Weight: Body Image vs Reality

Like everything else in life, the question of body weight/image is relative. There are some out there who may read what I’m about to write – or look at the photos – and have either a good chuckle, or think I’m nuts, because compared with lots of folks I know, I’m not, or never have been, really ‘fat’.

But those people aren’t cyclists and we are a particular brand of weight crazy, especially if we aspire to be ‘climbers’, even though our bodies tell us we’re sprinters.

Long before cycling came into my life I had weight issues, at least internally. I’m not naturally thin and I put on both fat and muscle surprisingly fast. I’ve got plenty of friends who are the opposite, and I will envy them till the day I die. Here’s me at the beginning of my cycling career, in 2011. I’m around 75 kg (165 lb) here, having topped at 77 kg a year earlier. This weight, I found out quickly, was not manageable if I wanted to go up hills at a speed that wouldn’t have me dropped in the first kilometer.

This a few months later and I guess that I’ve trimmed down a bit, though it’s hard to tell. I was trying hard back then so I’ll assume I had. I also did better in this event (GF St. Tropez) than that first one near Nimes. I suppose that I was around 73 kg here.

It’s now summer 2012 and my weight is peeling off. I’m around 70 kg here (Etape du Tour ‘Act One’) and riding and climbing well for my age.

I got really serious about training and watching my diet the rest of 2012 and the first half of 2013 because I was training for my first Haute Route. This is me – alongside my step-brother Rob – the day before we started in Geneva. I’m 65 kg (143 lb), or 12 kg less than when I bought my Bianchi in 2010. This shape stayed with me till around 2016, when I lost my focus and rediscovered craft beer. It’s been a downhill ride ever since.

Here I am in my last week-long Haute Route (Pyrenees) in 2019. You can’t probably tell from this picture, but I’m up to 70 kg and everything is just ‘wider and thicker’ on me when compared to the photo above. All this translates into a finishing place of slightly better than average (top 45%), or around 20% worse than my performance in HRA 2013. I can’t say age had anything to do with it either, because the age category placings were pretty much the same.

Finally, the last photo I have of my mid-section, back in October last year. My weight there was around 74 kg. The disturbing thing these days is the spare tire I’m sporting, which I never had before. My weight was more evenly distributed in the past, but now insists on dropping to my lower gut. In tight lycra, there is no hiding it.

I’m back to training now and am down to 72 kg and, although the tire is still there, it’s more ‘MTB’ than ‘Fat bike’ at the moment. The guy next to me above gives me hope that I can lose it because he’s pushing 60 and doesn’t have an inch of fat on him.

But back to body image – some of you will look at the photos above and maybe even ask yourselves what the difference is in all of them. Others will spot the subtle changes along the way. Obviously I see all because it’s me up there, but also because I’ve always been focussed on my weight (or the outward manifestation of it), I am trained to see these things.

Finally, this is actually a work issue for me now. In a way, I’m a professional cyclist since my job is riding my bike with clients. I don’t need to be able to ride them into the ground, but it helps if I can keep up with most of them. They don’t know the way! It’s bad enough that age is going to eventually have a say in these matters; it’s in my best interest to at least get thinner, so I can have a fighting chance. Wish me luck.

30 thoughts on “Weight: Body Image vs Reality

  1. I’m with you. I’ve only been less than 80kg for about two weeks last year and 84kg last week. I’d really like to be 76kg but I love food and especially all the wrong ones. My willpower is so much weaker than my greed 😉

  2. If your clients’ age and girth tracks with an increase in their disposable income, then you are all good, professionally speaking. Plus, the net promoter score you get from a guy who can keep up with you is probably higher than what you get from someone who gets dropped like a hot rock. If people go home feeling really good about their riding that’s a plus for your business, right?

  3. Yet another related thought: If you have the body of a superstar then wifey is not going to be able to stop talking about you after they get home. That MIGHT be good business if she is making the travel decisions, but it is not going to win you points with hubby.

  4. Gerry, I can relate: I also hit my lowest weight and exactly the same 143lbs (65kg) at the beginning of our HRA in 2013! I can’t remember how much I used to weigh before I started cycling, since I never really cared nor weighted myself, but it must have been in the 160-ies lbs. (Yeah, even though I’m Belgian and like to use metric, I only started tracking my weight since cycling = in US so in lbs :). My regular weight since HRA now fluctuates around 148lbs (67kg); with covid I occasionally pass “the limit” of 150. So you must have been “really good” in preparing for HRA as you lost more weight. You don’t “need” 65kg — my wife says as I age I shouldn’t be skinny 🙂 — but the good news is that 70kg is easily reachable for you, and that sounds like a good number. And it’s ok to be a little down the list on the sportives 🙂 Good luck with your monstrous undertaking of the Tour of Mt Blanc!

    • Jan, you never striked me as the kind of guy who would have a weight problem and your ‘numbers’ bear that out! That’s not a huge range since HRA. I think I can gain that much in one dinner 😉

      As for sportives, yeah, I don’t mind being down the ranks much anymore. I really enjoyed HRP in 2019, possibly because I wasn’t stressing about my placing too much.

      • Yeah, Gerry, I wonder how I would experience another Haute Route… I don’t want to put in the huge prep I did & would ride it more “to enjoy”. Yet I know how competitiveness kicks in (just like when I do a Tour du Zwift stage :). But I think that it quickly is reality that sets in on day 2, so I’m curious. Not sure I will ever know 🙂

  5. It’s my sweet tooth that does for me and it all ends up round my middle. And they just published some research (how reliable I don’t know) saying slightly fatter people live longer than slightly thinner people.

  6. Living with someone who has, as you know all too well, a Dorian Grey-like physique, you have all my sympathy, Gerry. Age + better craft beer in France (heck, even I enjoy beer nowadays) = dangerous combo.

    I suppose it’s hard to appreciate while training your butt off for TMB, but that extra muscle is your friend off the bike, at least. At least, that’s the message I’ve keep hearing from surgeons, radiologists, and kinés of late.

    One thought, though, about the newfound spare tire : have you tried adding an extra recovery day or 2? I know you were talking about cutting it short in case we get our wings clipped again, but on other hand, longer rides = more cortisol, and older = slower recovery.

    • I’m checking cortisol now, Sarah! It could be that, or it might be other things, like my sedentarism since Covid began. I think that once the mileage increases more, plus maybe a little more liberté if things get more normal, it’ll come together. Below 70 kg is going to be more of a struggle, though, because I think that’s below my ‘homeostatic weight’.

      As for your Dorian Grey, he was on my mind when writing the third paragraph of this post. How does he do it?

  7. As you know by our conversation, we’ve been hit pretty hard by cold icy/snowy weather so my weight has increased approx. 3kgs due to limited riding outside. I know as soon as the weather breaks and I get more and more time in the saddle, it will melt away easily. I’m not at all concerned with weight gain…to train hard and effectively indoors and for that matter outdoors too with focused threshold and sweet spot work you need to keep glycogen reserves replenished and that requires carbs. Vicious Cycle…(get it) LOL

    • You seem like the type to lose weight quickly, so not surprised that you’ll take those 3kg off in no time. As for carbs, I think I’m replenishing a little too well!

  8. Just found your site from another and figured I’d chime in. As for body weight and bicycles, obviously for racing or being a tour guide, or anyone who wants to go uphill fast, thinner is easier. I think the sport is starting to realize that plenty of people who already enjoy biking or who want to get into it do not have low BMIs for various reasons. Just like around 40% of the US population. So some of us are never going to be racers and couldn’t care less about it anyway. Put another way, one can be fairly fit and still fat. To paraphrase a book title from Lance, it’s not about the butt! Anyway, best wishes in your blogging and biking journeys!

    • Thanks for the comment, ‘dude’. Like you alluded to, it’s all about your objectives on the bike. If they aren’t about climbing fast, then weight is not really too much of an issue. A bike can support a lot of it!

      Hope you’re surviving over there in Austin. I guess there’s not a lot of cycling at the moment?

      • Sure and thanks for respond ng. biking is for everyone that can and wants to. One can be fit and undertall.

        Today it’s 70°F + so I’m back on it. But nursing an injury so just joy rides and basic miles. Aftery my biggest mileage last year I’m reducing my time on the bike to do other things. Walk, yoga, etc.

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