Leading with the Right...

I imagine everyone has a certain way of doing daily things, and by that I mean that those things are done the same way every time you do them. You know, maybe you put your left shoe on first, push your left arm through the shirt sleeve before the right, those sort of things. Routines like these get carried over into our cycling lives too. I have mentioned before how I put the same things in the same jersey pocket each time I ride. I also clip out of the left pedal every time I come to a stop, when I descend with pedals at three and nine o'clock, my right foot is always forward, left back (I guess that makes me a goofy foot descender). When I come to an intersection I look three times - left, right, and left again. The bidon is removed from its cage by the right hand while the left grips the handlebars.

There is another one that I recently realized. Maybe I noticed it in the past and forgot, I don't know. When I rise out of the saddle to attack a short hill, or maybe just to stretch on a longer one, I will always, always, rise with the right foot pushing down and the left pulling up around the back of the pedal stroke. By a fluke, for what ever reason, I did it the opposite the other day. It felt odd and completely unnatural, and it took several more rotations before I could manage to get myself back into sync. At that point I realized that I must never lead with the left. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense; when starting from a stop, my right foot is clipped in, so naturally leads off with the first downward stroke; this must be carried-over when I rise out of the saddle.

right foot over the top annndddd rise. perfect.

I know, this is no stop the world revelation, something akin to the first time you successfully rode no-handed; but at that instant, the thought "whoa, what just happened there?" flashed across my brain like some expensive, and unnecessary, electronic billboard. A routine had been broken, a long line of habitual practice, built up mile upon mile, had been severed. Clearly I must not be cycling's equivalent of a switch-hitter in baseball.

For the most part, humans are creatures of pattern and routine. When we find "a way" that works, we stick with it. That "way" might be reached through trial and error, and thus truly be the best "way". Time trialists who perfect their position on the bike in a wind tunnel are a text book example of this. For most of us, and for most things we do, the "way" is more likely to be a matter of coincidence, or happenstance, and repetition. We first do something a certain way, and that way then becomes reinforced through repetition.

After the little hiccup occurred, two thoughts came to me: First, was this some kind of unique aberration, or have other people experienced it. It is not something you can plan and expect to get the same result. You can't think to lead with the left, rather than the right; the act of planning would negate the sensation of surprise. 

My second thought was: Could a rival use this information to gain an advantage? I have read that the great Fausto Coppi had a vein at the back of this knee that would prominently bulge when he was put under pressure. His rivals would closely watch, and when the vein made its appearance would announce to their teammates, " the vein, the vein". You could count on attacks to immediately follow. There is more than a little bit of difference, of course; watching for a sign which may present itself over several, or more, minutes is one thing. Attempting to time an attack to coincide with a crank rotation taking all of a second or two, is something else entirely, especially in the chaos of the peloton.

I could easily put this all behind me. But. It is always at the back of my mind now, at least when I am riding solo. I approach a hill, ready to rise out of the saddle, right foot first, and now. Okay, very good; everything is right in the world. All it took to throw things out of whack, was to do it differently that one time. Cycling is nearly as much a mental exercise and it is a physical one - but this is one thing I would just as soon forget. Anyone else receive a shock when they unexpectedly do something different?


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