JVS

Rouleur

Rouleur

by / / 84 posts

Growing up, I imagine my dad did his fair share of worrying about me getting into trouble with chemicals and girls. Like with most problems in life, the solution lay in Cycling; training encouraged healthy behavior and once my dad convinced me to shave my legs, no one needed to worry about the girls anymore.

Cycling caused its fair share of problems of its own, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by more Cycling. I stopped spending as much time on my studies as I might have, and all my creative energies and capacity for remembering things were spent on Cycling. Who won the Tour stage on Bastille Day in 1989? Vincent Barteau. Who were the Founding Fathers? Washington, Franklin, Jefferson…Can I use a life line?

We’re big fellas, my dad and I, and that poses certain challenges in Cycling. A love for suffering and for a sense of accomplishment meant our hearts drifted towards the mountains, but our physiology pulled toward the rollers and flat terrain. We were never going to be the fastest, or the skinniest, or the best sprinters. But we could twist the throttle, watch the the needle rev up to just shy of the red line, and hold it there for hours. We could use our momentum to carry speed over the short, steep hills we found dotted along our routes. At one point in my youth, I remember looking at the little ring on my bike and wondering, in all earnestness, what it was there for.

The first time we went to France, I discovered quite handily why that little ring was there. We were not grimpeurs; we were rouleurs, and rouleurs use the little ring when the road points up for a long time. A rouleur, in Cycling, is a rider who goes well on the flat and rolling terrain. They are characterized less by their size, but by their style on the machine; a magnificent stroke tuned to sustained power, not high revolutions or bursts of acceleration. Rouleurs are good time trialists, they do well on short climbs, but are usually found in the laughing group when the profile starts to look like the cardiogram of a teenage boy who just saw his first pair of boobs. Some of them can climb well for their weight, but a rouleur is rarely at the front when the big mountains come along.

Translated from French, rouleur means having wheels, or to roll. But Hinault would use the word roule in conversation in the context of standing, or pushing, on the pedals. I quite like the sound of that. They have a wide power band, but can only win a sprint from a group of one or a small group of other rouleurs – although technically those tend to be more akin to “drag racing” than “sprinting”. They are characterized by being able to gobble up an enormous amount suffering, and are usually just dim enough to wear a wide smile on their face when its happening. And giggle maniacally when describing the suffering afterward.

Winning isn’t everything to the rouleur, which is why they’re often found among the ranks of the domestique. The rouleur needs to study the map, looking for the right terrain with the right kind of lumps if they’re going to have a chance of being at the front in a road race. They are possibly the most exciting to watch race; races of attrition suit them, as does bad weather – and when they’re in the break, they’re usually dumb enough to take their strength for granted and over-estimate themselves. Betting on the rouleur is a gamble, but their style of racing often means that even when they lose, it was a great show.

Merckx bless the rouleur.

// Folklore // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. @frank

    @Beers

    I’m of the opinion that just because I’m shit at everything else doesn’t mean I can call myself rouleur by default. Can’t hold myself in the same esteem as those mentioned. Rolling solo at 32kph on the flat during a long ride doesn’t compare to 40kph+ by our man JVS here.. I watch that PRbx constantly while on the trainer..

    I was afraid this point might be lost: being a fat fuck who can’t ride a bike doesn’t make you a rouleur.

    You have to have specific characteristics – a Magnificent Stroke, being able to heap loads of coals on the fire for hours on end – that’s a rouleur.

    Grace under power.

    To that end, the generally accepted classification of Voigt as a rouleur doesn’t work for me, personally. For me, he is not graceful enough on the machine. He is all power, all V, but not a picture of Fluidly Harmonic Articulation.

    Ritter. Now there’s a rouleur.

    Quite simply the best cycling commentary ever. Poetry in words and motion.

  2. A great description Frank. Have you read vélo by Paul Fournel? It has a beautiful description of a Rouleur in there, beutifully illustrated too.

    http://rouleur.cc/Velo?gallery=0

  3. @RVester

    ..and weight is proportional to volume…

    Technically weight is only proportional to volume at like densities. A higher density at the same weight would produce less volume.

  4. @frank

    @Chris

    @frank

    Did someone say rouleur?

    I’m halfway through Yate’s book, cracking read and (apart from not going into the doping side of he sport in his day which he sets out his reasons for at the outset) one that doesn’t pull any punches. A bit like the way he rode.

    I know this was posted a few weeks ago but it’s one of my favorites.

    I’d say I’m probably more rouleur than anything else although I lack the speed and endurance. For the first time at the weekend, though, I experienced the rather marvelous joy of dropping someone without any real effort. Twice, the first time into a mean little headwind and the second time as we hit some rolling countryside on the way home. Neither time was intentional, I was going steadily but not hard having made myself feel slightly odd the day before on a longer ride.

    That’s got to be one of the greatest shots of a Cyclist ever. I’ve never quite understood why he rolled the bars down and mounted the levers so low. My best guess has been to get some extra stretch out of the back, but its very unorthodox.

    Fantastic stuff.

    Maybe he was trying for a similar position to his TT bike – If you’re going to be on the front all day dragging the peloton you’re going to want to be aero. He does seem to be on the drops in most pictures.

  5. So speaking of descending.  Is anyone like me in that I can go WAY faster if someone is in front of me.  I don’t feel comfortable going fast out front or alone on a ride.  But it seems that if there is somebody right in front of me I’m not nervous at all.  If I’m by myself I don’t like going much over 65kph but in races or even training rides with others I see 80+ kph all the time.

  6. So speaking of dreams…  I had a dream last night that I was in London for a London Cogal.  I was staying at someones house and I was putting my bike together when I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses and that I hadn’t shaved my legs and I started to panic because @Frank was due to show up at any minute.  But then things morphed (as dreams do) into me and some of the Velominati being at a mall and this crotchety old dude comes up to me and tells me that if I don’t stop scraping my feet on the floor I’ll have to got to the “moe – cah – seen” booth and I’m like “wth is a moe-cah-seen booth and I’ll scrape my feet if I want to.”  So I start scraping my feet even more and then the old dude and his cronies start herding me toward this booth that turns out to be selling moccasins.  They want to force me to put on these crazy looking over shoes that look like they are made out of shiny blue wrapping paper.  They think I’m going to be mad but I play it up and put them on and start modeling them around and all the shoppers are laughing and then I woke up…

  7. @frank

    @Beers

    I’m of the opinion that just because I’m shit at everything else doesn’t mean I can call myself rouleur by default. Can’t hold myself in the same esteem as those mentioned. Rolling solo at 32kph on the flat during a long ride doesn’t compare to 40kph+ by our man JVS here.. I watch that PRbx constantly while on the trainer..

    I was afraid this point might be lost: being a fat fuck who can’t ride a bike doesn’t make you a rouleur.

    You have to have specific characteristics – a Magnificent Stroke, being able to heap loads of coals on the fire for hours on end – that’s a rouleur.

    Grace under power.

    Amerckx.  I’m closest to the roleur classification, but not at the level of the true roleur.  However, I do aspire and dream.  On my rides this fall I find myself drawn to riding the crap roads, and even the old railroad right of way now with crushed limestone for hikers, bikers, horses and snowmobiles.  Rather than repaving a couple of poor sections of roads, the county maintenance folks has the wisdom (?) just to grade it and turn it to gravel (not sure if there’s a longer-term plan to chip seal or something else).

    But I do love hammering those sections in the drops, and keep glancing ahead for the wheel of Sparticus, Summie, Tommeke, the Lion or others.  But they’re just out of sight, so I keep hammering — until I can’t…

  8. @Cyclops For me it’s more about the state of the road, really nice smooth tarmac and I’m flying but if the surface isn’t so good – especially in the braking zone – my confidence will be out of the window.

    It probably doesn’t help that I live in a very flat area but find myself in the Pyrenees once a year if I’m lucky. Those roads seem to suffer a lot during the winter, both from the weather and the ski coaches. When you’re braking hard before a corner, it’s not much fun to find your front wheel skipping off the bumpy surface and locking up before hitting the road again.

    I suspect better brakes might help.

  9. @Cyclops WTF? That is awesome. I’m hoping the London Cogal will be memorable but maybe not quite that weird. I don’t think @Frank is planning on being there this time round but the start point is at the top end of The Mall .

    Admiralty Arch at the beginning of The Mall passes under the bomb aimer’s hand at 0:12

  10. That’s not quite right…

  11. @Chris

    Admiralty Arch at the beginning of The Mall passes under the bomb aimer’s hand at 0:12

    and with a V2 at Clapham at 9.2V there could be a panic on…………..

    In fact with this thread the Cogal could all be arrested as we turn up at The Mall.

  12. @simonsaunders

    A great description Frank. Have you read Vélo by Paul Fournel? It has a beautiful description of a Rouleur in there, beutifully illustrated too.

    http://rouleur.cc/Velo?gallery=0

    Paul Fournel is the best Cycling writer ever. I have read bits and pieces of Velo, but I ready Need for the Bike cover to cover in one sitting. (Need is basically the unillustrated version of Velo.)

  13. @Chris

    @frank

    @Chris

    @frank

    Did someone say rouleur?

    I’m halfway through Yate’s book, cracking read and (apart from not going into the doping side of he sport in his day which he sets out his reasons for at the outset) one that doesn’t pull any punches. A bit like the way he rode.

    I know this was posted a few weeks ago but it’s one of my favorites.

    I’d say I’m probably more rouleur than anything else although I lack the speed and endurance. For the first time at the weekend, though, I experienced the rather marvelous joy of dropping someone without any real effort. Twice, the first time into a mean little headwind and the second time as we hit some rolling countryside on the way home. Neither time was intentional, I was going steadily but not hard having made myself feel slightly odd the day before on a longer ride.

    That’s got to be one of the greatest shots of a Cyclist ever. I’ve never quite understood why he rolled the bars down and mounted the levers so low. My best guess has been to get some extra stretch out of the back, but its very unorthodox.

    Fantastic stuff.

    Maybe he was trying for a similar position to his TT bike – If you’re going to be on the front all day dragging the peloton you’re going to want to be aero. He does seem to be on the drops in most pictures.

    That first picture was him on his TT bike…

  14. @frank

    That first picture was him on his TT bike…

    Well there you go, he was pre-empting the advent of the TT bike.

  15. @Chris

    @frank

    That first picture was him on his TT bike…

    Well there you go, he was pre-empting the advent of the TT bike.

    I near spat my coffee in my keyboard there – thought you were still talking about Lampre Man!

  16. @Cyclops

    So speaking of dreams… I had a dream last night that I was in London for a London Cogal. I was staying at someones house and I was putting my bike together when I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses and that I hadn’t shaved my legs and I started to panic because @Frank was due to show up at any minute. But then things morphed (as dreams do) into me and some of the Velominati being at a mall and this crotchety old dude comes up to me and tells me that if I don’t stop scraping my feet on the floor I’ll have to got to the “moe – cah – seen” booth and I’m like “wth is a moe-cah-seen booth and I’ll scrape my feet if I want to.” So I start scraping my feet even more and then the old dude and his cronies start herding me toward this booth that turns out to be selling moccasins. They want to force me to put on these crazy looking over shoes that look like they are made out of shiny blue wrapping paper. They think I’m going to be mad but I play it up and put them on and start modeling them around and all the shoppers are laughing and then I woke up…

    Thanks for sharing . . . Shiny blue overshoes? Back in the 80s a lot of overshoes were made of vinyl and were quite shiny. I had some Sidi and Duegi ones. Didn’t keep your feet warm or dry, but looked pretty spiffy. As I was reading your piece I though crazy old mall dude was going to give you a nice pair of soft, tan leather overshoes. Hairy legs? Now that’s a nightmare scenario!

  17. @frank

    @simonsaunders

    A great description Frank. Have you read Vélo by Paul Fournel? It has a beautiful description of a Rouleur in there, beutifully illustrated too.

    http://rouleur.cc/Velo?gallery=0

    Paul Fournel is the best Cycling writer ever. I have read bits and pieces of Velo, but I ready Need for the Bike cover to cover in one sitting. (Need is basically the unillustrated version of Velo.)

    this is a shining example of ‘cant judge a book by its cover’.  i unfortunately did read it in one sitting.  in retrospect, i wish i had read a chapter a day, maybe even stretch it out to a week.  should dig it out and bring it to the cogal as part of a book swap..

  18. @Cyclops

    So speaking of dreams… I had a dream last night that I was in London for a London Cogal. I was staying at someones house and I was putting my bike together when I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses and that I hadn’t shaved my legs and I started to panic because @Frank was due to show up at any minute. But then things morphed (as dreams do) into me and some of the Velominati being at a mall and this crotchety old dude comes up to me and tells me that if I don’t stop scraping my feet on the floor I’ll have to got to the “moe – cah – seen” booth and I’m like “wth is a moe-cah-seen booth and I’ll scrape my feet if I want to.” So I start scraping my feet even more and then the old dude and his cronies start herding me toward this booth that turns out to be selling moccasins. They want to force me to put on these crazy looking over shoes that look like they are made out of shiny blue wrapping paper. They think I’m going to be mad but I play it up and put them on and start modeling them around and all the shoppers are laughing and then I woke up…

    When I read your posts, I feel like I’m on drugs.  But this is avvesome, truly.

  19. @frank

    @simonsaunders

    A great description Frank. Have you read Vélo by Paul Fournel? It has a beautiful description of a Rouleur in there, beutifully illustrated too.

    http://rouleur.cc/Velo?gallery=0

    Paul Fournel is the best Cycling writer ever. I have read bits and pieces of Velo, but I ready Need for the Bike cover to cover in one sitting. (Need is basically the unillustrated version of Velo.)

    I checked this out from the LLS (why I always carry my full wallet, so I have my library card at all times) a few months back and brought it on my first honeymoon camping trip. Sitting in the woods around the campfire above a meandering river I read it to the one-year old VMH. She loved it!

    She loved it so much, I picked up a copy for her as a birthday gift a few weeks after that trip.

    June 19 = wedding anniversary. July 4 = VMH birth date. Two pretty sweet as days, I’d say!

  20. @frank

    @Beers

    I’m of the opinion that just because I’m shit at everything else doesn’t mean I can call myself rouleur by default. Can’t hold myself in the same esteem as those mentioned. Rolling solo at 32kph on the flat during a long ride doesn’t compare to 40kph+ by our man JVS here.. I watch that PRbx constantly while on the trainer..

    I was afraid this point might be lost: being a fat fuck who can’t ride a bike doesn’t make you a rouleur.

     

     

    You’re welcome. Who are you calling fat? I only said I was shit, so I’ll assume you mean everyone else, ha.

  21. I steer clear of comparing myself in any way shape or form to a pro….it you see me it becomes self explanaotry….gorilla is probably the best description (although I most certainly do not have gorilla pants).  However if I were ever to deign to describe myself in any way to those that I most admire, it would always be to the rouleurs…give me a head wind and let me find a rythm and I will work like donkey!

  22. I certainly can’t compare myself with The Likes of Vansummeren et al but based on height and build (183cm and 82kgs), I feel I’m probably too densely built to class as a rouleur.  I have always enjoyed the rollers and can certainly dish out my own humble fair share of V when the mood takes me but I lack the diesel engine to do this for any stretch of time.  I sometimes feel the (perhaps misguided), notion that I an may be closer to being a puncheur or a Sprinter, except that most of the time I punch like a true sprinter and sprint like a true Puncheur.

    No, I suspect in fact that what I may be is a fourthcateur.

  23. @roger

    @frank

    @simonsaunders

    A great description Frank. Have you read Vélo by Paul Fournel? It has a beautiful description of a Rouleur in there, beutifully illustrated too.

    http://rouleur.cc/Velo?gallery=0

    Paul Fournel is the best Cycling writer ever. I have read bits and pieces of Velo, but I ready Need for the Bike cover to cover in one sitting. (Need is basically the unillustrated version of Velo.)

    this is a shining example of ‘cant judge a book by its cover’. i unfortunately did read it in one sitting. in retrospect, i wish i had read a chapter a day, maybe even stretch it out to a week. should dig it out and bring it to the cogal as part of a book swap..

    This got me to re-read his Rouleur bit. He is the master. The Velo version of the book does help the book become more of a book that you pick up, read one or two bits of, and put down again. I shunned the new format at first, but revisiting it now I see its strength. That book is strongest in little bits when inspiration is needed.

  24. @frank

    @Chris

    @frank

    Did someone say rouleur?

    I’m halfway through Yate’s book, cracking read and (apart from not going into the doping side of he sport in his day which he sets out his reasons for at the outset) one that doesn’t pull any punches. A bit like the way he rode.

    I know this was posted a few weeks ago but it’s one of my favorites.

    I’d say I’m probably more rouleur than anything else although I lack the speed and endurance. For the first time at the weekend, though, I experienced the rather marvelous joy of dropping someone without any real effort. Twice, the first time into a mean little headwind and the second time as we hit some rolling countryside on the way home. Neither time was intentional, I was going steadily but not hard having made myself feel slightly odd the day before on a longer ride.

    That’s got to be one of the greatest shots of a Cyclist ever. I’ve never quite understood why he rolled the bars down and mounted the levers so low. My best guess has been to get some extra stretch out of the back, but its very unorthodox.

    Fantastic stuff.

    I have a friend that rides with his bars and hoods just like that. I did some work on his bike and test rode it after. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. He doesn’t want it changed either.

  25. @DerHoggz With Rule #43 in mind, I say:
    Galileo spoke about bodies in freefall in vacuum… Cyclist are bodies on an inclined plane with air’s resistance: not quite the same thing!
    The fact is, heavier bodies on an inclined plane do get more acceleration than lightier ones, assuming they all have the same drag! Furthermore, bigger cyclist can tuck into a more areodynamical position (because they are capable of riding with almost horizontal back, which reduces the surface exposed to air’s resistance).
    That said, the difference is on a descent is made by skill, heart and nerves!

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