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.