There is a theory that the route to better and more successful cycling lies in training. The thrust of it is that through cycling you become better at cycling, the better to go cycling. Think of it like going to the dentist – the main reason most of us go to the dentist is in the hope we won’t have to go to the dentist.
The coaching profession claims there are several central tenets to training theory. The very first one in the process is ‘set some targets’ so that you have some objective means of measuring success or, more likely, failure.
(To be accurate, this is the first tenet after ‘find a coach’ and ‘give that coach your credit card details’).
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The next tenet is that you should set out these targets to your friends and family, so that the prospect of failure and public humiliation will hover over you in motivational perpetuity.
“What the heck,” I thought, and told my friends and my family what I’m aiming to achieve between now and spring. (My family, it has to be said, announced with one voice that it couldn’t care less as long as one of them was, “Wash my shorts at least once every four rides”). Then I decided I could exponentially increase the impending humiliation by advertising my winter’s targets here as well. So here they are.
Dishing the dirt
My first aim is to avoid getting mud on my bikes. Nothing takes the edge off a ride like knowing that when you get home you’re going to have to take a high-pressure hose to your front mech. The only thing I hate more than watching crud dripping off my bike is seeing it land on the hall carpet. I want to prevent this happening, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.
My second most important target is to stay warm. Ideally by staying in the warm. My third aim is to return to old-fashioned riding. I want to get back to looking at the view, admiring nature in her wintry splendour… to looking at the wild birds and the McDonald’s wrappers in the hedges. I’m going to do this by taking all the electronics off my handlebars for a few months – no power meter, no GPS, no heart-rate monitor, no watch. Just me and my bike.
Following on from my third aim, my fourth is to develop some means of faking power-meter files to send to my coach, now that I’ve taken the power meter off the bike. My coach is one of those cynics who reckons that unless I’m watched like a hawk, I won’t do any real training. He feels that this watching is something he can do by requiring me to send him the files from training sessions so he can dish out, from his office, criticism about effort levels and commitment.
When I say his office, that’s his nice, warm office, the one without any mud in it. (I’ve sent him the same files with the dates edited for the last three winters, but he’s going to start noticing eventually.)
My fifth and final target is to limit to as great an extent as possible the scourge of delayed-onset muscle soreness. I’ve made it this far in life without making a grunting noise of discomfort every time I sit down or stand up, and I’d like to make it through at least another winter like that.
Last week, I outlined all this to my friend Bernard. He thought about it all for a moment, then said, “That’s not really a set of training targets, though, is it? That’s a manifesto for giving up obsessive bike riding and returning to some sort of normal life.”
The sting of failure and humiliation, and I haven’t even started yet.
Acts of Cycling Stupidity
I was at a friend’s birthday party last week. Unfortunately, there was no choice but to meet several of his other friends.
“A cyclist!” cried one of them, with that special delight that means you know what’s coming next isn’t a question about spoke tension. “You’ll love this. I ran a red light in the car last week – just a bit, you know – and wouldn’t you know it, right behind were the cops. Pulled me over. I wound down the window, and the first thing he said was, ‘You must be a cyclist!'”
When he’d finished roaring with laughter at his story, he assured me that this example of police open-mindedness was absolutely true.
How to.. put on a skinsuit
Skinsuits, and their aerodynamic benefits, are spreading into all areas of road cycling. The aesthetic consequences will be nothing short of eye-watering – if the residents of the New Forest thought the wildlife was getting a bit of a spook last year, it’s nothing compared to what’s coming. With this in mind, here is some advice on skinsuits.
You are a size small. Everyone is size small, and all skinsuits are size small, irrespective of what it says on the label. A skinsuit that is not size small is a sack with a zip.
A very tight skinsuit cannot be put on elegantly. This column has seen Chris Froome putting on a skinsuit, and it was not a sight that inspired much awe. Start with both feet through the legs of the suit. These will look about the right diameter for a child’s arm.
Grasp the suit around about the waist, and pull firmly, while waggling your knees back and forth in the sort of ‘walking’ mime used by backing singers trying to attract the attention of Simon Cowell.
When the suit reaches your waist, use a hula-hooping action to help ease the suit over your hips.
Then, put your arms in the sleeves and attempt to haul the body of the suit over your shoulders. Notice the sudden sharp pain around your groin caused by the lack of material at the front of the torso pulling the suit up – this would be an excellent moment to bend over into the classic skinsuit knuckle-dragging position.
Finally, attempt to do up the zip without engaging too much body hair (and I mean at both ends.)
All of this can, of course, double as an office-party dance.
This article was first published in the November 28 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!