Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jan Heine on Bicycle Planing again...on podcast

Photo of an Albacore dinghy planing, from Wikipedia.

Planing is Jan Heine's way of describing when a bicycle absorbs some of the energy from a pedal stroke into the frame and gives it back in the form of propulsion at a later moment in the pedal stroke. At least that is my one sentence take for the uninitiated. Jan publishes Bicycle Quarterly and the blog Off the Beaten Path. Jan explains that he and his pals were inspired by a boat's planing for their naming a process that others have described in bicycles in various ways over time. He didn't invent the concept, but as he says he has attempted to synthesize the notion and test it some.

If you are at all interested in bicycle design or how pedaling techniques interact with bicycles with varying tube sets and therefore a range of flexibilities, then you have to listen to this interview podcast of Jan Heine by Georgina Terry of Terry Bicycles. Because Georgina is herself a builder, this podcast has real depth and some back and forth going on.

What I am finding I really like about some podcasts is this very depth that you just don't get in the written word alone. The interchange brings out many nuances, and in this instance we get a much clearer sense of what Jan contends as well as what he has inklings of or wonders about but wouldn't put in print because he isn't sure just yet. I really enjoyed this podcast, and I found it very informative.

I know I probably sound like an apologist for Jan, but having seen how some have attacked him, at times pretty unkindly--including really getting after him on one listserve for his remarks on planing from my interview here with Jan (Part 2 of a 3 part interview)--I just want to say a few things. First, I think folks think bicycles are very simple when in fact they are simple to ride but are pretty complicated when it comes to their physics. I believe that leads some to assume we've got bicycles figured out and what could be so new, right?

But Jan rides a lot of different bicycles and puts them through the paces, along with some of his pals. He has a perspective from having ridden so many bicycles that is hard to match. Also, I believe much of what we think we know about bicycles, like most things these days, is informed by those who try to sell us things, in this case bicycles. They are marketed to us, and the marketers convince us of all kinds of things about tire rolling resistance, frame flexibility, number of gears we need, how a certain shifting mechanism will improve our ride, etc. And just because racers ride some of the bicycles doesn't mean what they need in a bicycle is what we need.

And, when someone challenges some of the things we "know"--like Jan does--some get edgy.

Now I'm not saying everything Jan contends is right on, but I don't know anyone who has contributed as much to opening our minds and bodies to what else might be true about bicycles than what we think we knew. I admire his courage on that. And, I think if you listen to this podcast you'll find a thoughtful take, not a dogmatic one. Check it out.

For more on my interviews with Jan go to Part 1 and Part 3. For more on the whole notion of cycling podcasts, check out this previous post, especially the reader suggestions about their favorite podcasts. And for more on pedaling technique, stay tuned. I've got something fascinating on the way soon!

Keep it flexible and open-minded,