Gus Van Sant & “The Discipline of DE” Applied To Bicycles

Early in his directing career, Gus Van Sant created a short film, “The Discipline of DE,” based on a collection of short stories by William S. Burroughs, entitled “Exterminator!”. It is an enlightening film that examines the surprising complexity of everyday actions and how to go about performing them in the most successful way possible. “Do Easy,” or DE, is the simple principle of accomplishing tasks in a relaxed manner which also is the most efficient.


The Discipline of Do Easy
Although some of us find the idea of clearing a table with high efficiency as a bit of overkill, Van Sant shows how sloppily we actually go about our daily activities. With DE, you must plan your moves, and approach every action in a creative and controlled manner. Try walking across a room in as few steps as possible, or move an item to another location without fumbling or knocking into something else. These mundane actions wouldn’t seem to benefit from close attention. But, by being wholly in the moment and thinking about every detail of a task (down to the way you twist your leg going around a corner), you can more easily monitor your actions when doing something important – like riding your bike!

The Discipline Applied to Bicycles
From the moment you begin prepping for a bike ride, you can implement the principles of DE into your routine. Think about everything that you need for your ride: where equipment is located, which rooms you will have to navigate, and how you will go about getting everything together. If you’re super organized, you may have everything all in one place next to your bike, unlike the rest of us! But even if you’re blessed with the orderliness gene, you may still find yourself fumbling around like a half-asleep toddler. Get yourself into the mentality that every single movement and expenditure of energy should be used in the most efficient way possible.

Grace is Efficient: An example
Let’s go through an example: getting on the bike, a simple act that can quickly turn ugly if the rider is distracted. When you have your shoes and kit on, and are ready to go, stand next to your bike holding the seat and handlebars. You might be tempted to start moving your feet around to get a better position, or shift your hands while swinging your leg around and over the seat. Don’t move though, just look at all the parts of the bike and down at your legs. Do the movements in your head and think about the most perfect, fluid, one-motion way of swinging your leg around the back of the seat onto the pedal. Adjust your hands so that they will land on the bars in perfect alignment at the same time. It doesn’t have to be done at great speed; in fact, the slower the better. Moving more thoughtfully allows you to properly make sure your weight is properly balanced. The goal is to completely avoid haphazard movements. You will use nearly every one of the hundreds of muscles in the human body for this action. The more you pay attention to the way your body moves in relation to itself, you’ll see that you have more control over your movements than you may have previously thought.

The Margins Count
You may think that getting on and off the bike is quite easy, and very little can be gained from doing it perfectly, but once on the bike, small margins begin to matter. A 5% increase in speed is nothing to be scoffed at, and many people will upgrade their entire bike, chasing performance gains. But, if you’ve been reading the last couple issues of BICYCLIST, Damon Roberson has gone to great lengths to detail proper form and the cranking positions that allow you to pedal stronger. In essence, perfect cycling technique is a form of DE.

Extraordinarily Efficient
By finding your most efficient riding style, you will use your energy effectively, and enable your efforts to better achieve your goal: optimal motion. The most important point to take away from the principle of DE is that everyone has the ability to accomplish seemingly ordinary tasks in an extraordinary manner. Although the film, “The Discipline of DE,” goes through some admittedly satirical examples, using this way of thinking with mundane actions can lead to a more thoughtful engagement when on the bike. Essentially, do your absolute best to understand, in a detailed sense, everything that is required to complete performance movements.

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