Look Pro: Escape Velocity

Sean Yates hits escape velocity
Sean Yates hits escape velocity

Three things can send me from a deep sleep to sitting bolt upright in bed, gasping in terror. First is the most obvious, which is any dream involving visions of spiders. Second is dreaming of being dragged off or otherwise being aware of impending doom and opening my mouth to scream but having no sound come out. An alternate of this dream is one requiring me to fire a gun in self defense and not being strong enough to pull the trigger, the irony being that boasting that kind of upper body strength would indicate I’m finally at climbing weight, which should normally be cause for celebration. Third is being on a ride with fellow Cyclists and friends, and watching helplessly as they prematurely deploy an aero tuck.

I’ve been seeing this more and more in real life, and when I do it’s like being in a dream from which I can not wake. Would that the Elders on Mount Velomis dispatch the Man with the Hammer tout de suite  to anyone who engages in this most egregious of Un-Pro acts.

Pedaling is what makes the bike go. If you wish to add more “go” to the bike, the first thing one should consider doing is pushing on the pedals harder. If that doesn’t work, consider buying a new bit of kit like fresh bar tape, which clinical studies have shown also makes the bike go faster. If you have exhausted all possibilities of purchasing more Go-Faster Kit and are still experiencing unsatisfactory results, one has no alternative but to resort immediately to training and getting stronger. Once this is accomplished, go back to the basics of pushing on the pedals. Eventually, it will work and you’ll go faster.

Under no circumstance does the stopping of pedaling add speed to the bike. The most one can hope for is that through dodgy contortions to reduce the rider’s frontal surface area that the amount slower the bike goes may be reduced somewhat. At any time that the rider has not reached escape velocity, a low tuck combined with pedaling will always be faster than a premature tuck.

The aero tuck is a defensive tactic to be used only after the cadence has climbed so high as to become untenable. At this point an aggressively low and compact tuck may be used to tremendous effect. Sean Yates and Greg LeMond were both known for their insane aero tucks which allowed them to reach speeds of well over 100 km/h. Pedaling at those speeds would requires a cadence of 150 rpm or more and a stroke so magnificent as to be out of reach for any mortal.

The Velominatus is to study the aero tuck at length, including all variations of using the drops or drop-ins should you suddenly find yourself riding in 1990, as well as the tops. Always turn your elbows and knees in as close to the center-line of the bike as possible. Place your pedals at a fairly level position. Experiment with hanging your tush off the back of the bike or your shoulders over the front wheel. Learn how to use the area between your saddle and top tube as a perch of equal parts discomfort and speed. Determine which of these yields the optimal combination of speed and limiting the risk of requiring skin grafts.

It is acceptable to tuck immediately before and during a high speed corner. Once the corner is exited, it is mandatory that the rider being pedaling furiously at once. I might also add that should you wish to coast prior to reaching escape velocity, adopt a Casually Deliberate position on the bike and avoid tucking at all costs.

The following are indicators that you have prematurely deployed an aero tuck.

  1. Being passed by a child on either a Skuut or a BMX. 
  2. Being passed by a Cyclist resembling a spinnaker, who is sitting upright on the tops and casually pedaling a small gear. This happens much too often.
  3. You are not cornering.
  4. Your cadence is 120 or less, or you have not yet dropped the chain into the smallest cog available. If you are unable to pedal smoothly at 120 or more, stop what you are doing and go practice your magnificent stroke.
  5. Your have not yet handily dropped the motor traffic which surrounded you near the beginning of the descent.

I implore you to help me stop living my nightmares and only tuck once you’ve reached escape velocity. Your assistance in this matter is most appreciated.

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53 Replies to “Look Pro: Escape Velocity”

  1. @mouse


    @Daccordi Rider

    I’m trying to think of the last American who rode on the front and wasn’t

    a) Brett Bookwalder

    b) On the juice

    Jack Bauer? Oh yeah nah.

    Greg Hender… whoops nope.

    Hayden Roulsten, he’s on an American team ay? Yeah nah to that one too.

    Uuuuuummmm, surely Garmin or Radioschleck have at least one? I was taking the piss but now I can’t actually think of one.

    Ah, c’mon. They’ve got TJ Vangarderen….


    I choose this time to conveniently become Dutch and point you to my boy Gesink hauling for 30km on the front, and the two Dutchies in the top V.

    And, in a history-defying feat, Gesink didn’t even fall off yesterday.

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