Dr. Hutch: nerdy cyclists

Mrs Doc woke me the other morning. I wasn’t completely asleep. I was enjoying the bit you get when you wake up very gradually and have really cool dreams you can remember. She shook my shoulder, and said, ‘You were smiling. Were you thinking about buying a new bike?’

As a man with considerable experience of Mrs Doc, I was aware that this question contained an undertone of threat. It was a question that demanded skill in its answering. I toyed with, ‘No, I was thinking about you, my dear,’ but while lying can be both fun and profitable, you have to know where the limits are (eh, Lance?). So I said, ‘I was dreaming about buying a cyclo-cross bike.’ The temperature in the bedroom dropped several degrees.

I was still lying. Truth is I dreamt I was in the wind-tunnel, and I’d knocked 300 grams off my aerodynamic drag. But the fact that even in my wildest dreams I’m a nerd is something I’m not quite ready to face up to myself, never mind announce to someone who remembers me from a time when I could still pretend I was cool and not get rumbled.

I worry about the amount of time cycling occupies in my life. Even when I’m not riding a bike or writing about it, both of which are honourable activities, whether I’m asleep or awake, I’m almost certainly thinking about it, which is not.

Thought counts
There was a time when thinking about cycling was not just honourable, but necessary. There was a time when my thoughts were not mere noodlings, but Visualisations. Many of you will remember that ten years ago, everyone was Visualising. There was general consensus we could train the mind rather than the body, and the mind could whip the body into shape. My friend Bernard and I were especially vigorous advocates of this.

We used (separately) to lie in darkened rooms, shut our eyes and summon our ambitions. The idea was that you didn’t just daydream, you imagined in great detail. I used to hear the roar of the spectators, see the glow of the TV lights.

I even tried to summon up the smell of the competitors’ loos at Manchester Velodrome (why Sir Chris wanted the loos as close to the track centre in London as possible is beyond me. I’d have willingly put them in Dagenham and commuted). Bernard’s detailed visions used to extend to the dance of victory he would do when he finally managed to beat me.

The idea was that by visualising yourself doing something perfectly, in as much detail as possible, you were already most of the way to getting it right in reality.

It was not as easy to do well as you would imagine. It required concentration, imagination and real commitment. If anything it was actually harder than training the body. I very quickly slipped into idle daydreaming, and thence into a delightful afternoon nap.

I’ve retained the naps in my routine. But even my daydreams as I drop off have grown smaller with time. Once I dreamt, starry-eyed, of moderate-to-fair results on cycling’s medium-sized stages. A Commonwealth Games medal, say. The last year or two I’ve been reduced to a fantasy about beating 30mph round a local 12-mile circuit. I suppose at least I achieved that in September, when I rode it in 23m 55s, at 30.1mph.

Bernard’s dreams have also downscaled. He used to dream of beating me. Now he just dreams of pissing me off.  He also achieved his goal, though, when he re-measured the 12-mile course to a high degree of accuracy, and proved it was 163 yards short, giving me an average of 29.87mph.

If further proof of the uselessness of visualisation was needed, his victory dance was dreadful.

Great Inventions of Cycling – Winter Weight Gain 1871
Winter weight-gain is the inevitable result of a bit less riding and, often as not, a bit more eating. It’s simple mathematics.

The advantages are numerous. A few extra kilos will make every hill a little steeper, and a little longer. Put on 10kg, and you’ll have a Majorcan training camp right on your doorstep, even if you live in Cambridgeshire. Use the money you’ve saved on flights to buy cake, and you’ve created a positive feedback loop. With the emphasis on ‘feed’.

The same enhanced mass will increase your velocity down the far side, allowing you to practice your high speed descending, again from the comfort of your own home and refrigerator.

In the poor visibility of winter, the bigger you are, the easier you are to see. An extra 10kg and a pair of hi-viz shorts and no one will fail to notice you.

Stay warmer. It works for whales. In fact, whales use their insulating blubber to help maintain a streamlined shape. Get your other half to wrap you in clingfilm before bed each night, and by spring you’ll be moulded into a bike-riding torpedo.

In spring, simply reverse the calorie imbalance by eating less and riding more. Or, alternatively, don’t, and enjoy more effective training all year round.

If you still don’t like the idea of gaining a few pounds over the winter months, I suggest you re-read the above until you do. It’s a much easier solution than the alternative.

Acts of Cycling Stupidity
As I’ve mentioned, I do some running in the off-season – and I much recommend it, if for no other reason than to remind yourself why you’re a cyclist. The big problem with running is that it makes your legs hurt. I mean really hurt. I challenged my other half about this – she’s a serious runner, who can run a marathon faster than I can ride 100 miles, which is surely the mark of ability.

She said, ‘A lot of days your legs hurt, but on some glorious days, they just don’t.’ I followed up with the obvious, ‘So why do you always moan about your legs hurting when you get back from a run?’

‘You’re even stupider than I thought. You don’t ruin one of the days when your legs don’t hurt by going running,’ she said.

This article was first published in the December 6 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.