Look Pro: The Hunchbacks of Notre V

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.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/frank@velominati.com/Flat Backs/”/]

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115 Replies to “Look Pro: The Hunchbacks of Notre V”

  1. @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.

  2. 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.”

  3. 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.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2012.12.06.18.40.38/”/]

  4. 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.

  5. @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?

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

  7. @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.

  8. @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.

  9. @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.

  10. @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…

  11. 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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