Friday, November 29, 2013

Cyclocross: The Contrary Dismount


Lets say you are approaching a set of barriers, or a run up, you don't want to bunny hop them for fear of embarrassing failure, so what do you do? You do a running dismount, of course. It is standard practice anytime you swing leg over your cross bike. The real question is, to which side of the bike do you dismount?

Surfers, skateboarders, even mountain bikers, refer to the practice of riding right foot forward as goofy footing. Even someone like me who has never surfed, and was never anything more than class 'A' laughing material on a skateboard, is familiar with these terms. Baseball players who throw left-handed are 'southpaws'. My point is that these activities have specific terms (slang) relating to specific means or actions. If you have raced cyclocross, studied it, hung out at races, or at least looked at photos, you may have noticed that most racers, something like 99% of them dismount as they approach obstacles from the left side of their bikes. As rare as that other 1% are, I don't think they have ever been graced with a disparaging uh, distinguishing name. Correct me if I am wrong.

The common left-side dismount is not unique to cyclocross, it is the most common side to dismount in what ever form of cycling. Most people also mount up from the left side; more than that, even if they are on the right side of their bikes, they will walk all the way around to the left side in order to mount up. The argument for this has always been that doing so (mounting/dismounting) on the left side allows the rider to avoid contact with the chain. True enough, and in cyclocross where dismounting also is typically followed by picking up the bike and running, the point is an even more valid one.

Now lets go back to that first set of questions. You're in a fair sized group of racers approaching the barriers. You are almost shoulder to shoulder with one racer on the left, another on the right. You unclip the right shoe, swing that leg over the saddle, quick kick out of the left pedal and ... land flat on your face. What just happened? Well, maybe you got your own feet tangled up, ya klutz. But no, turns out the actions of the guy on your left mirrored your own resulting in two pairs of tangled legs attempting to occupy the same space at the same time. I believe there is a law of science, or physics, relating to this - specifically how it is a spatial impossibility. I don't really know how often this scenario has played out, nor how likely it really is. It does seem a possibility though, and one that would lead to a few choice names being cast about. Anyway, those are not the kind of names I am looking for in this case. 

Now keep in mind, there is nothing inherently wrong with the contrary, or right-side dismount. In fact riders who can effectively dismount from either side of the bike may have a distinct advantage. Biology, anthropology, and various other natural sciences tell us that in evolutionary time, such riders will be favored over those who can dismount from only one side. But then that is an entirely different argument. 

The question now, for all you more knowledgeable cx'ers, is there a name for a rider who dismounts on the right? Is there a name for the act of dismounting on the right?

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