Look Pro, Part VIII: The Phantom Menace

Casually Deliberate is at the core of Looking Pro; it’s something that comes from a lifetime spent on a bike, becoming one with the machine. There are two components to this phenomenon, two organisms forming a symbiotic bond and working together in perfect harmony towards an end.

The Machine. Immaculate. Every piece of kit in its place, adjusted to the millimeter; il posizione must be set up precisely to maximize the V-Locus. The Principle of Silence reigns supreme; no creaks, no squeaks – no Rattle, just the Hum from the tires and spokes as they cut through the air. Every last detail is looked after; the frame is spotless and the bars perfectly wrapped.

The rider. A paradox. Victim at the hands of the Man with the Hammer, yet conqueror of their own physical limitations. Perched on the saddle, the rider is comfortable as the legs spin with deceptive ease. Every movement is perfect and carefully controlled, yet nothing is given undue consideration. The hands reach out and rest easy on the bars. The back is simultaneously arched and flat as the body finds the ideal balance between transferring maximum power to the pedals while keeping the shoulders low and narrow to punch the smallest possible hole through the air.

Nothing conveys this notion as much as riding in the Phantom Aerobars. The forearms resting on the tops, hands draped loosely in the air, clutching at nothing but wind: physics are seemingly defied as somehow the rider manages to not only steer, but also coax the leverage from the arms required to propel the machine forward. In a word: Grace.

It is paramount that any rider who endeavors to Look Pro learn to ride in this difficult position. But beware: one must take care to avoid crashing while practicing; not only is crashing while trying to Look Pro un-casual, it is monumentally un-Pro. That’s a tip.

  1. Because your arms are resting on the bars with your hands dangling unsupported, you will need a Magnificent Stroke with a smooth upward motion in order to provide the counter-balance that your arms normally provide.
  2. You will also need a strong core to support your body and avoid supporting your shoulders by leaning on your forearms too much. Not only will this become uncomfortable, but the added weight on the bars will make the bicycle unstable.
  3. Find the V-Locus. Your bike must be set up properly, allowing you to ride in a neutral position in order to minimize undue torquing or twisting.
  4. While unsightly and generally frowned upon, older model Shimano shifters with outboard shift cables make for a kind of crutch as you learn to ride in this position; avoid clutching the cables too firmly, but it is permissible to hold them loosely to provide some modicum of steering and leverage.
  5. Watch where you’re going; you don’t want to be hitting potholes or road furniture while conducting what amounts to a high-speed balancing act.

One last consideration, the gut you’ve been nursing since discovering that beer is the ideal post-ride recovery drink may actually help keep your forearms unweighted. I recommend you keep testing that theory until it becomes true.

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67 Replies to “Look Pro, Part VIII: The Phantom Menace”

  1. I was amazed to see Gilbear chugging along in the phantom aero position with 5km to go in stage 10. It takes complete skill to put full speed into the pedals in that position.

  2. Millar went all phantom aero today during his brief foray off the front.

  3. @ben
    I read the interview with Millar in Rouleur. I am definitely gonna buy his book. I really like the panache he, JilBear, and V-oeckler displayed today. I loved how they all tried to burn up HTC-Highroad before the sprint. And it worked!

  4. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Millar went all phantom aero today during his brief foray off the front.

    This was the original shot for the article, until I found Faboo, King of CasDel. Before him, though, it was Dekker. Dekker may have invented it.

  5. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    I read the interview with Millar in Rouleur. I am definitely gonna buy his book. I really like the panache he, JilBear, and V-oeckler displayed today. I loved how they all tried to burn up HTC-Highroad before the sprint. And it worked!

    We have been served up heaping spoonfuls of panache this tour. I don’t know how Prudomme has done it but I can’t think of any boring stages thus far. The sight of the green and Yellow jerseys off the front making Cav’s leadout train suffer is enervating and pure genius.

  6. @mouse

    OK this is like when you see someone with their collar sticking up – do you tell them, or let them go the whole day like that ?

    So the first time – I think it was you Mouse, talking about Gilbert – I wasn’t sure but now I have to say something. Who knows, you might be on your way to a job interview… :-)

    Enervating means “weakening or draining of energy and vitality” , which I think is the opposite of what you are trying to say.

    I agree it sounds like it shouldn’t mean that, but there you go…

    And while I’m on this theme, if anyone is tempted to use the word ‘enormity’, do it at your own risk.

  7. @RedRanger

    Awesome. I aspire to ride in this position. It makes you a bad ass.

    But beware. Only a small mistake can make your ass bad.

  8. @ChrisO
    Ah, whoops. How Enervating.
    Who says you can’t learn something on cycling blogs?
    Thanks. Just don’t tell anyone, ok?

  9. Nice piece frank. I’ve seen a few of Le Tour riders in this position and it makes me think they are relaxing into the ride when I know they are laying down some V, especially in the last 5km of the stage. I have to assume this position on my rubbish bike in order to help cut through a head wind (It’s a mountain bike with straight bars). I can’t keep it up for long and feel really unstable.

    I’m new to the Tour. I’ve never watched it before and it is an inspiration. Is this a good year or is it my inexperience of cycle racing?

    And just for ChrisO… I can’t believe the ENORMITY of the upcoming mountain stages. I hope Jonny Hoogerland continues in the race.


  10. @John of Denbigh
    Welcome. This year’s tour so far is really good. I would say too much carnage and too many GC riders having to abandon but the racing has been spectacular on every stage thus far. In all, a great introductory tour for you, the bar is high now.

  11. @Matt


    Awesome. I aspire to ride in this position. It makes you a bad ass.

    But beware. Only a small mistake can make your ass bad.


  12. @Cyclops

    I’ve been scouring the web and my cycling magazines to no avail but I know I saw a picture of Spartacus on the Phantom Aerobars on the cobbles of PR last season.

    You’ve mentioned that before and I know what picture you’re talking about. The only problem is he’s not on the cobbles. The shot in question was taken on the tarmac, just after he rode off a secteur of stones; they are in the background but there’s smooth road between him and the stones. It was a Specialized advert. So, in effect, you can’t find that picture because it doesn’t exist.

  13. @Marko
    Too right that there have been too many crashes (particularly motorbike and TV car carelessness!) and we have lost some top riders. Being from the UK I was gutted when Bradly Wiggins crashed out. I just hope he’s on form again for the Olympics next year.

    As for the bar being high – too high I suspect and my only excuse is this. More V is called for and get out and train!


  14. @Mikeweb

    I saw this the other day and wanted to post it with some negative commentary.

    Then I got afraid that his guns would find me while I’m unawares and annihilate me without mercy.

    As you say, though: still the Man. Wisdom.

  15. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    Last year I was in Berlin and with some help of the people at Villa Pasculli, I had an interesting chat with Timm Koelln (the author of this photo).
    Ah! And he speak a great Italian too…

  16. @Mikeweb

    Hmmm… a pic from the recent rest day. He’s still the Man in my book.

    Best to simply point out the greatness of the adidas scuffs on his feet and leave it at that lest things get, you know, weird.

  17. @Mikeweb
    He is wearing the Swiss national champion jersey. He can take the sleeves off if he wants I must say. The Rules exist to Look Pro. If you *are* Pro, don’t you Look Pro by definition?

  18. Ok, so back on topic,
    I’ve to say that I’m not a lover of the phantom aero for myself, to me looks like a distracting position.
    I think it’s a position that require a great amount of hours spent riding, maybe the total amount of hours I ride are not enough to be accustomed to.

  19. @Pedale.Forchetta
    I just bought Kolln’s book, “The Peloton”. What a masterpiece.

    Pedale, your life is my dream life. If you told me you lived on the shores of Lake Como, I would not be surprised. I guess that’s the price one pays when one lives in Italy: ride with pros, make friends with world-famous authors and photographers, be a world-class photographer (which you are), watch pro racing live and in person, drink negronis, ride bikes, eat good food, go to bed, get up, and repeat.

    How do I get a work visa in Italy?

  20. Based on the metrics and content analysis of this thread, those who drop into the phantoms are also those who are strong in the TT. Would we see the likes of Griepel or the Pocket Grimpeur in the phant posish? Not sure.

  21. @Minion

    I remember. i have a pair. Frank has a pair. Faboo has a pair. If that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.

    Hehe. I hadn’t kept up with discussion and read this. I took it to be referring to PABs. Now that’s a funny idea. I’m going to upgrade to a lighter set of PABs.

  22. @brett
    Calling Brett and other Welly-based Velominati. Stage 11 replay is being shown at D4 bar from 6:30 to 8am Friday. Karl from Adventure Travel has organised apparently. Good chance for a catchup. I’ll be wearing the red & white carnation…

  23. @Bianchi Denti
    Sweet, but probably won’t make it as I’m going to attempt to avoid the result all day and watch it on Fri night at a mate’s place…

    Welly velominati = Welliminati btw…

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