill.

  7. @frank

    @Deakus

    Strangely though with two prolapsed discs and 4 dehydrated ones and years of back pain, road cycling has actually “fixed” my back! I used to wake very sore every day of the year and take about an hour to warm up, my back would “go” at least twice a year necessitating 3 weeks or so on crutches…………start cycling again….pain free, back never slips any more…go figure? I put it down to strengthen the core which I guess is why Pilates and Yoga feature so heavily in this type of conversation. The issues with my back cannot be “fixed” it is just the muscles and ligaments around the injuries have strenthened to compensate.

    My dad suffers from something similar and cycling fixes it as well; his theory is that cycling builds up the muscles along your spine and keeps your vertebrae from squishing the discs.

    Was told the same by my physio. My bike last “went” about 8-9 years ago, the physio instructed me to get back on the bike as soon as I could without fainting in pain. I did and have never looked back.

  8. Yesss made it to level 1…..

  9. @Nate

    @VeloVita I’m of similar build and try to do this routine periodically if I get lazy before very long my back will let me know it’s time for some more reps: http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/core?page=0,1

    Although the idea of proper pilates is intriguing.

    Yep, I’ve got that routine saved in my email.  I’ve been doing a combination of similar exercises mixed with a few select yoga poses that  stretch out my lower back (which is quite tight in the morning since I injured it last year), hamstrings, hips and quads.

  10. The best saying i have heard about one’s core and cycling is that strong legs without a strong core is like firing a cannon from a canoe.

  11. No offence intended….

    http://youtu.be/qPNCgda4xD0

  12. @Giles

    @frank

    @Deakus

    Strangely though with two prolapsed discs and 4 dehydrated ones and years of back pain, road cycling has actually “fixed” my back! I used to wake very sore every day of the year and take about an hour to warm up, my back would “go” at least twice a year necessitating 3 weeks or so on crutches…………start cycling again….pain free, back never slips any more…go figure? I put it down to strengthen the core which I guess is why Pilates and Yoga feature so heavily in this type of conversation. The issues with my back cannot be “fixed” it is just the muscles and ligaments around the injuries have strenthened to compensate.

    My dad suffers from something similar and cycling fixes it as well; his theory is that cycling builds up the muscles along your spine and keeps your vertebrae from squishing the discs.

    Was told the same by my physio. My bike last “went” about 8-9 years ago, the physio instructed me to get back on the bike as soon as I could without fainting in pain. I did and have never looked back.

    That should be “Back” not bike – the wonders of iPad autocorrect…

  13. The absolute best thing for cycling is your “core”, this goes for almost any sport and its as simple as sit-ups and planks, equally important is your ass that’s as easy as squats and lunges, do it, it works!

  14.  

    @frank To your point, here’s my racing bike from 1989.

     

    And here’s my current resurrection…

     

  15. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    More saddle to bar drop, but shallower bars?  Did you just find a whole bunch of old pics?

  16. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Nice rides there!

    Hope you don’t mind, I had a play with your steed’s to compare then and now. I do this to check transferring set ups from one to another. The only thing is that if one bike is leaning over more you get distortion.

    Looks like the the saddle to bar drop the same, Mercian higher than the Look. Crank arm length may even this out?

    It’s only for fum comparison for you. You know you feel comfy on both.

  17. @sthilzy Wow what a useful comparison…I would have thought there are loads of ppl out there who have a couple of bikes of different geometries who would be really interested in a comparison like that…

    How do you do it?

  18. @DerHoggz

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    More saddle to bar drop, but shallower bars? Did you just find a whole bunch of old pics?

    Yeah, found the motherload of old pics.

  19. @sthilzy

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Nice rides there!

    Hope you don’t mind, I had a play with your steed’s to compare then and now. I do this to check transferring set ups from one to another. The only thing is that if one bike is leaning over more you get distortion.

    Looks like the the saddle to bar drop the same, Mercian higher than the Look. Crank arm length may even this out?

    It’s only for fum comparison for you. You know you feel comfy on both.

    That’s a cool analysis!  The pics were taken at different angles.  I was below the Mercian.  I was above the LOOK.  And I used two different cameras, so the distances away from the bikes are pretty different.  I’ll shoot a pic of the LOOK at the exact spot that I shot the Mercian.  I’ll do the same with my Cervelo, too.  I’ll post all that over at The Bikes and try to get each bike lined up.

    i sit up on the LOOK just a little bit more than on any other bike these days.  As I get older, sitting up feels a bit more comfortable.

  20. @Jeff in PetroMetro Let’s hope I can do them justice!

    Sitting up a bit, yeah, I think that’s why I like my cross bike so much.

  21. @Marcus

    The best saying i have heard about one’s core and cycling is that strong legs without a strong core is like firing a cannon from a canoe.

    Amazingly, that seems to be a common-enough saying that when you google “cannon in a canoe” you get a bunch of pictures of people doing yoga.

    And this.

  22. @piwakawaka

    The absolute best thing for cycling is your “core”, this goes for almost any sport and its as simple as sit-ups and planks, equally important is your ass that’s as easy as squats and lunges, do it, it works!

    I was just talking to G’rilla about a bike fit he’s doing for a custom CX. Since my core got stronger, I’ve realized that I’m usually really just pulling on my bars; I can easily maintain my position riding without having my arms on the bars. That translates to being able to be much more effective in how you deal with shocks and bumps because you’re not just pile-driving your front wheel into obstacles.

    Handy for the pavé and CX for sure.

    Even the shitty core work I do has helped tremendously. Also, when I used to commute with my backpack before I did those exercises, my back would be killing me (there is quite a lot of climbing on my route) and these days I arrive at the office/home feeling just fine. Good stuff.

  23. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @frank To your point, here’s my racing bike from 1989.

    And here’s my current resurrection…

    That. Look. Is. The. Sweetest. Fucking. Thing. Wow. Down to the white pedals, very LeMond ’86. And that Mercian…wow wow wow.

    (BTW, your front skewer is not fixed correctly.)

  24. @sthilzy

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Nice rides there!

    Hope you don’t mind, I had a play with your steed’s to compare then and now. I do this to check transferring set ups from one to another. The only thing is that if one bike is leaning over more you get distortion.

    Looks like the the saddle to bar drop the same, Mercian higher than the Look. Crank arm length may even this out?

    It’s only for fum comparison for you. You know you feel comfy on both.

    fella set yourself up a paypal account, make ppl submit two photos and charge £5 by return to do this.  I will be your first customer!  I would be really curious about the difference in geometry between my n#1 and n#2!

  25. @frank

    @Marcus

    The best saying i have heard about one’s core and cycling is that strong legs without a strong core is like firing a cannon from a canoe.

    Amazingly, that seems to be a common-enough saying that when you google “cannon in a canoe” you get a bunch of pictures of people doing yoga.

    And this.

    Which reminds of the Python gag about American beer being like sex in a canoe…

  26. @the Engine

    @frank

    @Marcus

    The best saying i have heard about one’s core and cycling is that strong legs without a strong core is like firing a cannon from a canoe.

    Amazingly, that seems to be a common-enough saying that when you google “cannon in a canoe” you get a bunch of pictures of people doing yoga.

    And this.

    Which reminds of the Python gag about American beer being like sex in a canoe…

    don’t start that shit again…..I had to spend an hour this morning reading back on last nights firefight just to figure out what the fuck was going on!!….cue ;)

  27. @Deakus

    @sthilzy

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Nice rides there!

    Hope you don’t mind, I had a play with your steed’s to compare then and now. I do this to check transferring set ups from one to another. The only thing is that if one bike is leaning over more you get distortion.

    Looks like the the saddle to bar drop the same, Mercian higher than the Look. Crank arm length may even this out?

    It’s only for fum comparison for you. You know you feel comfy on both.

    fella set yourself up a paypal account, make ppl submit two photos and charge £5 by return to do this. I will be your first customer! I would be really curious about the difference in geometry between my n#1 and n#2!

    Hmmmm_Thanks for the support! If I do, I’ll need to set up some rules for taking the pics so they are ‘usable’ to do comparison. I tried to keep the bars side on on both bikes. Also need to know a distance, say C-C seat to head tube, or C-C wheel base/axle.

    This is what I did to see how my set up may look with what I’ve got before making purchases/refunds to get a position I’m happy with. The Moser, I went through a couple of stems, ended up at 130mm long!

  28. @sthilzy What do  you do that with, photochop?

  29. @Dan_R

    @Jeff in PetroMetro Let’s hope I can do them justice!

    Sitting up a bit, yeah, I think that’s why I like my cross bike so much.

    I’m looking forward to your wheel recommendations.  1200grams gets me to 6.9kg for the bike.  Yeah.

  30. @frank Thanks for the compliments on the bikes.  I’ll put the bikes right for their official portraits, skewers and all!

  31. @Jeff in PetroMetro Do we get a story about JiPM’s Look v.2?

  32. Yes, I think so.  Death.  Shock.  Tears shed.  Bike #2 becomes Bike #1.  Prayers to Merckx.  Prayers answered.  The Resurrection.  Good fortune.  A beautiful future.

    Don’t ever doubt the power of the V.

  33. @Nate If you all will indulge me.  And Gianni let’s it in.

  34. @Jeff in PetroMetro I’m not Gianni, but we all indulged you for v.1.  Why not v.2?

  35. @Nate

    @Jeff in PetroMetro I’m not Gianni, but we all indulged you for v.1. Why not v.2?

    Yes, but there were about 12 Velominati back then.  Five of them were Keepers.  And even Frank thought about breaking up my story into multiple entries.  A serial, if you will.  I’ll try to keep this next one a little shorter.

  36. @Jeff in PetroMetro@Nate

    @Nate

    @Jeff in PetroMetro I’m not Gianni, but we all indulged you for v.1. Why not v.2?

    Yes, but there were about 12 Velominati back then. Five of them were Keepers. And even Frank thought about breaking up my story into multiple entries. A serial, if you will. I’ll try to keep this next one a little shorter.

    Yeah, but Gianni isn’t as anal about it as I am. Which is also why Guest Articles actually make it to production regularly now, as opposed to when I was running that aspect of the operation.

    Looking Back, Looking Forward, which I assume will be the title of your article, will most certainly see the light of day, I can assure you.

  37. @frank while you’re on the topic of articles, the comments seem to have disappeared from the Adelaide Cogal article

  38. The cartoon was obviously drawn by our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. So it’s really a matter of national pride that I quote Pierre Berton: “A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping it.”

  39. Oh, I forgot all about the Flat-Backed Flop Specialist, Jean-Francois Bernard. That’s actually a pretty flat back

    But check out these curvaceous beauties.

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

  40. A back will look flatter if the rider is fully stretched out like Jeff with his arse back and his hands on the hoods – if he’s holding the ‘bars near the stem (like Larry above) he’ll be forward on the saddle and pulling on the ‘bars a bit, so his spine will be more naturally curved to span the shorter distance and his back will appear rounder, and if he’s reaching for the drops (like Ritter, is it?) he will be cantilevering his way down the extra drop so will be more rounded.

    I always understood the flat back mantra to be more about the lungs not being compressed by the ribcage than anything else; usually the required curvature of the lumbar spine as it leaves the pelvis was a given (assuming the pelvis is nice and stable and rolled to the appropriate degree), and it’s just the thoracic spine that has the flat “ideal”. I doubt anyone would expect the back to be entirely flat as that would be virtually impossible.

    Of course it’s a given that individual pysiologies exist and that one should take that into account, and no position is better than the one that works best for a given physique.

    In saying that, though, some riders look fine with a curved spine and some just don’t, whereas to me a flat back invariably looks good. I’m open to correction on this, however, if pics can be found.

  41. @The Grande Fondue

    I’ve read “Slaying the Badger” (where I thought Le Blaireau came out looking much better than I expected – I suspect the author was too scared to write anything bad) and I’ve read Fingon’s “We were Young and Carefree”, but I’d love to read a book just about Hinault. All the little hints I read make his exploits seem more and more amazing. There is a video of him finishing 3rd on Champs-Élysées in the yellow jersey – I was impressed with that until I discovered he actually won the final stage in ’79 and ’82.

    Is there a book in English about Hinault?

    There’s his autobiography “Memories of the Peleton”. I can’t find my copy at the moment and I can’t really remember what it was like.

    On another matter – who’s the World Champion in picture 5?

  42. I think it’s Joop Zoetemelk while riding for Kwantum Hallen Colnago either ’85 or ’86.

  43. @MartinD

    @The Grande Fondue

    I’ve read “Slaying the Badger” (where I thought Le Blaireau came out looking much better than I expected – I suspect the author was too scared to write anything bad) and I’ve read Fingon’s “We were Young and Carefree”, but I’d love to read a book just about Hinault. All the little hints I read make his exploits seem more and more amazing. There is a video of him finishing 3rd on Champs-Élysées in the yellow jersey – I was impressed with that until I discovered he actually won the final stage in ’79 and ’82.

    Is there a book in English about Hinault?

    There’s his autobiography “Memories of the Peleton”. I can’t find my copy at the moment and I can’t really remember what it was like.

    On another matter – who’s the World Champion in picture 5?

    We’ve had this one on before – its Zoetemelk followed by Steven Rooks at the Amstel Gold. Its either ’86 or ’87 Rooks won in ’86 and Zoetemelk in ’87.

  44. @the Engine It would have to be the 1986 Amstel, as Zoetemelk won Worlds in ’85.

  45. @Deakus

    @sthilzy Wow what a useful comparison…I would have thought there are loads of ppl out there who have a couple of bikes of different geometries who would be really interested in a comparison like that…

    How do you do it?

    Just post a couple of pics of #1 & #2 up. If you have the camera in the same spot, side on for both shots, tripod or on a table/ledge,  should be able to get a good result. Suggest to have very ends of the bars in alignment side on. Also the C-C measurement of the T-T, or the distance between the front and rear axles.

    @Nate I just use some CAD software. Helps to get the scaling/sizing accurate.

  46. BIGRINGRIDING posted a lesson in flat backed big ringing today in the form of a video of Jacky Durand winning de Ronde in a suicide break…you’ll see an early example of the Phantom Aerobars in there as well.

    http://bigringriding.com/post/44213334834/i-fucking-love-this-video-especially-when-he#disqus_thread

  47. @Mikael Liddy The Luigi blue suspenders kit. Wow.

    Now we know where the Tour of California got their inspiration.

  48. @G’rilla

    @Mikael Liddy The Luigi blue suspenders kit. Wow.

    Now we know where the Tour of California got their inspiration.

    Luigi, spot on.  Between his physique and the kit, DuDu looks much more like a plumber than a bike race.

  49. @Nate

    @G’rilla

    @Mikael Liddy The Luigi blue suspenders kit. Wow.

    Now we know where the Tour of California got their inspiration.

    Luigi, spot on. Between his physique and the kit, DuDu looks much more like a plumber than a bike race.

    Yeah it’s safe to say as a kit designer, Fignon was an amazing bike racer…

  50. We cannot reverse what we should have so proudly called advancement.
    Sleeping is one in the most important things in bodybuilding.
    This Satellite TV channel is within competition with
    CNBC and FOX News Channel in US.

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