Look good, feel good, ride good

In my experience cycling wisdom is, like any other wisdom, a mixture of the profound, the mystical and the bleedin’ obvious!

It’s all well and good to dispense advice about carrying spare inner tubes, learning how to fix basic mechanical problems, and exercising a bit of sound judgement around traffic, but I prefer the wisdom that is a bit less functional and practical, and a bit more…what’s the word?


This little pearl of wisdom caught my eye recently (from www.bikeradar.com):

“Whenever you get in conversation with another cyclist keep dropping the word cadence into the conversation at any opportunity, don’t worry if it’s not relevant to the conversation, just say it anyway.”

Sound advice indeed.

"What's that mate?" "Cadence..." (Image: sumofmarc Flickr CC)
“What’s that mate?”
(Image: sumofmarc Flickr CC)

The last thing you want to do on chatting with a fellow cyclist is to give the impression you don’t know what you’re talking about, and the concept of cadence falls nicely into that sweet spot between the slightly pretentious and the mildly informed. It suggests that you give consideration to the mechanics of cycling beyond the level of the average weekend hack, but without straying into the genuine science of power output, VO2 max, and reverse periodisation.

If you wanted to chance your arm slightly you might decide to develop the conversation to discuss the high cadence mountain climbing technique of Lance Armstrong in his (EPO and testosterone fuelled) prime, but tread carefully; you are clearly now risking getting into a functional and practical conversation about drugs in sport, the concept of risk and reward, and the nature of morality.

This is unlikely to be entertaining.

You’d be on far safer ground changing the subject and quoting recently retired Scottish cyclist and furious anti-doping campaigner David Millar, and his words of wisdom:

“Always ride with clean shoes.”

The shoes maketh the man, after all, and I’m fully behind Millar on this one. It may seem like a flippant and throwaway line, but surely the psychological benefit to be had from a pair of pristine clean shoes might be worth a few extra kilometres per hour on the bike. It’s a bit like that extra spring in the step that can be gained from having a nice haircut; you look good, you feel good, you ride good.

Not grammatically the best sentence I’ve ever written, perhaps, but it’s catchy isn’t it?

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m no clean freak; I don’t polish the apples in the fruit bowl, line up the tins of food alphabetically in my kitchen cupboards, or insist on keeping my bedroom in the pristine state of a freshly laundered hotel room, but if I come across a fellow cyclist at the start of a ride with a filthy bike and mucky shoes I quickly conclude that we might be cut from different cloth.

I may give all outward appearances of having a nice little chat with this less-than-clean individual, but my eyes are involuntarily flicking to the build-up of muck on his drive-train and wondering what kind of person thinks it’s acceptable to buy a £100 pair of shoes and allow them to fester.

Perhaps I’m on my own with all this?

Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “c’mon ragtime, what’s all this nonsense you’re spouting – I want wisdom and advice about interval training, nutrition, and bike set-up.”

But I’d much rather get into a heated debate about clean shoes.


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