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235: Visual Slippage

Joe Staples wrote a nice little piece the other day about lying to yourself. I was featured in the post, but I think that it should be noted that it is solely because I ride with him all the time, not because I have any bearing on the actual outcome. He could trash me in a second. Most of these people that we ride with could. Only thing is - I was not wearing kneewarmers - psshh - who wears knee warmers?

But the truth of the matter is that he got me thinking about the ways that I lie to myself. And, at this point I will only tell you the cycling ones. If we were to go into the others things could get what you might call 'a little messy.' And then I am sure that I would start lying to you, which would be bad, or worse than just lying to myself.

I do not know if what I do would be considered lying because I am fully aware of it when it is happening and am also fully aware when it is over. What happens is that I start to slip, at least visually, and when the slipping starts, it is very, very difficult to stop. And I plead with myself (which is where the lying might factor in) but it is the whole procession of slipping that really is the point.

Most of us when riding get very focused on what is directly in front of us. Possibly not Jens Voigt his focus probably rests somewhere on the top of Pain Mountain, trust me you will never see it, this mountain, because it is in a far off land somewhere. Only he and a few others can see it. Bruce Lee probably saw it. Myself? I tend to focus directly on what is front of me.

Visual Slipping

Barring any real ailments I feel to be in pretty good health at the moment. The big toenail of my right foot fell of recently for no real apparent reason. But, other than that I feel to be the picture of perfect health — except for the fact that I am blind as a bat. I know that everyone says this at some point, especially if they wear glasses, which I do, but seriously I am fucking blind.

For example: I saw some old friends recently. These old friends have not been seen by me in quite some time, and during our time apart I purchased new glasses. This was their response to these glasses; "New glasses eh? I do not remember your glasses making your eyes look all bulgy and buglike the last time I saw you in them. Are they getting thicker?" Thanks guys, just for putting it out there, and yes they are.

For example2: If I were to lose one of my contacts in a race. I would stop and get off my bike. It really would be dangerous for me to be riding blind as a bat.

But the point of that is this: My slipping happens visually.

A person much wiser than myself once taught me a visual trick to help me close the distance between myself and another rider in front of me. He had noticed that I was letting too great a gap open and when he mentioned it to me, for one I did not know what he was talking about, and for two I said "well, why would I want to get that close to another cyclist, I might hit his rear wheel and take us both out." (this happened one time and it was not pretty)

So, being a much smarter cyclist than myself he passed along a little knowledge. "Look straight through the bike ahead of you and focus on their front hub." I tried and it worked extremely well. "You'll know what they are doing [by the movement of their front wheel] and instinctively move with them, and at the same time, you will be aware of the space between both of your bicycles."

It was easy, made sense and works every time. Until you start slipping.

If it happens quick, the slip, your vision will go blurry (you'll wonder if a contact fell out, like me) and you will quickly realize that you have exerted yourself a little too much and plain lost the wheel in front of you. Commence heavy breathing and stamping on the pedals. This method is a bit preferred only because it feels like an accident and any gap you have created can, hopefully, be quickly eliminated.

The slow ones are the ones to watch out for because by the time you realize they have happened, it could be over.

Phase One:
First my vision goes from the front hub to the bottom bracket. This seems ok to me because there is more visible motion happening in this area. The cranks are spinning effortlessly, smoothly in their little press-fit shell (little joke). This can also be an area of wonderment because this is where all the power from the legs is being transformed into forward motion. Even if it does mean I have slipped a little bit - and I am not worried about it.

Phase Two:
When you have gone from the bottom bracket to the read hub, then it is time to start worrying. Take note of what is happening (you are going backward) and start to work to counteract what is happening. I am slipping, ever so slightly off the wheel of whomever is in front of me. Immediately following this revelation, my sight will go to the very back of their back tire. Now, is time to be worried.

Phase Three:
Once I have exhausted the bike in front of me, it is time to move onto your own. Visual Slippage has now taken its toll and what you are left with, fortunately or unfortunately is your own bicycle. The machine underneath you. The problem here, well now you do not have a wheel to follow. Now you are left to your own devices. And if you do not have the mental fortitude of Jens (which unfortunately I do not) Well, then, I hope at least you are having fun.

It is possible to counteract the slip however. All it takes is the mental strength to reverse the process. Quite literally force yourself to look from the rear tire to the rear hub. Punch your eyeballs from the rear hub back up to the bottom bracket. Watch the spinning. And then when you have settled back into the rhythms that have kept you there in the first place. Move your eyes a bit further up to the front hub. Voila. Counteracted.

And while easier said than done, it is something to think about.

Today I slipped, fell off. Clawed my way back on. Slipped again, scratched the inside of my soul until it was raw, and then just decided to be content with how my knees looked bobbing on their own.

Then I was kindly berated for letting this side of things slip too. But it is definitely good to be out and about...

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