- by David Halfpenny
- Published: 22 September 2014
Over 40? Over weight? Over budget on your last bike purchase? You’re not just a mamil (middle aged man in lycra), you’re a special type of mamil, an uber-mamil, and with the recent growth in cycling, it’s your time to shine. Unfortunately, you can’t look to the current pro-peleton for uber-inspiration. Gone are the days when riders would end their seasons in an orgy of over indulgence only to spend the first few months of the next season riding themselves back into fitness. No, the current pros are over trained, over analysed, and over medicated. So in the absence of current role models, please accept BNA’s advice on cycling for the “real” rider.
Riding should be enjoyed, not endured
The uber-mamil has some very specific cycling needs in order to make their life on the bike more enjoyable.
Contact points – there should be three of them: the hands on the handlebars, the feet on the pedals, and your butt on the saddle. Your gut touching the top tube doesn’t count as a contact point and it means you’ve got a bad bike fit. If that’s you, get a new bike.
- The saddle – Saddle starts with ‘s’. You know what else starts with ‘s’? Suppository. Your sit bones (or, in scientific terms, your ischial tuberosities, which sounds so much cooler) need to contact something in order to support your body. This should be the saddle. Make sure your saddle is wide enough to support your tuberosities. If it’s not, get a new one (saddle, that is, you can’t change your bones). The ‘face of pain’ you see in cycling comes from exertion, not insertion.
- The handlebars – If you find yourself with numb hands at the end of a ride, it may be the first signs that your type 2 diabetes has progressed, or it might be that you have too much weight pushing down on your hands while you’re riding. Having a slammed stem and an ‘aero’ position won’t help you at all if it means you’re too numb to accept the trophy and the stuffed lion from the podium girls after the race. Raise the handlebars a little. It will also make it easier to rise for the victory salute as you cross the line.
- The pedals – and I’ll also add shoes here, because I think road shoes are someone’s idea of a practical joke. I suspect there’s a bunch of guys somewhere laughing their chamois off because they managed to convince every one that shaving your legs, wearing tights, and walking like you’re wearing high-heels is a manly thing to do. Fortunately, there are shoes that look fast and sleek and contain carbon, and yet they use mountain bike style pedals and you can walk in them. It’s definitely an option if you want to stay upright while you’re walking from your bike to the coffee shop.
The bike – Steel is real, and carbon is …something that rhymes with carbon. I’m giving up rhyming alumiunium. Material science has progressed to the point that the uber-mamil can ride on just about any type of bike without having to worry about it snapping. My first full carbon bike, the Cell Akuna 1.1, supports my uber-mamilian structure without any complaint so far. Some bikes specifiy weight limits for their riders. These bikes are obviously made by people who are bad at engineering and, while their families shouldn’t be punished for their inabilities, you shouldn’t give them your money. Carbon and steel are great at absorbing road vibration, aluminium much less so, but it really doesn’t matter what you ride, only that you do.
Wheels – There is so much ‘bro-science’ when it comes to wheels that, with just a little bit of study and a loud enough voice, you should be able to convince anyone that your 36 spoke wheels with the 32 mm tyres are just as fast as their 16 spoke carbon ones with 20 mm tubulars. Remember, it’s all about contact area and rolling resistance. Basically, your wheels and tyres have to support you. If your rims are contacting the ground when you’re on the bike, or your spokes explode when they see you in your riding kit, then you might need some more ‘serious’ wheels.
Weights build muscle, and you’re a sprinter
In the 30s, Charles Atlas made a fortune turning 97 pound weaklings into muscle men by getting them to lift weights. Imagine how strong you can get if you lifted weights all of the time, not just in the gym, but every time you go for a walk or get out of bed. You’ve actually been training your whole life, and you didn’t even know it. “Training for what?”, I hear you ask. Training to be a sprinter!
That’s right, you’re a sprinter. You might want to be a climber, but gravity has other ideas. Gravity, however, doesn’t act horizontally, so you can give it the metaphorical finger as you pump out the Watts. You don’t believe me? You don’t have to, I have science on my side. The fastest men and women on two wheels, track cyclists, were studied at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the fastest of them were found to have the highest BMIs! (Body Mass Index) Yes, it’s true. These guys were technically overweight, heading towards technical obesity, and they’re top level athletes. Read the paper; there are graphs and everything. It’s science, you’re sprinter, well done.
“But, I can’t sprint”, I can hear you saying. Shhhhhh. Science. Sprinter. Accept it.
It’s important to have goals
So now that you know your destiny and you’ve sorted out your equipment, let’s talk about goal setting. If you want to be the best sprinter you can possibly be, your first cycling goal should be to get your average speed above your BMI. There are two ways to do this: (1) increase your average speed, and (2) decrease your weight (isn’t maths wonderful?). Of course, if you are working to increase your average speed, your weight is likely to decrease as a side effect, so you’re approaching this goal from two sides. This is a good thing, you’ll be there in no time.
If you want to break it down to some possibly smaller goals, try first losing the weight of your bike. If you want to upgrade your wheels, don’t do it until you’ve lost the weight equivalent to your proposed purchase. This makes conversations with the uber-mamil quite interesting: “Yeah, I’ve lost 2 Cannondales and a set of Zipp 404s since January, but I’m aiming for another touring bike’s worth before the end of the year”, and so on. Maybe one day you can say that you dropped Nairo Quintana!
Cycling is great transport, great recreation, and a great sport. Like a fettucini alfredo with sauteed vegetables and parmessan garlic bread followed by tiramisu, served with a nice chardonnay with overnotes of apple and citrus and…what was I saying? Oh yeah, riding is fun, lycra stretches, and everyone who is not riding is jealous of your freedom. See you outside.
(1) , (2) Rex Boggs, (3) Mark Drechsler, (4) Adrian Tritschler, (5) Brian Yap (葉), (6) Let Ideas Compete