Having Good Legs

Having Good Legs

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One great mystery remains in this cycling world. I’ve been a cyclist for over thirty years and I still can’t buy a clue. Remember those rides where very early on, as you roll out of a parking lot, or just away from your house, you notice you have good legs. You need verification and after a proper warm up the feeling is still there, to quote Ryder Hesjedal, “the legs are mint”. And by saying good legs I mean untouchable, inexhaustible, Le Blaireau legs. Legs you can use with extreme prejudice on your friends and enemies all day long. I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened in thirty years. Don’t tell your friends, it’s like having four aces in your hand, keep your mouth shut and let it all play out. On your next group ride, regard everyone’s faces as you let them ride through. Does anyone have good legs? Look for the rider who is quietly sitting in the paceline with a confident telling smirk on his or her face. George Hincapie recalled it as if pedaling with no chain. It’s some magic elusive mojo.

As a cyclists your legs are your tools, your currency. Professional cyclists talk about their legs as if they were not their own. They have legs hung up in a garage, many sets, most of them bad, some OK and only one pair that are good. Unfortunately which set gets installed on any given day is a mystery to everyone. Science has not solved this one or if they have they are sitting on it, maybe Contador has solved it. The more you ride the better your chances are of having good legs. But the amount of recovery riding, rest and diet all go into a formula so complex it has yet to be solved. I used to pay a lot of attention to my abstemious Saturday nights, hoping that the proper dinner and no drinking would bring on a good Sunday ride. Of course my friends were actually drinking beers, having fun and still riding fine the next day. I guess Anquetil had it right, steak tartare washed down with beers works just fine.

When professionals are riding that wave of good form (think Philip Gilbert, the 2011 version) do they have killer legs every day or can they just always summon the strength to crush? I think having good form means all your physical systems are honed up to the highest possible efficiency. Having good legs is more mysterious. It’s an unexpected event, the result of still unknown forces in the body. What happens on the morning of the Worlds Road Race when you get the message from the engine room that you have the good legs installed, what then? It must be every cyclists dream to have those magical good legs on such a day. It must feed into a confidence loop, thinking you have great legs removes the usual doubts, gives one the confidence to try things one might not otherwise dare. I’m bridging up to the front and then I’m going to ride away. I’ve got good legs.

// Technique

  1. @metalface

    nice one. I hope we see Gilbert running his 2011 game in the TDF this year…

    Incidentally I had pretty bad legs yesterday on a ride w ~1700m climbing. Then I got home and saw this, and wept: http://app.strava.com/rides/11611893

    @gaswepass

    nice write-up Gianni. It is funny, the self-resolve to “do all the right things” leading into a big ride day and still be issued ones same phyiological limitaitons. Because that +1% still doesn’t add up to this:(ted king strava segment climbing in italy)

    San Pellegrino in Alpe
     
    7.5mi
    3,558ft
    7.9mi/h

    1155

    00:56:20

    for the majority of us anyhow. I say blame the parents.

    Yes, def blame the parents, how can we compare born to regular mortals?

     

    Cry if you must, but i heard his legs were carved out of much larger more powerful ones.

  2. Very nice write-up, Gianni. I guess the mystery of the Good Legs makes cycling all the more fascinating (as if it wasn’t awesome enough to begin with… ) – and memories of ‘Good Leg Days’ can certainly linger for a very long time.

    During one of the long summer hoidays that I used to spend riding with the same friends, most members of our little group were tall, lanky diesels like myself, but there was also one short, sinewy little pocket rocket who was a real ‘grimpeur’. Whenever the road started pointing seriously upward, he would simply leave all of us mere mortals behind and streak up the hill by himself. Always. Until one magical day in the Alps, where I could actually go with him. I asked him afterwards if he was having ‘Bad Legs’ that particular day, but he insisted that he had felt perfectly OK – but that he had been very surprised to see me alongside.

    Never happened before; never happened since (well, not quite in the same ‘dramatic’ way, anyway…). And I still haven’t a clue what the hell had gotten into me that day. (On second thought, it is possible that I was the only one in our group who had ordered steak for dinner the night before – Of the miraculous Spanish variety, perhaps?) Naahh, just kidding. It remains an utter mystery to me, and I actually like it that way…

  3. Wonder how many sets of legs Hoys has?

    Hoy's Legs

  4. @Tobin_number_2

    several. They’re all shoved down inside these ones in the photo. Can’t you tell?

  5. @il ciclista medio

    Reckon that’s where the pair I lost two years ago went, too…

  6. @Tobin_number_2 Just the one set, but he trains with a friend…

  7. My legs are a continuous work in progress, sometimes delighting, mostly getting sworn at, but hopefully will stick with me for many years to come.

  8. Excellent Article…I was lucky enough to get my “good legs” only 3 weeks ago….unfortunately it was on a training ride with a friend who barely breaks sweat when riding with me and therefore took this “half wheeling” personally and proceeded to rip my “good legs” off….I have not seen them since!

    One correction, I believe that Jacques Anquetils “good legs” were so prevalent not from drinking but more likely the fact that he was sleeping with someone else’s wife and ultimately having children with her daughter!!!

    Now that’s real training :)

  9. @Deakus

    Excellent Article…I was lucky enough to get my “good legs” only 3 weeks ago….unfortunately it was on a training ride with a friend who barely breaks sweat when riding with me and therefore took this “half wheeling” personally and proceeded to rip my “good legs” off….I have not seen them since!

    One correction, I believe that Jacques Anquetils “good legs” were so prevalent not from drinking but more likely the fact that he was sleeping with someone else’s wife and ultimately having children with her daughter!!!

    Now that’s real training :)

    The Anquetil method wouldn’t work with the state of my back

  10. excellent article.  i thought it was just me. i don’t know why one day i will climb like a lion, the next  day i will climb like a cripple.  the days i have where my legs work like they should seem to be few and far between.

    also…nice use of the word abstemious.

  11. oh, and i would much rather have the worst legs of Pantani than my best ever legs times five. 

  12. @Deakus

    “One correction, I believe that Jacques Anquetils “good legs” were so prevalent not from drinking but more likely the fact that he was sleeping with someone else’s wife and ultimately having children with her daughter!!!”

    You may be onto something. It seemed to work for Tiger Woods: dominating a sport and much extramarital sex. I don’t have that much testosterone to spare. I need all I have just to power my compact crank, as it were.

  13. This is a fantastic piece, man. It stands among your finest work here. Chapeau. My legs have always been spindly, gangly, and akimbo. This might have something to do with the reason William and the other KT attendees kept calling me Bradly. It was either that or the sideburns. Not sure. Anyway, I feel like I’m doing something right when I start to get compliments from the ladies. It’s that time of summer and people are starting to take notice. I need to check my ego.

  14. @ErikdR

    Very nice write-up, Gianni. I guess the mystery of the Good Legs makes cycling all the more fascinating (as if it wasn’t awesome enough to begin with… ) – and memories of ‘Good Leg Days’ can certainly linger for a very long time.

    During one of the long summer hoidays that I used to spend riding with the same friends, most members of our little group were tall, lanky diesels like myself, but there was also one short, sinewy little pocket rocket who was a real ‘grimpeur’. Whenever the road started pointing seriously upward, he would simply leave all of us mere mortals behind and streak up the hill by himself. Always. Until one magical day in the Alps, where I could actually go with him. I asked him afterwards if he was having ‘Bad Legs’ that particular day, but he insisted that he had felt perfectly OK – but that he had been very surprised to see me alongside.

    Never happened before; never happened since (well, not quite in the same ‘dramatic’ way, anyway…). And I still haven’t a clue what the hell had gotten into me that day. (On second thought, it is possible that I was the only one in our group who had ordered steak for dinner the night before – Of the miraculous Spanish variety, perhaps?) Naahh, just kidding. It remains an utter mystery to me, and I actually like it that way…

    Yep, that’s what I was trying to express too. Once in a while the legs are mint and then, poof, gone. For reasons we don’t understand. I’m glad this mystery adds to your enjoyment of cycling. Maybe I should try steak tonight, my wife is away, she will never read this.

  15. @Gianni

    @Deakus

    “One correction, I believe that Jacques Anquetils “good legs” were so prevalent not from drinking but more likely the fact that he was sleeping with someone else’s wife and ultimately having children with her daughter!!!”

    You may be onto something. It seemed to work for Tiger Woods: dominating a sport and much extramarital sex. I don’t have that much testosterone to spare. I need all I have just to power my compact crank, as it were.

    That’s one of them thar dubble ontondree’s, ain’t it?

  16. @metalface

    nice one. I hope we see Gilbert running his 2011 game in the TDF this year…

    Incidentally I had pretty bad legs yesterday on a ride w ~1700m climbing. Then I got home and saw this, and wept: http://app.strava.com/rides/11611893

    my post included just one hill climb from that epic ride tot illustrate the point. but yeah…

  17. @Gianni

    @Deakus

    “One correction, I believe that Jacques Anquetils “good legs” were so prevalent not from drinking but more likely the fact that he was sleeping with someone else’s wife and ultimately having children with her daughter!!!”

    You may be onto something. It seemed to work for Tiger Woods: dominating a sport and much extramarital sex. I don’t have that much testosterone to spare. I need all I have just to power my compact crank, as it were.

    I’ll let Mrs Engine know that this is the way to sporting success…

  18. @Daccordi Rider

    @Gianni You’re too kind to my skinny guns. Ah the helmet covers, look pretty cool huh. This was a road race with multiple grades so set colours are worn for each grade so the refs can spot anyone tacking into the wrong group. Vets racing, no young un’s allowed!

    I’ve seen the times you post up the hills around here, this young un wouldn’t be any danger even if he was allowed…

  19. @Daccordi Rider

    Your legs may have been good but the rule adherence leaves a little to be desired…have you not read Rule #29?

  20. Thanks Gianni.  I had your article in mind today.

    I had missed a couple of sessions this week (sick kids) and stole an hour today for a quick Zone 1.

    As I left home I thought “At last. And great! – fresh legs…”

    I rode hard. I did my work. But I can confirm: Fresh legs are not necessarily good legs.

    I suffered. That is all.

  21. Actually.. guys.. I hate to bring it up but rules not observed..

    #8, #14, #17, #28, #29, and therefore #1.

    Come on.. you can do better than that ..

  22. Legs are not my problem.  Gut and grams are my problem.  Specifically, 27,215 grams.  After that, then I’ll think about the legs.  In the meantime, they are just getting an extra work out as I seemingly carry a 1st grader around my middle when I ride.

  23. @Erik

    Legs are not my problem.  Gut and grams are my problem.  Specifically, 27,215 grams.  After that, then I’ll think about the legs.  In the meantime, they are just getting an extra work out as I seemingly carry a 1st grader around my middle when I ride.

    I refer to the “extra” as a stack of wet newspapers under my jersey. I understand. Thank goodness for the legs.

  24. @Richard Hale

    Actually.. guys.. I hate to bring it up but rules not observed..

    #8, #14, #17, #28, #29, and therefore #1.

    Come on.. you can do better than that ..

    More specifically… when? where?

  25. @versio well just referrring to the picture on the post (posted by Dacordi Rider) :)

  26. @Richard Hale

    @versio well just referrring to the picture on the post (posted by Dacordi Rider) :)

    Ohh… now I see. Yes. Hmm…

  27.  

    @Gianni

    @ErikdR

     

     Maybe I should try steak tonight, my wife is away, she will never read this.

    Is your VMH a strict vegetarian, by any chance? Or is she just opposed to you imbibing the forbidden fruit of Clenbuterol? On another note: I can imagine a nice discussion being held about the pro’s and cons of a largely vegetarian diet, as opposed to an animal-protein-based one – and whether eating veg can be combined at all with cycling. But that would have to be another post at some poiint, I reckon.

     

  28. @versio

    @Richard Hale

    Actually.. guys.. I hate to bring it up but rules not observed..

    #8, #14, #17, #28, #29, and therefore #1.

    Come on.. you can do better than that ..

    More specifically… when? where?

    My eyesight doesn’t confirm or deny anything on #8; #14 – well @Daccordi Rider is wearing club/team kit and we need a ruling – but I think you have to wear the team kit (I mean not all Astana riders really want to look like that); #17 I’m not Australian but they look like club kits to me and therefore must be OK as long as they’re being worn by club members; there may be a #27 breach on the second rider who appears to be straying in to female tennis player territory but I don’t see a #28 violation. You have however got @Daccordi Rider bang to rights with a Rule #29 EPMS violation – but as he was laying down The V at the moment the picture was taken and went on to win he probably gets a bye on that.

    So, in my opinion, close to perfect Rule #1 compliance.

  29. @the Engine

    @versio

    @Richard Hale

    Actually.. guys.. I hate to bring it up but rules not observed..

    #8, #14, #17, #28, #29, and therefore #1.

    Come on.. you can do better than that ..

    More specifically… when? where?

    My eyesight doesn’t confirm or deny anything on #8; #14 – well @Daccordi Rider is wearing club/team kit and we need a ruling – but I think you have to wear the team kit (I mean not all Astana riders really want to look like that); #17 I’m not Australian but they look like club kits to me and therefore must be OK as long as they’re being worn by club members; there may be a #27 breach on the second rider who appears to be straying in to female tennis player territory but I don’t see a #28 violation. You have however got @Daccordi Rider bang to rights with a Rule #29 EPMS violation – but as he was laying down The V at the moment the picture was taken and went on to win he probably gets a bye on that.

    So, in my opinion, close to perfect Rule #1 compliance.

    Did not really scrutinize the photo other than one rider truly has slammed his stem setup.

  30. I understand about having legs.. or not.  My first commute to work took 70 minutes.  The 2nd a week later was 59:15 so I blamed the first one on a headwind.  I admit I’m a fair weather rider and while I’ve done my share of puddle pushing, I really don’t like rain.  8 commutes and many weeks later my time is down to 56:50 and I’m aiming for a 50 min morning ride to work.  If I can’t get it by the end of Sept riding my mountain bike with doggy trailer behind (trailer is 20 lbs, dog is 45 lbs), then I’ll leave the dog and trailer at home, take my old trusty Cannondale (35 years old), and will certainly meet or break the 50 min goal.  It’s the last hill… 5 km at 12% grade where I really need good legs and where I’ll make the time.

  31. @ErikdR

    Let me just say there is not a lot of red meat being eaten in this happy home. Yeah, my VMH is some sort of vegetarian, but fish and dairy are consumed with vigor! I’m always curious about my diet and performance and frankly I don’t think it matters much. Even if one was a strict vegan, no dairy, no eggs I think you could be an ass kicking cyclists. It’s a topic we haven’t really addressed here. The New York Times did have a good article addressing that recently, I’ll see if I can find the link. Here.

  32. @xcountrypearl  You have quite a training method going. Dragging a trailer and dog up a 12% grade will make you strong like bull. I think you are sub 50 minutes already when you switch to road bike and some pumped up tires. Shouldn’t dog be helping here somehow? At least getting out for the hill and happily out-running you up it?

  33. @Gianni Very nice article – thank you! I liked that there was actually a mention of vegetarian junk food in there…My wife and I are not strictly vegetarians, but our meat intake has been reduced drastically over the past 3-4 years. Eggs and fish are consumed in abundance, though – and I have some nice – mostly Indonesian inspired – recipes for very rich vegetarian dishes, that could almost be called ‘veg junk’ (or at least, they can be classified as ‘heavy food’: lots of coconut milk, peanut butter and so on…) OK – signing off for the day: it’s late evening here. Time for one dark Czech beer, then lots of zzzz’s

     

  34. This is totally off topic, but I do want to know where my hover-board is……

    For those of you scratching your heads, this is the dashboard from Dr. Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future part 1. Today is the day in the future he went to.

  35. @scaler911 I’m pretty sure this is a photochop – wasn’t it 2015 in the movie?

  36. @Oli

    @scaler911 I’m pretty sure this is a photochop – wasn’t it 2015 in the movie?

    You’re right. Again. Fuck Al Gore and his inter webs………

  37. @Richard Hale

    Actually.. guys.. I hate to bring it up but rules not observed..

    #8, #14, #17, #28, #29, and therefore #1.

    Come on.. you can do better than that ..

    I guess I have right of reply..

    Rule #8 – Ok not bang on but I believe the set up is finely thought out and works asthetically.

    Red highlights on frame to suit bar tape, Tyre highlight colour, SL’s with red hub and blade, shoes with red highlights.

    Black frame and seat post goes with black saddle. Red or white saddle would look a bit off.

    White lettering goes with cables and shoes.

    Rule #14 – My LBS team kit and I am a functioning member of said team.

    Rule #28 – Can’t see where I am going wrong there.

    Rule #29 – Guilty as charged. I hate having shit in my pocket. I’m likely to ride out the door and forget a tube or somesuch. Interesting to front up to a race where not many know you with a Rule #29 violation. The more pro tend to  take you as a noob, until you hit them with a bit of Rule V on the first climb.

    Hard to spot the Rule #9 in that photo but it rained a fair bit and wet, technical decents meant I also had to Decend like a Pro to widen my advantage.

     

     

     

  38. @Daccordi Rider I think the Rule #28 issue was in regards to length as they are bordering on ‘Female Tennis Player’ dimensions.

  39. @Mikael Liddy

    Ah. I see, but perhaps not quite, the ankle is covered. My wife bought the socks so I am obliged to wear them.

    When are you coming out racing with us old farts? 35 and you qualify!

  40. @Daccordi Rider I’m a good 6 years away from getting my arse handed to me competitively if that’s the minimum! Where was the photo?

  41. @Mikael Liddy

    Swamp Rd, just off Greenhill Rd before Balhannah.

    Open racing for you then with the other youngsters.

  42. @Gianni

    @ErikdR

    Let me just say there is not a lot of red meat being eaten in this happy home. Yeah, my VMH is some sort of vegetarian, but fish and dairy are consumed with vigor! I’m always curious about my diet and performance and frankly I don’t think it matters much. Even if one was a strict vegan, no dairy, no eggs I think you could be an ass kicking cyclists. It’s a topic we haven’t really addressed here. The New York Times did have a good article addressing that recently, I’ll see if I can find the link. Here.

    It’s quite possible to combine vegetarian diets with athletic performance. My entire family is vegetarian, and none of us are having problems. After 15 years of vegetarianism (out of 21 total years on this planet), all my blood-tests show balanced levels in all metrics, and it doesn’t stop me from 40km TTs around the 1’05 mark, or 10km runs at sub-40min pace. Not elite, by any means, but quite satisfactory for someone who’s only gotten off the couch last June.

  43. @Daccordi Rider

    @Mikael Liddy

    Swamp Rd, just off Greenhill Rd before Balhannah.

    Yup, think I know it. That rise before you drop down in to Balhannah?

    You heard about this delightful serve of V & VV coming up on the 1st of September?

    http://www.adelaidecyclists.com/group/adelaide-dirty-dozen

     

  44. This guy had Good Leggs more than his fair share. What a stud. I fucking love this guy.

    http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/06/news/voigt-will-let-the-cobwebs-grow-on-his-bike-after-retirement_226360

  45. @Mikael Liddy

    That’s the road.

    I have seen mention of the Dirty Dozen. I’m going to print the route off and ride it. Looks like a challenge! Compact territory!!

  46. @Daccordi Rider yup, reckon I’ll break up the route over the next month for some recon rides then give it the beans on Sept 1st.

  47. @frank

    This guy had Good Leggs more than his fair share. What a stud. I fucking love this guy. http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/06/news/voigt-will-let-the-cobwebs-grow-on-his-bike-after-retirement_226360

    He funny boy. Man it must be fun to be on his team and hang out mit Jensy.

  48. I found a pair of good legs just the other day, rode them hard for three hours and never felt like i was working, should have gone longer as I don’t remember where I put them and will probably not be able to find them on a day when it really matters.

  49. I realize this post is over two years old, but I figure it’s so good it deserves a biannual bump. Besides, I’m new here, so it’s new to me.

    The good legs made it out on my ride yesterday. Better than I knew I had actually, so I did the responsible thing and burned ’em. Today, they feel like used legs. On my ride this afternoon I’ll make every effort to duplicate yesterday’s success, and I’ll probably not be successful.

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