Look Pro, Part III: Meditate on The V

The Badger meditates

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel it is my responsibility to warn you that this article might accidentally make you a better cyclist. Even though it breaks protocol, the subject of this edition of Look Pro involves the power of the mind, not just aesthetics.

As we established previously, The Rules can be transcended if the rider has the proper mentality. Take, for example, the sweat band that Hinault is wearing in this photo. Though he gets off on a Rule Violation through a technicality (no Rules about sweat bands), the way that thing is creeping up past his hairline, you might think he just stepped out of a special session with Richard Simmons. That said, from a technical perspective, calling it a “sweat band” is erroneous, since sweat bands don’t work for Badger Perspiration (pure Iron) and that it is actually a device used to absorb your opponent’s anguish and convert it directly into hardonium, the core element of The V. The point is, he pulls it off because he’s the Badger, and the Badger can do whatever he damn well pleases. Lame sweat bands and all.

A good deal of The Rules focus on the little details of good taste and style that help you look Pro, such as how to wear sunnies, the proper length of socks and bibs, positioning on the bike, and the accessories that are and aren’t allowed. But try as you might to Look Fantastic, unless you apply liberal doses of Rule #5, nothing you do will go far to help you avoid the Gyllenhaal Syndrome.

The good news is that Rule 5 is not measured in absolutes, but by relative increments. Whether you are throwing your leg over a top tube for the first time, a recreational rider, a racer, or a Pro riding a bike around a track for 60 minutes, to observe Rule #5 means that you push yourself beyond a level you previously thought possible.  This is the crux of becoming a better cyclist; your limits are dictated more by the mind than by fitness; to push beyond your limits is to will your lungs to breathe a little deeper, demand a bit more from your legs, and to steel your mind against the constant pleas from your lungs and legs to mercifully halt the effort.

The bad news is that the work in pursuit of Rule #5 is never done, for every step closer you come, Rule #5 takes a step farther away. As your fitness increases and your body learns to cope with the demands you put on it, the bar creeps ever higher (see Rule #10).

In your pursuit of Looking Pro, keep these guidelines in mind:

  1. Meditate on The V, as Hinault is doing here. Before starting, prepare your body for the pain to be found on the road by visualizing the effort. Visualize the road, and the points where you will suffer the most. This sways the locus of control away from the road and toward your mind.  If it helps, apply the V-Cog to your top tube as a reminder.
  2. Your mind is your worst enemy. Do all your thinking before your start riding your bike.  Once the pedals start to turn, wrap yourself in the sensations of the ride – the smell of the air, the sound of the tires, the feeling of flight as the bicycle rolls over the road.
  3. When engaged in an effort, never think about the pain. This is analogous to “looking down” when walking the tightrope. You don’t need to know how much you hurt or how much longer you can sustain the effort – that kind of information is catnip for the Man with the Hammer.
  4. Quitting is a plague, the ultimate Anti-V. Unless your name starts with “Jens” and ends with “Voigt”, you will experience your body begging your mind to quit during an effort. But if you quit once, the temptation to do so again will quickly spread to the next effort, and the next, and so forth until you end up riding the couch, dishing out Rule #5 to an unfortunate bag of Frito-Lays. If, for some reason, you find yourself pedaling squares with absolutely all the air gone from your lungs before reaching your objective, pick a spot farther up the road and soldier on with the effort until you reach it. This tricks your mind into believing that it didn’t quit and goes a long way towards maintaining the steely resolve required to be a hardman.
  5. The only thing worse than the pain you feel during an effort is the knowledge that you quit. Think of it this way; the harder you go,the sooner it will be over.

A-Merckx.

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71 Replies to “Look Pro, Part III: Meditate on The V”

  1. “The only thing worse than the pain you feel during an effort is the knowledge that you quit.”

    Words to live by.

  2. Two things:

    1. The Badger meditating beside his bike is much cooler than all this sitting around looking bored nonsense that’s been spouted around these parts. I’ll grant that at least 50% of that is Badger, but even in rest, you know he’s turned on to 11.

    2. I just ordered some Gyllenhaal arm warmers. Now I’m conflicted…

  3. THE BADGER CONFLICTED…wasn’t this photo after Stage 17 of the 1986 Tour? do badgers really meditate?

    The 5 Guidelines (minus the “as Hinault is doing here” in #1) are dot points under Rule #5. Awesome. Thank you.

  4. @chunt, @Oli Brooke-White
    Yeah…not the ’86 Tour, but it can’t be 1982, either, since he’s in a Renault-Gitane jersey, not a Renault-Elf jersey; it has to be 1980 or before, because I *think* that’s the last year before switching to Elf as the sub-sponsor. (Elf was a sponsor during the 78-80 period, but not the secondary sponsor.)

    What throws me is the aero brake levers, which I thought didn’t appear until after ’83.

  5. @Steampunk

    The Badger meditating beside his bike is much cooler than all this sitting around looking bored nonsense that’s been spouted around these parts.

    When are you going to forgive us for using the word “bored” in first describing Rule #80? What we meant was not “bored” but Casually Deliberate. We just hadn’t invented the term yet.

    I just ordered some Gyllenhaal arm warmers. Now I’m conflicted…

    You kept the receipt, yeah?

  6. @chunt

    Do badgers really meditate?

    Hellsyeah they meditate. On being Awesome, being badasses, obliterating their competition. Stuff like that.

  7. frank:
    @chunt, @Oli Brooke-White
    Yeah…not the ’86 Tour, but it can’t be 1982, either…

    Yeah…I knew it was older than ’86…the badger ain’t been a favorite of mine since the La Vie Claire team split at the ’86 Tour. 1986 Tour – LeMond embodied Rule #5 after pulling the badger to Tour victory the year before.

  8. frank:
    @chunt, @Oli Brooke-White
    Yeah…not the ’86 Tour, but it can’t be 1982, either, since he’s in a Renault-Gitane jersey, not a Renault-Elf jersey; it has to be 1980 or before, because I *think* that’s the last year before switching to Elf as the sub-sponsor. (Elf was a sponsor during the 78-80 period, but not the secondary sponsor.)
    What throws me is the aero brake levers, which I thought didn’t appear until after ’83.

    Frank, I’m sorry but your Wiki search is no match for my mad skillz. The team was known as Renault-Elf-Gitane in ’81 and ’82, and you can see the word Elf on his shoulder in the photo above. Also, the headband was an ’82 trademark as can clearly be seen in the poorly scanned picture from my copy of “Tour ’82”.

    Don’t mess with the Oli-san!

  9. Frank, you excel yourself with this post, lovin’ it. All points above I will pass on to the brethren here in Southampton. Your most humble disciple, dave :-)

  10. @Oli Brooke-White

    Don’t mess with the Oli-san!

    Olo I’m loving this recent no-nonsense streak you’re on at the mo, I can only imagine what the sledging was like when you raced.
    Not to nitpick, or to damage my chances of reading “Tour ’82” in your shop soon, but Bernard appears to have different mitts in the second pic, not to mention gum hoods as opposed to black, the aforementioned aero levers are absent, as is the aero bottle/cage.

  11. That’s because in Frank’s photo he’s waiting with his TT bike for the start of a time trial, and in my picture he’s on his road bike in a road stage. You won’t find a picture of him in the ’81 Tour with a headband in any stage. Czech my stats.

  12. frank:
    @Steampunk

    The Badger meditating beside his bike is much cooler than all this sitting around looking bored nonsense that’s been spouted around these parts.

    When are you going to forgive us for using the word “bored” in first describing Rule #80? What we meant was not “bored” but Casually Deliberate. We just hadn’t invented the term yet.

    I just ordered some Gyllenhaal arm warmers. Now I’m conflicted…

    You kept the receipt, yeah?

    1. Is there anything casually deliberate about the Badger above? No, I didn’t think so. End of.

    2. I’ll wait until they arrive, but I did order mine with guns (or at least have some to go in them).

  13. @Brett @Nate

    Perhaps there’s an out (or grounds for further pillory-ing): I didn’t order the Rapha ones, but the less expensive, but equally attractive, Tørm ones to accompany a couple of their jerseys.

  14. “training is like wrestling a gorilla””you don’t stop when you’re tired””you stop when the gorilla is tired.”

  15. seems like most of you on here are battling a little Gyllenhaal Syndrome. It’s ok, it’s something that most cyclists share, so you have an excuse, but don’t let it distract you from what’s most important. The V.

  16. Seeing these pictures of the badger reminds me of the 1983 Tour of America, I came down in the morning to the sight of Hinault in a head to toe thermal suit that was made by Santini. the most striking aspect was the bright turquoise color.

  17. @Dan Ingram

    just visiting and i must say i like this words as well…

    for full disclosure, i just starting riding last year with a giant MTB fell in love with the road so recently bought a road bike.

  18. Eytbol:
    @Dan Ingram
    just visiting and i must say i like these words as well…
    for full disclosure, i just starting riding last year with a giant MTB fell in love with the road so recently bought a road bike.

  19. i’m sorry for the double post and any typo errors…

    writing comments in forums and working with the boss walking around don’t mix very well…

    see you around… hopefully riding fast, riding hard. peace out!

  20. Just want to step in on a little detail – real pedals/clips and straps – pre Look stuff but what gets my attention is the little plastic tab on the end of the strap (maybe Binda’s?). Man I loved those things when they came out. I do not know what they were called but they were da Bomb. They slotted onto the strap and then were secured with a little screw in the middle that went through the leather.

    Campy pedals, Binda (with the fiberglass reinforcement) straps, leather shoes and the little plastic tab and man it was the best set up ever. I was sort of sad when Look pedals rolled in as I was so into how my feet connected olds school and that little bit was the last piece of the pie so that when you reached down with 1/2 kilo to go to tighten up it was like a vice and your sprint showed it.

  21. Pedale.Forchetta:
    Come on, you can’t like this kind of guy… or not?

    This is why we like him!

    Someone else will have to explain – I have never punched anyone nor do I think anyone should… but some how i don’t see the Schlecks doing this.

  22. @Oli Brooke-White

    Czech my stats.

    Your stats, as always, are unimpeachable. Sweet that a TT setup used to consist of hiding brake cables and a skinny water bottle though. Was there different geo/setup too? Or just lashings of extra V?

  23. CJ, very occasionally the geo was a bit steeper, but not often as the belief that changing position between bikes was a bad thing was much more ingrained.

    Prior to this pale imitation of aero the main way to set up a TT bike was to get your road bike and whack on some 28s with silk tubs, then dropping those elbows as far as humanly possible – that was it!

  24. Steampunk :
    1. The Badger meditating beside his bike is much cooler than all this sitting around looking bored nonsense that’s been spouted around these parts. I’ll grant that at least 50% of that is Badger, but even in rest, you know he’s turned on to 11.

    Such an excellent post! Totally agree with you. He’s deep in the mental V there. “Mental toughness”–the two words that were my mantra all through SERE school, baby!

  25. And check out that water bottle on the TT bike. I never knew that they had any aero bottles way “back-in-the-day” like that one.

  26. Rob :

    Pedale.Forchetta:Come on, you can’t like this kind of guy… or not?

    This is why we like him!
    Someone else will have to explain – I have never punched anyone nor do I think anyone should… but some how i don’t see the Schlecks doing this.

    Totally! The best we get these days is two guys with spaghetti arms cat fighting in the peloton or maybe trying to swing a wheel at someone at the finish. That photo is HARDCORE, man. Just awesome!

  27. @Rob

    This also reminded me of the “Opinion” page in the latest issue of Cyclesport-America where they discuss that, in their opinion, the peloton is “just too nice.”
    I loved their following lines that made me laugh out loud, “Riders are getting way too nice for our liking. Bernard Hinault wouldn’t have hugged Contador. He’d have flushed his head down the toilet and then taken his lunch money.” Now if THAT doesn’t nail the Badger, then what does?

  28. @Marko
    Thanks Marko

    @Buck Rogers
    I raced New England in the early eighties and there were a lot of kids who were college educated and middle class as well as working kids. The tone was pretty gentlemanly most of the time.

    One summer I worked in London and did the club races at Crystal Palace and the Hackney Marshes. The crowd there was much more working class and tough and the races reflected it – a lot of serious riding and no shit attitude – it was great. I imagine thats what it was like in the Badgers day in the pro peloton, also the prize money was shit so you had to be hard.

  29. @Rob
    Too cool! I started racing in VT/NH/ME and Mass in 1988. I agree, I never saw anything rough in my races but when you are alking about the old pro’s, in the tough days of yesteryear, it was a different story!

  30. @Oli Brooke-White

    Frank, I’m sorry but your Wiki search is no match for my mad skillz.

    Ha! I’m flattered that you assumed I put enough effort into it to do that much research. Sadly no. I had, however, completely forgotten about that period where it was Renaul-Elf-Gitane. Thanks for the reminder. Great picture. Any chance you have one where he’s showing the full jersey?

  31. Hmm, no sorry. The best I can do are these – the first is the Teams list from Tour 82…

    …and this one from the 1982 Giro podium shows the Cycles Gitane logo that was below the Elf logo on the jersey and is the first photo (after extensive searching!) I have of him wearing the headband.

  32. Once you begin to meditate upon The V, signs appear everywhere (brochure from my hotel last week)

  33. I recently failed on a hill in Victoria’s mornington peninsula. The rules immediately entered my mind and I was so ashamed of stopping I went back down and rode it again.

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