IntRo to BIcycle SectIon

The map is not a territory. — alfred Korzbyski

chapteR 28


t’s one of humanity’s most universal rites of passage, acted out in every language in parking lots, on paved driveways, in rutted dirt roads and on manicured lawns, in every country on Earth. A parent, a child, two wheels, a saddle and a set of handlebars.

With few variations, the drill is always the same: the parent is the eager teacher; the child the apprehensive student. The pusher and the pushee. The one who understands momentum and the one whom momentum terrifies. Sometimes it happens in that first lesson, sometimes it becomes a long, drawn–out affair of despair and bodily damage, but eventually the apprentice grasps the concept: keep pedaling and the bike will keep moving. And, of course, the converse: stop pedaling and eventually the bike will fall over. At the point of epiphany there are smiles around. The proud parent glows, secure in the reaffirmed knowledge that “my kid does too have the necessary motor skills and brains to ride a bicycle.” As for the child, now radiating exuberance, it’ll be at least another decade before he or she experiences a comparable thrill to the freedom and sheer joy that comes from riding a bicycle. Horizons have expanded, vistas are open; the world has just become comfortably smaller. In the afterglow of that first success, there are some peremptory instructions: ride on the right (or left if it’s in England, Austra-

fig.28.1 Dr. Romanov standing next to an old cycle at the bicycle museum.

174  |  the Pose method oF triAthlon techniques lia, South Africa…) side of the road, obey all traffic signs, watch out for cars, and get home before dark. Triumph. The kid knows how to ride a bike. And that’s pretty much it. For the vast majority of people, there is never another word of instruction on the technique of riding a bicycle, because everybody knows you never forget how to ride a bike. So, when the beginner first latches onto the notion of becoming a bike racer or doing a triathlon, there’s never a thought given to learning how to ride. It’s all about gear, gears and training. Get a trick bike, super light with the best components, the newest tri–bars and the most aero wheels and then start training like a pro, putting the time in and racking up the miles. Crazy, isn’t it? Cycling newbies will start riding 100, 200, 300 or more miles a week and never give a thought to the technique of riding a bicycle. In fact, most will think there is no room for technique. After all, your legs move in a fixed circle, right? What else can you do except move them faster and faster and ride bigger and bigger gears? For those who do enter the strange realm of trying to improve performance by improving technique, there are enough theories and strategies to confuse even the most lucid thinker. Apply force evenly throughout all 360º degrees of the pedaling stroke, goes one theory. You can get the feel by acting like you’re scraping mud off of the bottom off your shoe. Another variation of the same theory encourages single–leg pedaling during training until you get to the point where you can feel the pull on your leg all through the upstroke. Feel that pull and you know you’re applying power… or so you would be asked to believe. Another plan suggests riding cadences of 90 rpm for group riding, but pushing much bigger gears at cadences of 75–80 rpm for time trialing and triathlon. Ride huge miles, pedal low cadences for fast speeds and you’ll be winning your age group in no time. Right. Or you could wind up with serious saddle sores, dead legs, limited family life and an ongoing frustration with your chronic inability to improve. Which brings us back to the central question that lingers in the shadows of all human locomotion sports: is there a single, definable BEST WAY to ride a bicycle? In a word, yes. Not only is there a best way, but the relatively small amount of time you will devote to mastering proper cycling skills will pay off with benefits far in excess of simply grinding out the miles with no adjustments to your riding technique.

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