Friday, August 10, 2007

Influences in Style

Each PRO has a style that is unique unto himself: Bartoli's careless drape of his hands on the tops, Der Jan's preference for the 53x12 on any course, Johnny Tomaction's fluidity, and LA's cadence when in the mountains. When I am out on my machine, whether my mountain or cross bike, in my mind's eye I envision these PROs and I can not help but be influenced by their style. Back in the 80s when skateboarding was experiencing its second big boom, Natas Kaupas came on the scene and brought with him the future of the skate industry and a style that was distinctly his own. Back then, I was an impressionable young lad and someone like Natas provided a style that I admired and could mimic. When I stumbled into road cycling, there were PROs whose style both as fashionistas and as cyclists I really admired (Merckx, of course, and De Vlaeminck, Vanderaerden, and Lemond were a few). I rode as much as I could and, in addition to trying to go fast, I tried to do it with style. I tried to do it like the PROs. I rode slowly by storefronts to size up my position, my style, the flatness of my back and height of my saddle.

Over the past 20 years, the style I tried to emulate helped me to form my own, and it came not from practice, but from discipline and mileage. High-mileage single-handedly has the greatest effect on a cyclist's style and, as we have seen from many old PROs, once you achieve it the form never goes away. It is as much earned as is the ability to ride a two-wheeler and once you master it, it's yours forever. I have seen plenty of OGs show up to a group ride and through experience, brains, and the pride that they use to propel them, hang in and not get dropped (despite being 25 pounds over weight and having only hundreds of miles in their legs).

I still watch the PROs in awe, the new guys and the old. The fluidity of their style that's almost effortless is intoxicating, and it is always a pleasure to watch those who are truly exceptional.

High Mileage = High Stylage

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Flyer I second that. Especially the 25lbs overweight and being able to hang from the result brains and form gained from the glory days.

gewilli said...

somewhat side question:

What is high mileage?

relative to what?

is it 5,000 miles a year? 10,000?

or can you achieve the high mileage status with a mere 1k?

-curious

Radio Freddy said...

gewilli - the high milage status is a moving target. If you are a PRO, 30+ per year is certainly considered high milage. I have always been impressed by local riders who manage 10-12k per year despite a busy schedule filled with other priorities. But in general, if you are out riding and making sacrifices to do it and the mileage is just above your comfort zone - you are high milage. But styleage is also relative. A person who rides 1000 miles a year has better form than someone who rides 500. I think the form that ex-roadies still carry is a result of cumulative miles over a career. - RF

zank said...

I always admire a rider who makes it look easy. With great fitness doesn't always come a fluid style though. Look at Escartin, if you can stand it. But that, in itself, is style. Is "style" earned when a PRO reaches the top, regardless of how horrible he looks while on his bike?

Radio Freddy said...

Z - There are certainly PROs who have no style, despite the high-milage. Escartin being one of them. But for the most part, the PROs have learned a craft, and a supple, fluid style is part of their education. When you see cyclists on a local level they tend to exhibit better, smoother style the more miles they ride. They same way I pedal squares at the beginning of the season and circles late in the season. - RF

tmos said...

High stylage:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=lgNx9oapkdI
(just missing some friction shfters)
GREAT POST!

nikcee said...

Radiofreddy...
There's me thinking you were some grizzled old rider and then you break out the natas references. natas (like gonz) has a unique but amazing style that you can tell was earnt with thousands of pushes, ollies and turns, something decidedly lacking in many of the johnny jumpdownabigrails today. even bad style like pushing mongo can be a style itself.

style can be natural, but is always honed over time...

if you ever make it up to vancouver I would love to take you for a ride (or buy you a beer) you are held in high esteem here...

personally i love the feeling of realising that what were once squares are now almost perfect circles.

josh said...

what about jens? the man IS style, yet in no way does he make it look easy, fluid, or graceful. many of us still wish to ride like him though ?

Bobke Strut said...

When I think PRO style, what pops into my head is Cycle Sport's excellent "Rare Groove" feature. And rider #1 in the series is one of my all-time favorites: Henk Lubberding. I actually grew out my lid into a full-on hippie mop...but was never able to have it flow in the wind quite like Henk due to those pesky hard-shell helmets.

For fluid pedal action I could watch Stephen Roche all day long. That man was smoooooth.

Greg said...

RF....AGAIN awesome post. So I am out on this ride here in town and I am with a fairly well known PRO who shall go nameless and what does he do as we roll past a series of store fronts? Checks his look in the reflection. HILARIOUS! We, cyclists, are ALWAYS in search of perfection on the bike.

Tim said...

Gonz has always been an icon of style, mentioning him in the same sentence as Natas is a must. style

Radio Freddy said...

Tim - True enough. The Gonz was pivotal in the evolution of skating. Peas in a pod.

Radio Freddy said...

nikcee - Thanks for the great addition. Gonz was surely an innovator and his style and contributions were amazing. For me, it was the Natas segment in Wheels of Fire that left my jaw hanging open. I was blown completely out of Vans. Next time I make it to Vancouver I will take you up on your offer. - RF

Anonymous said...

Mileage leads to mastery (stylage). The more you ride the better you get, the better you get the more you enjoy it and the more you enjoy it the more you want to do it. That is a perfect circle. Aikidi master, George Leonard says, "the master of any game is the master of practice." Read his great little book, Mastery.