Robot’s Useless Reviews – Coasting

Do this. Get on a bike, your favorite bike, and find a good flat surface, maybe even a downhill stretch. Now put in two or three hard pedal strokes, then sit up and let the bike roll. Bask in this moment, the ground spooling beneath you. You’re getting away with it, where ‘it’ is the brazen cheating of gravity’s hard bargain with inertia. This, on a bike, is as good as it gets.

I’m not even going to make you wait for the final tortured paragraph of this not-review of a not-product. Coasting is the best. It’s pretty close to flying. If I could coast everywhere, I would. I’d be very happy to never not be coasting. In fact, knowing that coasting is possible, I’m vaguely angry that I have to not coast places.

This insightful piece of cycling prose is brought to you by Shimano North America.

Given the magic of the experience, it’s pretty gob smacking that it took humanity tens-of-thousands of years to discover it. Basically, we figured out fire, farming, smelting, etc. over a period of millenia, and left coasting for the last 150 or so years. Like, it boggles my mind that we got coasting and then walked on the moon a relatively short time later. We learned to roll free on a bicycle and then invented a computer that fits in your pocket and contains the sum total of human learning, as if they’re even close, technologically. If I had to choose one of those two pieces of “functionality” you can guess which one I’d take.

We wasted a lot of time not coasting is what I’m saying.

There is a sort of colloquialism that involves coasting which we employ when someone is not working very hard at school/work/life. We say they’re just coasting, as if that’s a bad thing and not the absolute best thing you can do.

Only partially related, why the heck is that thing you put a drink on called a ‘coaster’? Is it because it just sits there, doing no work? I say, “Bravo, thin piece of cardboard or whatever! Bravo!”

Once I was riding next to my buddy Joe, coasting down a long, paved descent. We were off the front of a group ride, and I said to him, “Hey, we oughta sit up and wait for the rest,” and he smiled and said, “I try never to touch my brakes when I’m coasting downhill if I can help it.”

So we dropped those losers and rode off on our own. JK. JK. But Joe had a point.

When life gives you lemonade, you drink it. I’m pretty sure that’s an expression, and if not, then it should be. It’s better than that nonsense about making lemonade, because life has given you lemons. Did life also give you sugar, ice, a pitcher, and a long spoon to stir it with? No. It didn’t. It just gave you lemons. Congratulations! Now you’ve got to go to the store to finish the recipe.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Riding bikes is real good, the pedaling, the steering, and whatnot, but the ne plus ultra, the acme and apex, and real sweet spot of the whole boondoggle is coasting. It’s the riding that almost isn’t riding, just floating along through time and space, the wind through your hair (or absence thereof), trees, bushes and other organic ephemera skittering past, your cares streaming out behind you like the tinsel still clinging to a Christmas tree, as the garbage truck carts it away in early February.

Join the conversation
  1. alanm9 says

    One my favorite lyrics has always been by John Popper in the song Just Wait:

    “There’s no failure for who keeps trying,
    Coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace.”

    Now, I have to rethink my whole life.


    Thanks a lot.

  2. mattdwyerva says

    Coasting is such a satisfying thrill, and one reason I love riding on the Skyline Drive in Virginia. Long sweeping descents with gorgeous views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge of the George Washington National Forest in the distance. No need to brake, which is perfect because brakes are simply decorative and not to be used.

  3. TominAlbany says

    Skiers have likely been coasting a lot longer than cyclists.
    Maybe we should ask someone from one of those far-northern European countries…

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