The Hammer and the Nail

Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. I was a cheapy little Ikea one today. It was terrible.

– Geraint Thomas

It is strange, the workings of a the Cyclist as an organism. We are of three autonomous parts, Head, Body, and Legs. In the short term, there is little that fundamentally changes between them, yet their symbiosis can vary wildly; one day we are an unstoppable force and the next, little more than a tourist.

Condition is built gradually over a the length of a season or many seasons; it does not arrive in the post on a prescribed day just as it does not depart the train station per a schedule when its stay has come to an end. Yet, somehow, our performances can vary as though this were the case. This dramatic change is most commonly driven by the mind, a fragile beast that balances upon a knife’s edge where the slightest push can send our performance sky high or plummeting into the fiery depths of despair.

This is what drives the Cyclist as an aesthetic creature; clean bar tape, freshly shaven guns, and neatly arranged kit is the most effective way to control our form from day to day; no sense fooling with diet, or power meters – neither of those will tell you how Fantastic you look.

Which is why our investigative team, Research Unit for Logical Explanations of the Velominati ( RULEV ) has concluded that Geraint cracked horribly due to psychological injuries caused by losing his trademark white Jawbones, which were obviously his hidden Scepter of Morale. He looks magic in those shades, and complete crap in the Radars he was forced to ride in the following days. Our study also indicates that he could have avoided disaster by paying to overnight his new Jawbones in time to race in them again at the Tour; there are only so many days you can look crap before you start riding like crap.

To expand on Paul Fournel’s famous line: to look good is already to go fast, and to look crap is already to go slow.

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66 Replies to “The Hammer and the Nail”

  1. @frank

    @Puffy

    I nominate the shadow as the best measure, but the point is fair enough. I’ve even weighed myself before and after a shower, and the delta is enough to measure on the scale. Fickle thing, that.

    When I was on a weight loss kick after breeding and blimping a few years ago, I was going out for dawn runs (this was before the way of the Velominati became clear to me), and I invented a rule that I had to weigh myself daily but if I’d done exercise I could weigh myself after the run.

    I discovered I could lose nearly 2 kilos during a hot 45 minute run. The extension of this was I also got in the habit of weighing myself after the shower so I would have lost all the weight of the sweat.

    Hey, it worked.

  2. @frank

    @ChrisO

    I might agree with you, in a way. I don’t think the diet makes you look better directly, but feeling skinny and looking great in your kit is definitely a massive morale boost. Even just feeling light is great so it feels nice and springy to get out of the saddle to climb or power over a rise is also high up there.

    Skinny! Hahah. I will never ever be skinny, but having been quite a big bloke, rugby player build, and then having lost all the excess weight through riding I still have the muscles, which now are much more obvious.

    A friend was chatting to me just before I went for a ride last week with her boyfriend, glanced down, and shrieked ‘Your quads are ridiculous!’.

  3. @frank

    Jesus Shifting (Oh Jesus, tell me there’s a lower gear!)

    I call this Flappy Paddle Syndrome – where you go for another gear and all you find is a loose, flappy appendage hanging from the hood

  4. Re Hydration – post ride – the best criteria is the colour of what you put down the loo (toilet for non Brits).  All this stuff about how many glasses of water you should drink a day is rubbish.  Too much water long term can do as much damage to your kidneys as too little.  I groan when people can’t go to a 1 hr meeting at work without talking a bottle of water with them.  Mind you, Whisky would be better for quite a few of the meetings I seem to go to.

  5. @Puffy

    Yeah that would be the obvious way to know for which there is no substitute.

    My problem is I can tend to override what my body is saying and push it anyway – equating suffering with progress when backing off is the smart choice.

    To be my own coach as well as rider I need data.

  6. @frank

    @Ron@Gianni

    I got the Jawbreakers and can’t wear my Radars anymore because the field of vision is so superior with the new design. So I got the Radar EV too. The new Radars are the same basic design as the old Radars but with the fried of vision of the Jawbreakers while slightly less claustrophobic.

    Glad my sunglasses compulsion could be of some use.

    Hmm, this is great info. I don’t have a big face, so I think the Jawbreakers might look awful on me. However, good to know about the new Radars. I didn’t think you could improve on those shades, they’re amazing for cycling and just about everything else too. But, sounds like they have.

    First ride this morning on my updated Tommasini. Wore my Italian tricolore DeFeet socks with some of my retro Rudy Projects. Goddamn, it was a fun ride in to work!

    And Frank, you are not alone. I started spending a good portion of the money I earned mowing lawns as a kid on shades from the Sunglasses Hut at the mall. The acquisition thrill continues to this day.

  7. @RobSandy

    Skinny! Hahah. I will never ever be skinny, but having been quite a big bloke, rugby player build, and then having lost all the excess weight through riding I still have the muscles, which now are much more obvious.

    A friend was chatting to me just before I went for a ride last week with her boyfriend, glanced down, and shrieked ‘Your quads are ridiculous!’.

    Yup, I’m 4 kgs lighter than my college sports playing weight, since I don’t lift weights much these days. Skinnier than I was, but yes, I’ll still never look like a true cyclist. Those muscles and build haven’t gone away despite a decade of avid roadie livin’.

  8. @Ron

    @RobSandy

    Skinny! Hahah. I will never ever be skinny, but having been quite a big bloke, rugby player build, and then having lost all the excess weight through riding I still have the muscles, which now are much more obvious.

    A friend was chatting to me just before I went for a ride last week with her boyfriend, glanced down, and shrieked ‘Your quads are ridiculous!’.

    Yup, I’m 4 kgs lighter than my college sports playing weight, since I don’t lift weights much these days. Skinnier than I was, but yes, I’ll still never look like a true cyclist. Those muscles and build haven’t gone away despite a decade of avid roadie livin’.

    I feel like I use my upper body a lot while I’m riding, particularly climbing. I’m certainly not going to let myself get weak. Keeping shoulders/upper back in good condition also seems to help my lower back, which is really the only area I have trouble when riding.

  9. @RobSandy

    Keeping shoulders/upper back in good condition also seems to help my lower back, which is really the only area I have trouble when riding.

    You might want to consider looking at core strength and flexibility exercises.  Being strong in the upper body but neglecting your core is quite likely to result in lower back issues when cycling.

  10. @Oli

    My wife said something about a flappy paddle last night and we weren’t even riding our bikes…

    You should try not to think about Brett when you’re in those situations.

  11. @rfreese888

    @Puffy

    Yeah that would be the obvious way to know for which there is no substitute.

    My problem is I can tend to override what my body is saying and push it anyway – equating suffering with progress when backing off is the smart choice.

    To be my own coach as well as rider I need data.

    Data is good if that’s the way you’re wired. Over a lifetime of training I just read the signals my body is sending; if I’m doing enough work but the signals go backwards, I’m overtraining.

    Granted, given the state of my life, I’m rarely in danger of over training. More the opposite.

  12. @frank

    @rfreese888

    @Puffy

    Yeah that would be the obvious way to know for which there is no substitute.

    My problem is I can tend to override what my body is saying and push it anyway – equating suffering with progress when backing off is the smart choice.

    To be my own coach as well as rider I need data.

    Data is good if that’s the way you’re wired. Over a lifetime of training I just read the signals my body is sending; if I’m doing enough work but the signals go backwards, I’m overtraining.

    Granted, given the state of my life, I’m rarely in danger of over training. More the opposite.

    I am in the early stage, high OCD chapter of my cycling career at the moment. I reckon the data junkie stuff will die down once I reach more of a steady state. Main thing is to learn and continuously improve, and to be able to do it over the next 40-50 years or until I keel over (which ever comes first).

  13. @rfreese888

    @Puffy

    Yeah that would be the obvious way to know for which there is no substitute.

    My problem is I can tend to override what my body is saying and push it anyway – equating suffering with progress when backing off is the smart choice.

    To be my own coach as well as rider I need data.

    It is learned – to read the bodies signals and not to take them as a sign to push harder. If you like data, it can tell you the same in the moment. Heart rate might be too low and or slow to repond to efforts. You might not be able to hold a certain wattage for a duration you normally can. Just remind yourself that the gains from the training are found in the rest periods, not in the training. Training without rest gains you nothing. Rest periods are just as, if not more important than the training periods both on a daily basis (sleep), and weekly (RDO’s), even annually. Pushing on when fatigued/tired is the path to destruction. If I am riding, and I am not up to it, I have no problem turning around and going home. #smarternotlonger

  14. @frank

    @Ron@Gianni

    I got the Jawbreakers and can’t wear my Radars anymore because the field of vision is so superior with the new design. So I got the Radar EV too. The new Radars are the same basic design as the old Radars but with the fried of vision of the Jawbreakers while slightly less claustrophobic.

    Glad my sunglasses compulsion could be of some use.

    Yesterday my wife gave me for our anniversary a set of prizm Jawbreakers. I can wear them on my commute but I now just need winter to hurry up out of the way so my early rides don’t require my radarlock XL photochromic lenses.  (if I hear another person call them “photochromatic”…)

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