Musings on cadence & craft

April 11, 2023

IMG 1227The picture on the left was taken on 18th June 2018 when I collected my new bike from the Bike Whisperer in Newbury.  Scherrit had previously tuned my Audax and Cyclocross bikes to good effect and as we talked I ended up with him designing a replacement for the Audax.  That had been put together for me by Dave Yates up in Newcastle a couple of decades earlier and much as I still enjoyed riding it the technology had moved on.  I still take it out occasionally as it now counts as a classic but the new one is lighter and more efficient.   Scherrit designed the frame which was commissioned in titanium by Burles. Then Corinne and I spent a lot of time selecting the wheels,  group set and so on to achieve the perfect combination.  When you have ridden a bespoke bicycle you are spoilt for an off-the-shelf version and to be honest the price is not that different..

I shifted from Campagnolo to Shimano on the group set which I wasn’t wild about but then the automatic gear shift and disc brakes were more advanced and considerably cheaper so that was an easy decision in practical terms but more difficult emotionally.  I had bought into the Campag wears in, Shimano wears out school of thinking for many years.  The dynamics of two dominant suppliers and their tribes are interesting.  I’m firmly in the Nikon over Canon school in photography for example. I still regret the necessity from time to time but it has been a loyal steed for coming on for five years and I take it for 50km runs whenever I am home and have free time; you don’t don lycra for less.  It’s done 200km in a day and that is probably my max these days.

When I say collected I’m really not sure that is the right word. We spent a couple of hours making multiple adjustments to ensure everything was perfect.  I wasn’t just buying a machine, I was engaged in a complex set of interactions of which the physical object was a key part but it was much more than that.  At this level, we are still talking about a craft industry in the fitting and the frame, even though many of the components arise from an industrial process.  That combination is what is often missed in the one size fits all consultancy receipts that are all too common, although now coming under significant challenge.  More on that in a future post.

The big technology switch on the new bike was the electronic gear shift.  Although you still choose when to make the change the electronics handle the actual shift.  Including a clever feature by which if you switch from the large cog to the smaller one on the front, it makes a similar one-cog shift on the rear so the power you have to exercise doesn’t undergo such a rapid change.  Also, it’s much easier to change at lower speeds and going uphill and all around there is little challenge in gear shifting.  That makes it a lot easier to achieve the magic of a constant cadence.   If your legs keep going around at roughly the same pace it’s better overall and you use the gears to make it possible.  That said, my cadence climbing the hill from Alton Barnes is much slower than when I reach the summit and have a glorious run gently downhill back to the house.   The first time I took it out I shaved eight minutes off my previous 50km fastest time getting it just under two hours for the whole circuit – which involves a fair amount of climbing.  The Gamen computer tells me I burn at least 2000 calories every time I do that ride.

As you may have gathered I am a roadie, not an adrenaline junkie; our fond name for mountain bikers.  I like endurance activities cycling and walking in part for the meditative qualities of both activities.    After about 10km you get into a sort of grove and only some idiot of a motorist not realising the impact of potholes and a restricted turning circle on a cycle can disrupt it.  Constant cadence is a part of that, and the rhythm of the legs peddling without significant stress is all critical.   If the cadence falls then stability can go with it and what should be a pleasure becomes increasingly traumatic.  The last time I got up Gospel Pass I let the cadence fall off before the really steep bit and while I didn’t suffer the shame of getting off and walking I was standing up with the bike going from side to side and the iWatch increasingly warning me of imminent heart failure.

Now there is a metaphor in this as well.  In the EU Field Guide,  we take about the recovery phase post-crisis as requiring cadence and control and the two are related.   Cadence gives stability in organisations as well as on the bike and it’s a different type of control with lower energy costs.  So one of the issues for management is how to gear activities in order to keep the flow constant at a suitable pace.  With the right cadence, you don’t have to think about control much.

I’m going to pick up on both the nature and role of craft as well as the metaphor of cadence in future posts.  For the moment this is what the title says, a set of musings to get me, and hopefully the reader, thinking more about the subject.

The banner picture is of me on the descent from Annapurna basecamp in near-perfect conditions on the 28th of March 2016, taken by Michael who was part of the tracking party.  Cadence is also important when walking …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


Social Links: The Cynefin Company
Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
< Prev

… more things in heaven & earth

- No Comments

I picked up a mailing from New Scientist this morning with the headline Two of the ...

More posts

Next >

Improvisation as a craft

- No Comments

I can’t remember the exact context but in a recent online session, I ended up ...

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram