Monday, June 10, 2013

I going to try defying gravity on the 2013 Etape du Tour/The cyclist's fear of the calorie count

Make. The. Climbing. Hurt. Less!
Before I signed up to ride the Etape, I didn't own a set of bathroom scales. I knew I'd gained weight since university, but my trousers all fit. So that was fine.

That all stopped when climbing hills on a bike started in earnest.

I had a vague notion of the weight I wanted to be. 70kg. That was my weight at college, there was no reason I couldn't hit that again. Last August I was c80 kilos (I weighed myself while visiting my parents), so I'd need to lose 12.5% of my body mass - just cycling more wasn't going to cut it.

I launched an unscientific diet. Eating less, trying to ensure I was still getting protein and vegetables, avoiding mid-meal snacks, drinking less, exercising more (cycling to work a lot more) and putting up with being hungry.

Now I've not kept to this strictly, but I have when I can and I've now (more or less) hit 70 kilos. My trousers no longer all fit.

There's a problem though. It's clearly not enough. I have four weeks before France and every gram will mean I'm slower up the hills.

Cycling to work is clearly not going to cut it
So I'll keep with the diet, but I need to lose more weight from somewhere.

I started looking at my bike.

Now, my Felt is 2.2 kilos lighter than my old Bianchi was (7.3kg without pedals). This helps. But what more can I lose?

Wheels, tyres and tubes? I can save a good few hundred grams here, even get the bike under 7kg, but the cost of upgrades is prohibitive. So that's ruled out. For now. Well, maybe some new tyres and tubes. That's 150 grams. And I need new tyres anyway. Probably.

Shoes and pedals - probably best not to change the set up now and the cost of any significant saving would be huge here especially in terms of the gs/£ ratio.

Bottle cages? Mine are carbon, 18 grams a piece. No way I'm saving much here - even with vast outlays.

So what can I lose without it costing me money? Now we're talking....

Front light mount? The Etape's in daylight. Removed. Bell (needed for a past sportive)? Removed. Rear light? Gone.

What madness is this? Multi-tools don't need a case!

That was easy. What else?

Stickers on frame? Gone.

Do I really need two bidons? I mean, I don't get through more than one every 30-50km normally. I could lose a bidon and the cage? On balance, probably a bad plan. They stay. At least until half way up Semnoz, then all bets are off.

What about the saddle bag? Could I just pocket that stuff instead? Well, I need a gilet, food, spare tube(s), tyre levers (actually, forget them, I'll just use the QR skewers as levers), multi-tool, phone, hotel key and some cash at the very least. I could probably cram that into my jersey, but it's touch and go. On balance, sadly, the saddle-bag stays.

Frame pump mount? Interesting. I can lose it, save weight and jam the pump in a pocket.  Same issue as the saddle bag though. Wait! I can tape it to the frame. Pump mount gone.

Garmin? Probably needed to tell me where I am on the course and so I can upload the ride to Strava.

Garmin mount? Interesting... Will trial using it from my pocket in terms of accessibility + if it still works.

Heart rate monitor? If I can King of the Downs without one, I don't need it. Gone.

Limiting screws on derailleurs? The right cable tension means they can go too. Do I trust myself to get those right? Probably not without at least 3-4 hours tinker time ahead of the race. I'm not going to have that. They stay.

Dust caps on tyre valves? Gone. Well, not yet, but gone after the final pre-ride inflation and from the spare tubes.

Dirt and grease? Easy choice. The bike will be thoroughly cleaned ahead of France. As will the shoes. Gone.

Hair? It will be cut as shorts as reasonably possible before the ride (I've tried shaving my head, it doesn't look good).*

How much air should I put in the tyres? Air has mass too. 1.2kg per cubic metre. When does less pressure mean less performance?

Chamois cream? That's a couple of grams going on nothing but comfort. Sod it.

Socks? I mean, do I need them really?

Perhaps it's time to stop this game...

*don't get me started on track cyclists with long hair. Amateurs, fine. Road, fine.There's too much else to consider (rain, bidon water level, road dirt etc) and the margins of victory are rarely that small. But on the track, when margins come down to 100ths of seconds, when teams of engineers and designers work to lose every milligram they can from the machine and your equipment, having 100s of grams of hair is vanity. At least have a crew cut for the Olympics people.


  1. You may wish to reconsider tyre levers if youre in the last pen to be released, out of 12,000 cyclists some will get a puncture in the first 20km, its just inevitable and with the broom wagon released just after you should probably cater an extra 70g for a CO2 inflater too.

    1. I should have mentioned my multi-tool has tyre levers as well (although only two). Although I might see how hard it is to change the (I need to stop pretending, I'm going to buy them) new tyres before making a decision. I wasn't sure about CO2 as well as pump. CO2 runs out fast, potentially leaving me in trouble later, but it's far faster + a bit smaller. Problems, problems, problems.

    2. I carry both, pump and co2. Maybe its overkill, but I had three punctures one sportive.

      Losing all this weight, do you think it will help? Personally, you can either climb or you can't, a couple of hundred grams is not really going to help.

      Next weekend, come out with us for a cruise in Surrey, I have a nice route which will take in hills and give you distance

  2. I'm by no means an expert but have at least been there before. I will be carrying both as co2 is a one hit wonder although possibly invaluable. Have you ever tried to inflate a tyre to 110 psi at the roadside with a mini pump by the way ?

    1. The speed of CO2 is appealing, but carrying both seems like overkill and I know from experience you don't get two full charges from a canister. I've inflated tyres on the roadside (in Mallora among other places) with the mini-pump. Perfectly doable, but not as fast as CO2. Hmm, will think on it. Possibly a small one in case of an early puncture (ie something like this )