Lean In, Lean Out

I profess to understand every mannerism and habit of the Cyclist. I’m Dutch, and I’m a writer, so it all comes pretty naturally. The problem is that thinking you understand something and actually understanding it are two completely different things; the first is confidence, the second is wisdom; there is no Venn diagram that has an intersection between the two. As we move inexorably towards 2016, I humbly seek to temper my confidence with a (light) dusting of hubris.

I’ll start off, a full three days shy of 2016, with my first acknowledgement of not understanding why we do certain things: this leaning against stuff rather than unclipping business. When I say “things”, I mean objects like fences, light poles, cars, other riders, small marking wands that under no circumstances can hold the weight of a Cyclist, rubbish bins, traffic cones and any other paraphernalia that looks inviting.

It is an undeniable fact that Eddy looks entirely badass in this photo, leaning away like putting a foot down on the tarmac would be an affront to the soles of his shoes. There is, of course, a good reason for it: he finally got his toe clips and straps sorted just perfectly, and he is not about to start over on that sordid affair just to avoid putting his handprint on the team car. We, the modern Cyclist, have clipless pedals and they are quite easy to sort and there is very little at risk when it comes to unclipping, apart from the humility of making a balls of it and falling over like a twunt.

Which brings me back to this irresistible desire we have to not unclip from our pedals. Twunt Tumbles aside, there is really no good reason for us not to unclip any time we come to a halt, a practice which itself should admittedly be kept to a minimum. Unclipping is a prime opportunity to demonstrate to the world our ability to Wait Properly. But none of us want to do it. We’d rather wobble about in some sort of balancing act as if putting a foot down were admitting defeat to gravity or the coriolis effect or some other such nonsense.

And careful with the car lean, you might just piss off the wrong driver.

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71 Replies to “Lean In, Lean Out”

  1. I suspect there’s a good many of us here that developed the habit out of necessity. There was formidable effort involved back then: get the slot in the sole of your shoe lined up with the back of the pedal, wiggle it in while pedaling softly, an awkward reach down (to your dominant foot, the other you’d secured right after throwing your leg over) to tighten, adjust, tighten, move, adjust, ad nauseam, the leather strap, then off you went. Doing that over and over for every stop light you came to as you made your way out of town, to the open roads, became an annoyance.

    Along comes the ‘clipless’ pedal: after initial set-up, it’s in and out with ease. Short attention span connection. But we’d gotten used to waiting properly. The kids out on the Thursday night group ride noticed that we’d get the jump at stop signs, that that split second was enough to hold them off at the city limit sign 4 blocks up the road. Track stands look cool when done properly, also, if you’ve done it for awhile, a slight lean against whatever’s handy looks pretty casually deliberate.

    Either way, unless you’re dumb enough to put a hand on that kid from the junior college’s ‘bagged EVO’ or leaned your hip into Billy Bob’s Ford F1050 with a 16″ lift, it’s easy to pull off, sexy, and a few watts saved. Or you just fucking fall over. Right?

     

  2. @Haldy

    @frank– So what you are saying is that you never learned how to trackstand?

    I can track stand. I saw a kid do it in flip flops a good few years back and decided it was time. But I hate myself for it. And at the same time always try to avoid unclipping. It is so easy to clip in, I simply don’t understand this compulsion of ours.

  3. @frank

    @Haldy

    @frank– So what you are saying is that you never learned how to trackstand?

    I can track stand. I saw a kid do it in flip flops a good few years back and decided it was time. But I hate myself for it. And at the same time always try to avoid unclipping. It is so easy to clip in, I simply don’t understand this compulsion of ours.

    If those guys trackstanding at the stop light only knew how dorky they look they just might stop doing it.

  4. @Frank I share your cognitive dissonance. I can track stand for a respectable amount of time but I think it looks clumsy on the road and every driver I hav asked thinks a standing cyclist a show off, a tool. My own mother laughed at a stranger when he clip stacked from an extended stand saying “he deserved it” WTF!? I digress.

    I don’t like to put the foot down at lights because it means you are stopped and that’s not what cyclists do. I don’t like to stand for the reasons stated above and to complicate things further, we are required to touch a foot down in races, or be disqualified so I like to practice a fast clip in. In the end I do both, justifying my decision to myself until the light goes green, never really happy in it. Thankfully I can avoid most lights on my rides.

  5. @frank

    @Haldy

    @frank– So what you are saying is that you never learned how to trackstand?

    I can track stand. I saw a kid do it in flip flops a good few years back and decided it was time. But I hate myself for it. And at the same time always try to avoid unclipping. It is so easy to clip in, I simply don’t understand this compulsion of ours.

    Why to avoid unclipping? That’s easy..to save us the fractionally small amount of time of clipping back in to get back to Freeing our Minds and flowing with Magnificent Stroke. Also..to avoid the awkward embarrassment of the not so infrequent times when we don’t quite clip in properly. I also practice my track standing since there are events at the track that I need that skill for…regardless of whether @chipomarc thinks it’s dorky or not. I do not always have the velodrome available to me to practice that skill.

  6. So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

  7. @Oli

    So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

    Jesus & Mohammed man, who gives a flying continental about car drivers? Its the girls in the cafes Oli, the girls in the cafes.  Or even better, the girls in the peloton. Still, you’re probably right, even the girls in the peloton aren’t impressed by trackstands.

    Unclip and wait properly.

  8. @PT
    If you’re doing them to impress anybody else you’re dreaming, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them.

     

    From my car I’ve seen terrible wobbly trackstands and impressive rock solid ones at both bad moments and perfectly timed, but I judge them on their individual merits. I don’t want them all to stop because some people are shit at it; by that logic most of shouldn’t be doing most things, including cycling!

  9. A list of things that might impress only us small band of fanatics:

     

    1. Bicycle brands

    2. Lycra

    3. Cyclists

     

    I guess trackstands fit as a subset within 3.

  10. @Chipomarc

    @frank

    @Haldy

    @frank– So what you are saying is that you never learned how to trackstand?

    I can track stand. I saw a kid do it in flip flops a good few years back and decided it was time. But I hate myself for it. And at the same time always try to avoid unclipping. It is so easy to clip in, I simply don’t understand this compulsion of ours.

    If those guys trackstanding at the stop light only knew how dorky they look they just might stop doing it.

    This is exactly what I was going to say. There are very few things more goofy looking than a roadie doing a track stand at the light. Most of the time he (or she) wobbles around and slowly meanders into and out of the intersection, bike lane, turn lane, etc instead of just unclipping and taking a seat on the top tube.

  11. Dammit Frank, you’re reading my mind. I just penned a piece (yet to be sent to Gianni) about clips and straps.

    Most of my routes rarely involve traffic lights so unclipping is a rare thing. And those I do encounter can be seen from far enough away to time arrival on green.

    I used to do the “hold” on vehicles but only trucks and vans. I avoided holding onto cars that were occupied by the (likely) owner.

  12. Unclipping and putting your foot down is perhaps the best opportunity to exude casual deliberateness. Isn’t this how we all look when we’re waiting at a stop light?

  13. I have the wisdom to unclip. A very painful demolishment of my hubris taught me that. 

     

     

    It didn’t cure me of leaning against stuff though…

  14. Odd.  I rarely if ever lean up against something or hold on to something, but I do trackstand at red lights if the road surface allows it.  I enjoy the brief challenge of balancing.  I never thought much about what other people think of it.  If you do it well — not weaving tentatively all over the place — why is it dorky?

  15. I unclip at red lights just to show off my awesomely defined calf to the jealous cagers.

    As for touching cars…gotta love that a New York politician was caught telling a cyclist to, “Find a fucking bike lane and use it!” not long after her politician spouse was caught telling a cyclist he’d kill him if he touched his car again. The cyclist had smacked the car because the politician nearly ran him over.

    What a lovely couple!

  16. Caring what the cagers think of ya?

    Nope, I’ve got caring about how I look all covered by myself!

     

  17. Imagine being Eddy Merckx, he would prefer to change pedals out annually no matter if they were Record or not. Those are not Record in this article photo.

  18. Perhaps I misidentified those pedals too early.

    Campagnolo Superleggeri Record Pista TT design.

  19. In Denmark, every potential problem, no matter how subtile, is taken care of by the public welfare system, which also have a department for cyclists. Consequently, a handrail is placed whenever there is a traffic light, -for your convenience……….(lean on (Mø))

  20. I lived in the city and began cycling in the prehistoric days of toe clips and straps. Frank correctly pointed out that once you the TCs&Ss dialed in you’re loath to undo them. Plus, in the city, having to deal with clips block after block is a nightmare. Hence – Track stands/leaning and riding like a hooligan rather than stop at red light after red light.

  21. Street furniture to lean against every time when available. I’m the master of the last minute handrail / stop sign button box grab. Even though I love watching a properly executed track stand, I’d rather leave that skill set where it belongs, I.E. – on the track. The benefit/ failure ratio is too heavily weighted for me towards failure…. Make myself look like an utter dick when I keel over, or make myself look like a dick and get clipped by an impatient cager slurping a machiato whilst texting about last night’s “must see” reality tv show…

     

  22. @Oli

    So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

    So close! We almost made it to 2016 before running out of our vintage 2015 sense of humor!

  23. @Oli

    So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

    Oli, what, exactly, is “fully maing”?

  24. @sengelov

    In Denmark, every potential problem, no matter how subtile, is taken care of by the public welfare system, which also have a department for cyclists. Consequently, a handrail is placed whenever there is a traffic light, -for your convenience……….(lean on (Mø))

    Yup, unlike the Dutch, we tend to worry more about just getting things right rather than telling everyone how right we think we are…

  25. @chuckp

    Unclipping and putting your foot down is perhaps the best opportunity to exude casual deliberateness. Isn’t this how we all look when we’re waiting at a stop light?

    Damn straight that’s how I know *I* look.

  26. @Ron

    I unclip at red lights just to show off my awesomely defined calf to the jealous cagers.

    As for touching cars…gotta love that a New York politician was caught telling a cyclist to, “Find a fucking bike lane and use it!” not long after her politician spouse was caught telling a cyclist he’d kill him if he touched his car again. The cyclist had smacked the car because the politician nearly ran him over.

    What a lovely couple!

    Ah, New York at Christmas!

    @wiscot

    @emerson

    @Oli

    Maybe this thread will become focused on pedals.

    I wonder how long a pair of pedals lasted on the Prophet’s bike? To paraphrase Mr. T “I pity the pedal . . . “

    One shudders at the thought!

    @emerson

    Perhaps I misidentified those pedals too early.

    Campagnolo Superleggeri Record Pista TT design.

    I think they all pretty much rode those Pista pedals. Boy, if I could ever get my hands on a set of those!

  27. @frank

    @Ron

    I unclip at red lights just to show off my awesomely defined calf to the jealous cagers.

    As for touching cars…gotta love that a New York politician was caught telling a cyclist to, “Find a fucking bike lane and use it!” not long after her politician spouse was caught telling a cyclist he’d kill him if he touched his car again. The cyclist had smacked the car because the politician nearly ran him over.

    What a lovely couple!

    Ah, New York at Christmas!

    @wiscot

    @emerson

    @Oli

    Maybe this thread will become focused on pedals.

    I wonder how long a pair of pedals lasted on the Prophet’s bike? To paraphrase Mr. T “I pity the pedal . . . “

    One shudders at the thought!

    @emerson

    Perhaps I misidentified those pedals too early.

    Campagnolo Superleggeri Record Pista TT design.

    I think they all pretty much rode those Pista pedals. Boy, if I could ever get my hands on a set of those!

    You want a set of Pista pedals? I used to ride those at Marymoor…I think my set is still in the garage…

     

  28. @frank

    @chuckp

    Unclipping and putting your foot down is perhaps the best opportunity to exude casual deliberateness. Isn’t this how we all look when we’re waiting at a stop light?

    Damn straight that’s how I know *I* look.

    until a combination of sweat & sunscreen cause the elbow to slip off the bars & you look like a total prat (not that I’d be speaking from experience or anything).

  29.  

    @frank

    @Oli

    So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

    So close! We almost made it to 2016 before running out of our vintage 2015 sense of humor!

    This IS my sense of fucking humour.

  30. Who the fuck stops at red lights?

    (Courier humour…) Track standing is something, annoyingly, I can do on a commuter/touring bike but not on any of my race bikes. Traffic lights are about timing, as much as anything, and in the absence of track standing ability I’ve mastered the slow roll approach.

    But again, I’m a child of my environment. I’ve never ridden with straps though at a pinch I’ll lean against a pole or parking meter. I sometimes wonder what it’s like to be so very, very, veryveryvery old that you had to ride bikes in the fucking dark ages.

  31. @Teocalli

    I may be pushing the boat out a bit far with that one, I’m resolutely middle aged. Hiding behind internet anonymity and all that.

    Unless you’re really fucking old, in which case you could be my grandpa.

  32. On the subject of toe clips and straps … My first “serious” bike (Trek 560 Pro w/Reynolds 531 tubing and Shimano 600) had toe clips and straps. Nothing quite like getting them cinched just right. I remember riding it out in Sonoma (visiting my brother). At the time, his house was situated on the side of a hill with a short, really steep driveway. Came back from a ride and forgot to loosen the straps beforehand. Made it up the driveway. Ran out of altitude and airspeed. Nothing to lean against … except the pavement. Just classic.

    Not a pic of my bike, but this is was the bike.

  33. A quick start from a traffic light requires preparation and attention. Many riders doing track stands (especially older riders) are too distracted by that activity to be ready the moment it’s good to go.

    I do admire a good track stand, but you can almost always use it to judge a rider’s age. Kids under 20 can be absolutely still without paying attention. By 30 a slight wobble is usually apparent. The effort required becomes quite noticeable by 40. Very few of us over 50 even bother trying (and those who do require plenty of room as they’re all over the place).

  34. Back in college in the toe clip Epoc, we’d lean on one another: the one on the left would rest his hand on the shoulder on the guy to his right, and the guy on the right would put his left hand on the tops of the bars of the guy to his left. Going purely on the metric of beer bottles thrown at us, I would say that rednecks were duly unoffended by the action.

    I unclip now.

  35. I road my bike to college and all over the city every day for four years and I think not one time did I ever adjust the toe straps. Seriously, not once.

    My daughter might have been nine when we put her on a little 24″ Pinarello in a parking lot outside the LBS. She took off and flipped her pedals around and her feet in to the toe cages/straps like she’d been doing it for years. The LBS owner and I looked at each other and said, yea, she’s ready for the proper road bike. The rest is history. She raced with the toe clips as long as she was on the little Pinarello. And I do not think that once we ever adjusted the straps on that bike either… just flip the pedals around, jam your toes in as far as they’d go and be gone.

    Never, ever thought to reach down and tighten ’em up?! Strange.

    I guess it was the easy in/easy out idea that counted more.

    Remember when toe straps came on Mtn Bikes? That was pointless. They’d be dangling half way thru first ride. And nothing is meant to dangle from a bike btw. Couldn’t resist.

    Cheers all

     

  36. Then in cycling, it would be eminently best to avoid traffic lights, stopping, waiting, leaning, judging and aging.

    No! No more talk! No more games! I bring SYZR!

    No civilized roads! Time for dirt! Speedplay SYZR!

  37. @wiscot

    @Oli

    So now we have to worry what the fucking morons in cars think of us? Fuck that! Trackstanding is the fucking LEAST of what they hate about us. This thread is fully maing.

    Oli, what, exactly, is “fully maing”?

    I believe maing is like mad cow disease but its brought on by veg-a mite!

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