How Super is the Supertuck? Cycling and Descending’s Fastest Positions and Should Some Be Banned from the Pro Peloton?
I use the supertuck a lot. Hovering just above the top tube, back end against the seat post. It’s fast. Very fast. Descending, I coast as I pass friends who are pedaling in the standard position. I do this a lot.
I could technically test this out, to find out how much faster it is. I’ve got a hill just a mile from me that I can’t descend any faster than 52-mph in the proper, but aggressive flat-backed posture with my butt on the saddle. No matter how hard I pedal from the beginning to the middle of the hill, 51.92-mph is as fast as I can make my bike go. Unless I use the supertuck… but I won’t. If I could lay odds, I’d be just shy of 60-mph. After running the numbers, 57 is likely, 60 is a stretch. See, we actually know the numbers because someone actually tested this stuff. The supertuck, Sagan style (the one I use), is 17% more efficient that the standard position descending. I descend the hill I’m referring to in the “back horizontal” position which is 8% more efficient than what I’ll call the average cyclist’s descending position. So, take 51.92-mph, my top speed on that hill (on my Trek 5200 – top speed on the Venge is 56.8 on that same hill – who says the bike doesn’t matter?) and then add the 9% increase in efficiency and I come up with 56.59-mph. So call it 57 with just one more pedal stroke.
There’s a problem, though. Folks, I ride a bike for fun, and while top speed is fun, I know for a fact, a bicycle is meant to be ridden with one’s butt on the saddle, not on the top tube. The supertuck, while fast and fun, is not exactly easy or as stable as I’d like approaching 60-mph on tires less than an inch wide. Not only do I feel slightly less stable, say a little more “twitchy”, I don’t like the idea of putting pressure where pressure doesn’t belong on a 21-year-old carbon fiber frame (even if you technically don’t [or at least shouldn’t] put your full weight on the top tube – the idea is to hover, not plant).
And therein lies a common sense difference betwixt me and a kid paid to ride. I am very willing to have and know my limitations. I’m a 50-year-old man with a cycling hobby. While I very well may be an avid enthusiast, I don’t need to push those limits beyond feeling comfortable and relatively safe about what I’m doing. I feel fine about 50-mph, even though stopping for something that walked out into the road would be impossible – navigating around said animal would be almost as. I don’t feel “out of control” in the least, otherwise. Thinking about doing that favorite hill in the supertuck sets off alarm bells in my melon, though. So I don’t bother. I hit my 49 to 52-mph with a smile on my face and call it good.
Now, the question has been bandied about by a few pros, should these enhanced positions be banned in the pro peloton?
Folks, I refuse to get into the wokiest of woke discussions/arguments because my opinion doesn’t matter even a little bit – nor does the opinion of anyone else on how I or anyone else chooses to have their fun or, as the case may be, do their job.
Oh, sure, there are pros out there, and journalists who will give them a platform, who will shout from the rooftop, “we should cancel the supertuck for the safety of the children!” I disagree. I find the whole notion of banning the supertuck distasteful at best – part of a new societal cancer at worst. Oh, sure, we can all get behind banning the descending positions for the children. It is, after all, for the children! And who could be for hordes of unwitting children supertucking down hills on their mountain bikes at breakneck speeds only to, you know, break their necks?! I’m certainly not. But I’m not for ending the practice in the peloton, either (nor will I end it on my own bicycle).
In fact, I have to wonder if the pros who don’t like the position simply don’t like the fact that it really is faster and, while it is unquestionably less safe than the standard descending position, after reading up on Martin a little bit, I have a simpler explanation that follows the cancel culture’s drive to cancel everything.
See, certain people like to place blame for bad things happening where it doesn’t belong. Take Dan Martin blaming tour organizers for a crash he was involved in because it rained. Dan put the burden on “tour organizers” for allowing riders to descend a mountain on wet roads when the blame for the crash falls only on Riche Porte who cooked a slippery corner, went into the grass, back across the road and into Martin.
Where this gets interesting is Martin’s second crash of the day. Martin took a wheel from neutral support but the wheel didn’t work with his braking system (for whatever reason). Rather than call for a replacement bike/wheel from the team car, Martin went on and descended a mountain road on one brake (presumably, I can’t imagine Martin would be dumb enough to descend sans brakes). The one brake he had wasn’t enough and he cooked a corner because he couldn’t stop and went straight through it. Fortunately, Martin went through a corner that wasn’t on a cliff. He had to wait for the team car to get another bike and finished the Tour stage down a 1m:15s for his misfortune.
Did you see Dan Martin call for a ban on descending mountains with only one brake in the pro peloton?
No you didn’t, because only an idiot would do such a thing because the only award for that is Darwin’s. That’s exactly what he chose to do, though, and that asshat is lucky he didn’t take someone else out with him. I’d say ban Dan Martin for making a stupid decision before banning someone using the supertuck. Martin’s desire to win shut off his ability to rationally say, “Damn, this is stupid. I think I shall get a proper replacement wheel so I have f’ing brakes.” Did race organizers have anything to do with his stupid choice? No more than they did about Riche Porte taking a corner too fast on a bike that worked properly. Race organizers don’t want crashes in the peloton. Bicycle crashes aren’t like NASCAR wrecks where you have a likelihood of actually walking away. When pros crash their bikes, it’s usually at speed and somebody gets hurt, often severely. Nobody wants to see that, least of all, organizers… or fans of the sport.
Pros are supposed to know their limits. They’re also paid to push them. If you want to blame someone for pushing those limits too far, blame the person who did and call it good. As for this whole ridiculous “cancel culture”, stop it. You’re doing it wrong.
That’s my two cents.