Wankmeister cycling clinic #11: The lefty wobbly
May 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
All my friends call me “Lefty Wobbly,” even though my name is Herbert. I got this awful nickname because every time I look over my left shoulder to see what’s going on behind me, you know like cars or who’s on my wheel or checking for cops before I blow through the stop signs in Hermosa, my bike kind of veers off to the left. I’ve tried everything to fix it. But no matter what, as soon as look over my shoulder, I head off to the left, which is really dangerous because it takes me out into the lane and stuff. I get majorly honked at when this happens and usually almost killed to death, plus chop wheels of whoever’s behind me and crash out all my bros. They don’t like that too much.
I want to be rock solid straight like all the good chick riders and dudes and get rid of this sorry ass nickname. “Lefty Wobbly?” What about “Straight Hard Iron Tough Dude Like Fukdude?”
Annoyedly and frightenedly at the same time,
Wankmeister sifts through eighty zillion emails a day from his reader, so when this one hit the inbox it positively made my day. Finally, a legit question. Admittedly, the asker’s a total wanker, but the question is rock solid, unlike your lookback technique. So instead of reviewing some dumb book or some dumber bike race, Wanky’s gonna put on a clinic. Strap on your seatbelt.
The reason your bike veers left (aside from the fact that you’re a goofball) is because the turning neck muscles slightly pull on your left shoulder when your head spins around. The slight motion tenses your left arm, the muscles contract a tad, and that “tad” moves the bike to the left. The muscles on your left side also tighten because your turning head, which weighs about 10 pounds hairless (and much less with the typically atrophied cyclist brain), swings out to the left, kind of like if you had a giant watermelon on your shoulders that suddenly leaned off to one side. Of course it’s going to pull everything with it.
So the whole point is to stop the muscles in your left shoulder and arm from tightening up when the watermelon goes looking for whatever it’s looking for. There are four ways to do this.
1. Get a dork mirror. There are zillions of kinds of these. They all work perfectly, which is to say they make you look like a perfect dork. The big drawback is that everyone will laugh at you and say, “Yo, dork!” This is a small price to pay for not getting run over by a car. Unfortunately, even if you go big and get one of those whomperdaddy motorcycle mirrors, or one of those massive adjustable four-frame deals they hang from the window of an 18-wheeler, at some point you’re still going to have to turn around and look, which kind of puts you back to square 2, which is next.
2. Let go with your left hand. If you’re riding on the tops, just let go with your left hand. Your right hand is plenty to stabilize the bike and keep you from crashing, and with your left hand off the bars, your rotating watermelon will still pull your left shoulder and arm, but since the hand isn’t connected to the bars, who gives a shit? The bike will go in a straight line. You can then gaze over your left shoulder for hours, or until you smash into a parked car, whichever comes first. There’s a great example of this in the 2001 Paris-Roubaix video, where Romans Vainsteins turns back to see what’s behind him. He drops his left hand to his side and turns all the way around on the bike. Of course, if you have the 2001 P-R video and know what I’m talking about, you can do this shit in your sleep.
3. Right bow bend. Maybe for some reason you don’t want to let go with your left hand. Like, you’re on the NPR and there are thirty idiots in front and thirty idiots behind and you’re scared out of your fucking mind, but you still want to see if that cute chick you invited to the ride is on your wheel. In this case, with your hands on the tops, relax your right elbow so that it droops. When you spin the melon, the droopy right elbow compensates for the pulling on the left shoulder and arm, and the bike stays straight. This works because the drooping right arm pulls the bike to the right, and the turning head pulls the bike to the left. The two movements cancel each other out, kind of like when you say “Blow job?” and she says “Chick flick?” and so you end up doing nothing.
4. Chin tuck. Sometimes you have to do a super quick check, like when you’re firing through the turn in a crit with two turns to go and you’re setting up to get 78th in the sprint, ahead of that dude who beat you out for 75th last week. Turn your head, but rest your chin on your shoulder. This keeps the watermelon from flapping in the wind and from hanging out over the edge of your shoulder and starting the death spiral of veering to the left. If you want to be completely rad, you can do the bow bend with the chin tuck simultaneously.
So there. Don’t say I never taught you anything.