The Swanny

The Swanny

by / / 87 posts

Behind every great rider, there’s a great soigneur. The right hand man, the go-to guy, who tends every whim of his rider, feeding, watering, mending and massaging. Behind the humble Velominatus Regularus, however, there’s a string of injuries, tight muscles, bad posture and aching guns. We are our own soigneurs, and if you’re like me, that’s not a great thing.

Heading towards a half century on the earth and most of that on two wheels, you’d think an old dog would pick up plenty of tricks along the way. Basics like stretching and self-massage, drinking plenty of water, and not as much beer are learned early, but virtually ignored totally. I never stretch; no matter how many times I’ve been advised to, I just seem to lack whatever disciplinary gene that encourages me to put aside half an hour after a ride or whenever I feel tight (ie always) to roll around on the floor and pull a few limbs into strange positions. After particularly long or hard rides, I might give the hammys a cursory tweak in the shower or rub the legs a bit once out. I have one of those trigger-point rollers, but it hardly sees out from under the bed. It feels good and no doubt helps, but it’s just way too easy to flop on the couch with a beer and zone out on the idiot box.

As I increasingly find it harder to get out of bed, or walk up the stairs (there’s about a hundred to my house) it seems the only time I’m comfortable is when I’m on the bike. As soon as I dismount, I’m like a foal with a hunchback trying to take its first steps. But it’s about time to get real and help prolong an injury-free riding life. I see guys my age or even younger nursing injuries and think maybe I’m just lucky, and surely my time will come if I continue my lax routine. The same care that goes into my bikes needs to go into myself. Stretching every day, maybe some core exercises, self massage after rides, might even try some yoga.

And my own swanny.

My friend Josh, a recently graduated massage therapist, has offered to try and ‘sort me out’ with a round of treatments over the next month or so. When he asked what area needed work, I replied ‘everywhere’. As he’s been gently reminding me for years that I need to stretch, he knows what sort of state I’m in and what I put myself through on the bike. It’ll be interesting to see what regular massage can do for a regular Cyclist, even if it’s once a week rather than the everyday luxury of the Pro. And if nothing else, I hear there are some pretty good looking women at the yoga place…

I’ll keep you posted over the next few weeks as to my progress. What sort of self-soigneur techniques do you all employ, if any?



// La Vie Velominatus

  1. Wow, good looking women at the yoga class….spoken like a true asshole.

  2. @yogacyclist


    How is it that you support each other in thinking like this?

    If you want to be self-respecting members of the human race, not just the patriarchal society, you have to be able to transcend objectifying women – no matter how slight the degree, it’s still objectification. We don’t like this in itself, and we don’t like where it leads.

    On one level, I love this forum. On this level, though, it’s supremely depressing. A bunch of nice-sounding, intelligent, articulate guys, still indicating that they ‘can’t stop themselves’ objectifying. You have to be able to stop yourselves. Until you can find it in yourselves to recognise objectification and quit normalising it (and maybe it does feel as normal to you to quip about ‘young women’ as a ‘benefit’ as it feels abnormal to us), women won’t feel comfortable in the world, even on your cycling website.

    Plus one badge to you.

    @cyclebrarian, @Weldertron

    I’m sure you meant well, but as @Marko said, chill the fuck out and keep it classy. We have been fighting a long hard fight to help support Women’s Cycling and help make women feel at home in what is a totally male-dominated sport, and this sort of chatter should be kept off this site, which is built on respect and passion.

    What you should have done is welcome her to the community like we do most other newcomers.

  3. @minion

    This is going to sound weird but lying on your bed, on your back, with your lower legs hanging off the edge is brilliant. Tilts the pelvis in the opposite way it’s been positioned while you were riding, lightly stretches the quads and hip flexors, and takes a bit of the pressure off the lower back.

    When I do that, my legs bump into the opposite wall. Which raises the question: how short are you or how big is your room?

  4. Ok, I may not have read any of the previous posts… Am I the only one who has found the best way to get rid of leg soreness is to ride the bike? That’s what recovery rides are for, no?

    Also, can’t do yoga, risk of farting in public is too high for my self esteem to handle, and the post ride massage (typically after the charity rides) just give me wicked cramps. Nope, just gonna do a nice spin for les vieilles jambes.

  5. @ChrissyOne

    Turn around and walk away from the computer…

    Turn around and walk away from the computer…

    Turn around and walk away from the computer…


  6. Ok, if the line in my article is offensive, then I apologise. Saying “I hear there’s some pretty good looking women at the yoga place” is merely a statement of fact. No different from one of our female community members (or Scaler) saying “Gee that Tommeke has some nice legs” as far as I can see. No-one’s out to objectify anyone, I’m sure.

    Back to our regular programming…

  7. @Ccos

    Also, can’t do yoga, risk of farting in public is too high for my self esteem to handle

    Oh great, there’s a fart risk?

  8. Not recommending this to anyone, but as an ex-physio, professional dancer (another life) and martial arts teacher, I find tai chi a good balance to the bike. tc includes stretches and emphasises core strength. Haven’t done any yoga, but perhaps similar. That said, we should be stretching (I don’t, but respect warmup and cool down phases in a ride) and seeking proper treatment for injuries.

    Also, have to comment, but having worked with and taught women in different professional settings, an understanding we are there for the same goals, support and respect each other’s abilities works best. Takes some maturity. Not uptight, but not voyeuristic.

    Back to the Giro …

  9. @Rom

    I find regular visits to my Physio help a lot. helps that they’re in my building at work. After a back injury from avoiding running over my mate’s face and the self inflicted pain from TTing, the Physio’s work and helped my lower back big time. I’ve also gained knowledge about posture for gym work.

    I’ve now got a fistful of stretches and strengthening exercises targeted for my issues.

    Also did a Pilates course with them that helps, although some of the conversations go “release the tension”. Me “I am”. Physio “really?”

    a Physio that works with Chris Hoy also told me I’m one of most inflexible people who has come across for a while.

    Good news is that my daughter has just started her Physio course at Uni.

    Sounds like we’ve got a few things in common.

    I injured my lower back during a 6hr mtn bike race a few years back which threatened my road riding. Went to physi0 to get straightened out (my therapist happens to be a member of our local club as well) and then took on Pilates as a way to strengthen my core and prevent future back problems. Worked a charm and I’m convinced it helps my climbing as well. I call it my carbon fibre core (to match my carbon bike–a little self-affirmation talk…). I do basic stretches everyday and while on the bike (no rule against this?) plus foam roller sessions after rides. My hip flexors are always tight (typical for cyclist apparently) so I work on that. As I progress from “sit up and beg” to “slam that stem” I stretch to get a more aero position. Sounds like there’s a number of “MAMILs” on this site in the same boat. It’s amazing that even at our age we can get better–and younger–every year. And, oh yeah, my daughter is starting grad school in PT next year. (I’ve hinted to her that there’s goldmine of potential clients with us over 50 dudes suddenly becoming athletes after spending a few decades on the couch.)

  10. Cycling + middle age + sitting at a desk all week as I am sure many of us do sure is rough in the core and posture. I’ve started doing some Pilates in a mat and roller. It helps a good deal; the challenge I face is to do it more often.

  11. Looking forward to the Reverence article on Hitachi Magic Wands

    hitachi magic wand boxThese really hit the spot…………………

  12. @brett

    Ok, if the line in my article is offensive, then I apologise. Saying “I hear there’s some pretty good looking women at the yoga place” is merely a statement of fact. No different from one of our female community members (or Scaler) saying “Gee that Tommeke has some nice legs” as far as I can see. No-one’s out to objectify anyone, I’m sure.

    Back to our regular programming.

    The original article might have passed without a ripple, but some of the subsequent comments were a bit pervy and the response to being challenged was unacceptable.

    Having said that, I can’t quite agree with the above Brett. A statement of fact would be “There are women in the yoga class” or “Tom Boonen has powerful legs”.

    Another factual statement would be “There are so many black people here” but would we say that? (My parents do, and it is cringeworthy.)

    My filter for this sort of thing is to ask why it needs to be stated? Is it relevant?

    As an example – if someone is talking about a piece of bad driving while out cycling and they say “This woman cut me up” are they saying that to draw on the inference that women are bad drivers? Would they say “This Indian cut me up”.

    The neutral alternative is to say “This driver cut me up”. Their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else is probably irrelevant.

    It doesn’t mean we can never look upon Assos girl or Liz Hatch in these pages again. I hope it doesn’t anyway.

    There is, to my mind, a difference between commenting and admiring someone or something which is clearly intended to be looked on as beautiful and sexy, compared to taking the same view of people in a context where it is not relevant like in a work or social environment. I hope that makes sense.

  13. @frank


    This is going to sound weird but lying on your bed, on your back, with your lower legs hanging off the edge is brilliant. Tilts the pelvis in the opposite way it’s been positioned while you were riding, lightly stretches the quads and hip flexors, and takes a bit of the pressure off the lower back.

    When I do that, my legs bump into the opposite wall. Which raises the question: how short are you or how big is your room?

    Maaaate, I’m a strapping six footer with long wavy brown hair and eyes like limpid pools of moonlight. If you don’t have space on the bed, you can (kinda) do the same thing by lying on your back on the ground and using a phone book, or a foam block about that size, under yer ass. (Try it, you’ll see) You’ll need to give it at least 30 seconds, and try and relax your abs. Take the phone book away after about 30 seconds and see what difference it makes. It’s stretching without any effort.

  14. FWIW I also go to Yoga once a week with my SO. It’s a great preventative form of physical maintenance, though now it’s winter I’m not clocking the miles I have been so there’s that as well, and I’m also doing more in the weight room than on the bike. Now that I live 2 blocks from a velodrome the volume of riding I do is going right down.

  15. For a couple of bucks you can get Brett Lancaster as your Swanny.–an-app-by-brett-lancaster

    OK for a quick squizz on a sus part of your body.

    I will be spending some bucks for a physio on neck and back in the following weeks.

  16. @minion The description of yourself is somewhat different from how I had pictured you.

  17. @brett


    Also, can’t do yoga, risk of farting in public is too high for my self esteem to handle

    Oh great, there’s a fart risk?

    Yep, depends upon your diet I suppose. I doubt people eating few vege’s do much of yoga (therefore with little risk of that sort of thing). Also wanted to steer the conversation away from controversy.

  18. @Brianold55 I wouldn’t mind giving the Tai Chi a go, looks cool as a bonus.

  19. I joined a yoga class because my self discipline for stretching was so pathetic. I needed some structure to make it happen. The rare 10 minute efforts after a ride were largely useless. Like many here (I guess) a 2 hour time opportunity results in a 2 hour ride rather than a 90 minute ride with a 30 minute stretch. It was such a good thing for me. I discovered some really big problems and learned about some strengths I’d never considered. I was very surprised how muscle sore I’d be afterwards – in the quads too! A recent schedule change has forced me the cut the class and I’m missing it!

  20. Me like many cyclists (in the amateur area) have done nothing for my legs or whatever for ages. Then I’ve started 2 years ago to stretch my calves every day, every morning. No more then 5 or 6 minutes in all, but it really changed the shape of my legs…

  21. @frank

    @minion The description of yourself is somewhat different from how I had pictured you.

    That is @Marcus.

  22. A few basic stretches after each ride and a single 30 minutes foam rolling session per week.

  23. For those of you who haven’t read “Breaking the Chain” by Willy Voet I can thoroughly recommend it for the insight it provides into the extent of institutionalized doping at that time. As a writer he’s no Bobet but the translation represents his affable character well and the odd turn of phrase entertains nicely. The anecdotes are the real page turners. 30 years in and around pro-cycling at that time – there’s not much that those soigneurs missed. Many stories of riders in big races – the preparations and results. He includes a bunch of stories of his own drug use as he bares all about what substances were used and what they did for the individual riders. He was completely dedicated to his metier – knowing the physiological effects, how to prepare properly and avoid positive tests, not to mention the knowledge of riders, parcours, tactics and sports psychology. His comments on his relationship with Virenque reveal so much. Oh and massage – he did give massages, I think.

    After reading this I can’t condemn anyone from that era. The jet-fuelled EPO days were the logical progression of the methods used forever. The modern swanny has it easy!

  24. @Harminator

    I guess I’ll have to read that just to hear what he said about Virenque. It is a fascinating subject, because it seems insane. Pot Belge et al. Thanks for the recommendation.

  25. @Harminator Thanks for that, just got it after reading your bit, so will start on it tonight! Love e-books.

  26. @andrew Bit of “Belgian Mix” and you might finish it tonight too.

  27. Rub down the legs in the shower, and let plenty of hot water run down my back and neck. I rarely stretch before a ride, and I probably should try to stretch more often

  28. Thanks all for the memorable welcome, especially Marko for “women…have steeper hills to climb and don’t need your fat ass sucking their wheels.” The most perfect sub-20-word statement I’ve heard since a college mate came out with “apathy and procrastination save time and effort in the long run”.

    Anyway, a handy exercise after doing pretty much anything including riding is to stand with your feet about a foot apart, keep your knees relaxed, straighten yourself up, look ahead then start to drop your head very slowly forward and down, letting its weight pull your spine down vertebra by vertebra until you’re bent at the waist and the entire length of your spine is dangling loose. Dangle around for a while, wiggling your spine wherever it feels tight, then very slowly do the opposite to get back up to standing, feeling your vertebra stacking back one on top of the other until the very final one at the base of your skull goes back in place. Feels very satisfying (as does watching the end of the women’s Tour of Britain despite the annoyingly flat route).

  29. Oh, and to get the full benefit while your fat ass is pointing skywards, don’t forget to wriggle your shoulder and neck muscles loose too.

  30. Keepers: thanks for making sure we stay focused on the important stuff in life- Cycling.

  31. @Harminator Not far off, but I had to stop reading as I was keeping my wife awake with the constant muttering of ‘Oh my god’. Not that anything is surprising exactly, having read other people’s stories published since, but it’s riveting all the same. And there’s the fun of working out who he’s talking about in some anecdotes (second year pro who won the Vuelta clean? Has to be Èric Caritoux).

    I am going to stay on my high horse and condemn the dopers, though, if only for the sake of the clean riders Voet names, also explaining how they could have had ‘better’ careers. The choice was still there.

    @yogacyclist For a first year event, I think the Women’s Tour did pretty well with the route, though more climbing would have been good. In terms of exposure for the sponsors and riders happy with the organisations and safety (compared to something like the Giro when the final stage was boycotted), I think they close to guaranteed they’ll be able to run the event again and be able to be more adventurous next time out.

  32. I’m a big believer in the foam roller (and also using a tennis ball when things get really tight) — Selene Yeager on and the Garmin physio both have moves I use in their videos. I swear it’s made a big difference to the way my legs feel the morning after.

  33. This may be slightly off-topic, but I assume that most of you are aware that you can actually do some forms of mild but beneficial stretching while actually riding your bike? This could include coming out of the saddle and, while standing on the pedals with the cranks horizontal, dipping the heel of a clipped-in shoe down towards the tarmac to stretch the calf muscle. You can also unclip one foot while coasting (e.g. on a mild downward slope), grab it by the instep and pull it back and up until the heel touches the buttock, stretching the quad. Another one, also done while coasting, is getting out of the saddle and arching the back the opposite way – i.e. moving the pelvic area all the way towards the handlebars and making the spine go ‘hollow’ (This one is, admittedly, best performed without an audience: to the uninitiated, it might look a bit as if you’re taking Chris Froome’s appreciation of the handlebar stem to a whole new and dubious level…)

    And then there’s the old classic: provided you’re comfortable with riding ‘no-hands’, you can sit up, put both palms on your lower back with the fingers pointing down and ‘push’ the lower part of your spine forward while arching the shoulder blades backwards and towards each other. Sheer bliss on a long ride… (I suppose you can deduct from all this that I do most of my riding alone – and on quiet roads.)

    For post-ride hamstring stretching, I highly recommend sitting with your back pressed against a wall, flat on your butt with your legs stretched out in front of you (for starters, you may want to put a book or pillow under the backs of your knees. Relax and try to let the backs of your knees ease down and touch the floor. You can read a book, watch TV and/or drink beer while doing this and you can almost feel your hammies unclenching as the minutes go by.

  34. Darn – that should have been “I suppose you can deduce…”,

  35. As I increasingly find it harder to get out of bed, or walk up the stairs…

    Not to mention those mornings when, sat on the edge of the bed, the thought of being able to reach your toes to pull your socks on seems more than just a little daunting.

  36. @unversio Assuming that is a serious inquiry the answer is intensity. Think deep tissue as opposed to a rub down.

  37. @BMack Serious yes. And realize that the deep work over can feel a bit harsh, so with even with the massage HTFU. Thanx

  38. That’s not Coppi, that’s Mr. Bean. It’s a well-known fact that he used to race in Italy before he became a telly star.

  39. Try Tom Danielson’s “Core Advantage” book. I bought it last year and started in on it, but faded as time went on. This year I made a concerted effort since the first week of January to stick with it. It has made a huge difference on my bike this year. 15 to 20 minutes 4 or 5 days a week. Sweet Merckx, I even found out I have some abs underneath what was a middle age gut. Also, I purchased a Marc Pro EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) device for post ride. It’s the shit, folks. Pricy, yes, but it really helps the recovery. Grab a beer, hook up and relax, and watch those guns twitch. Well worth it after six hours doing the hills in western Dane County.

  40. @frank

    @minion The description of yourself is somewhat different from how I had pictured you.

    Flattered but i’m not a climber, I’m built more like the normal sprinter

  41. @Nate

    Now I’m confused. I thought this was @Marcus:

  42. Well reeled in people. We were at risk of looking like a forum.

    Stretching sadly only when the damage is done this end, but regular fortnightly visits to the chiro for the smashed C6 and C7 Vert.

    Start Pilates this week so looking forward to that ! Case of have to for the long term I think.

  43. Well, here I was thinking I was the only one who can go out and ride for hours, but can’t seem to find the time for ten minutes of stretching. I know I should, I just can’t every really make it a regular habit. I’m pretty good about doing light movement exercises with a stretch band or light weights a few times a day. I don’t mind those.

    And yes! I can feel great on the bike, but like an achey old man off of it. So damn weird.

    Cycling actually makes me feel great. Running on an artificial surface for two hours twice a week at futbol, now that does not make me feel great. I do usually have trouble getting out of bed the next morning. Alas, the post-practice recovery ales don’t help.

    Nate – yup, desk life. I have the worst fucking posture from sitting at a desk all day. My only actual consistent pain is in my neck. Monitor neck. Long rides seem to bother it as well. But, I crushed a vertebrae playing college sports, so that might just be a life-long rough spot.

  44. I find the best post ride muscle relaxant is beer. Or wine. And a good hearty protein filled meal. And avoiding stairs. I had a down stairs shower room built last year because walking down stairs REALLY hurts after a big ride. Best thing I ever did.

    A friend once commented “You never see a lion stretch before chasing down a gazelle”.

    And that is my moto every time I climb on the bike.

  45. @ErikdR I read it as “deduce…” and I like your post ride tip, will def try next after the next ride.

  46. @VeloJello Cheers – and I hope you’ll find the sitting-up-against-a-wall stretch beneficial.

    FYI: In case your hamstrings are a lot more supple than mine and you find that you can bring the backs of your knees to the floor without any strain whatsoever, you could try carefully to rotate your feet and ‘tip’ your toes towards you, to stretch the back of the leg a tad more – or even, while keeping the lower back firmly against the wall, lower the upper torso slightly forward towards your knees.

  47. Blimey – that was a controversial article – I had to walk away in disgust and take a few breaths to compose myself…..

    ……middle-aged men doing yoga – disgusting!

  48. The one thing that’s helped the most has been getting a new bike and ignoring any pro fit bs. 1.5cm shorter I the top tube, about a cm higher bars, and I can get my back flatter and more aero, and an stay there for longer. Its backwards to think that going higher would lead to that position, but thats also partly from a piss poor fit on my previous bike

  49. So we’ve done a TTT event this morning and we’re just chatting afterwards over coffee with some of the other riders we know, and we’re all stretching a bit in that sort of “ooohh, bit stiff” way you do when you have to stay in position for an hour.

    When suddenly one of them starts doing this:

    Now that’s flexibility. I think it would cripple me.

  50. @ChrisO meh, show me a pic where they’ve got the feet flat too & I’ll be impressed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar