Look Pro, Part IV: Don’t Look Down
Shifting is perhaps the most pure expression of our art as Velominati. It is the conduit through which we control our cadence; it effects our power, our breathing, our heart rate. When those essential things come together with the rhythm of the road, we are cast in the spell of La Volupte. The more in-tune with our bodies we become, the more we rely on our shifting to keep our legs in perfect harmony with our bodies. Our shifts must be smooth, crisp, and precise, for any disruption to the rhythm may cause the spell to be broken.
The advent of index-shifting and contoured cogs have simplified the mechanics of the perfect shift, but they have not eliminated the artform. A finely-tuned drivetrain is essential, but is only one piece of the whole. Timing is critical: the shift must be delivered at the precise moment in the stroke when the chain is perfectly loaded to jump silently from one cog to the next. Shifting under too much pressure or at the wrong point can result in delayed, noisy, or rough shifts, disrupting our rhythm and ripping us from La Volupte.
We do not mediate on the shift and we do not look down at our gears; the shift is something we must feel. We must not be overly cerebral – instead, we read the signals from our body and the machine and sense the time to shift and react. Over time, we also learn to sense when we are approaching the limits of the block and execute the double-shift to avoid crossing the chain. We do not look down.
These subtleties cannot be taught; they are artifacts of experience – evidence that the disciple has become one with the machine.
Disclaimer: The “Don’t Look Down” principle does not apply to Lando situations where we repeatedly push the right shifter while pedaling squares up some unholy gradient in the stubborn refusal to accept that we are indeed already in the lowest gear. Under these circumstances, it doesn’t hurt to give the gears a stern look in an effort to intimidate them into spawning a few more teeth on those biggest cogs.