Body Dysmorphia

I am thrilled to announce that for the first time in my life, my chest measurement is smaller than my hip measurement, an accomplishment I’m not sure many men around the world would be proud to admit. A Cyclist has no use for an upper body, we’re not going about lifting things with our arms; we are the sort of people who do all our lifting with our legs. We just need enough to hold the handlebars and pull from time to time while chewing the bar tape; beyond that, upper bodies are little more than extra weight and I’ve got more of that than I need already.

When I boasted about this tremendous feat to a few work colleagues, none of them showed any appreciation for my accomplishment whatsoever. Mostly they looked at me askance, not unlike how my dog looks at me when I’m talking to her in complete sentences. I could sense them resisting the temptation to start rotating their heads until they fell over like she does. The most any of them could muster was joking about how I must look at the beach, at which point I returned the favor of not having a clue what they were on about. Honestly, I’m much more worried about looking good in my skinsuit than I am about looking good in my mankini.

The first thing one observes when meeting Pro Cyclists is how tiny they are; they look like normal folks on TV but when you see them in real life they look like birds with a gland problem. Alpine ski racers also look like normal people on TV, but when you see them in person you realize they are thrice the size of a normal person, plus two. Either of Bode Miller’s arms are bigger than my right gun, the bigger of the two.

Kate Moss said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Apparently even Kate Moss couldn’t go her whole life without saying something sensible eventually. Being light on a bike is an amazing feeling, and we sacrifice all socially acceptable aesthetics in this pursuit. To be skinny is also to look good on a bike; hunching over a top tube chewing our handlebars isn’t a terribly flattering posture to begin with, one not made any more appealing with a gut protruding into the void.

I’ve never heard a Cyclist say they are happy with their weight, or that they feel they are skinny enough. No matter how skinny we are, we are still too fat. Most Cyclists greet each other with a little pinch on the arm to gauge one another’s weight – the first intimidation of the ride or the first bit of morale, depending on which side of the pinch you are. “Cyclists’ Sizing” is a phenomenon where a rider needs to wear their bibshorts a size bigger than their jersey. This is the maximum body image goal of the Cyclist, to have massive guns and a tiny torso.

I’m on the train, but I’m not there yet. To hasten the journey, I fancy the 5am Spanish Turbo Session in full leggings, long sleeve jersey, and casquette in order to kick start my metabolism in the morning. And then I skip breakfast and lunch. And dinner, if I can manage it. I prefer to cut calories out of my food diet than out of my drinking diet; success is all about setting attainable goals.

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127 Replies to “Body Dysmorphia”

  1. All this skinny/fatty talk is getting way too serious.

    @Frank,

    Maybe use your status as Cycling’s Up and Coming media star and invite one of these former Belgian pros to weigh in on the matter. That’s Nico Mattan (2005 gent -wevelgem winner), and classics superstar Eddy Plankaert (shown setting the world record for a wooden bike if my Dutch is correct). Two of my favorites.

     

     

  2. When I was rowing, I rowed lightweight (72kg and under crew average) and found out the hard way why, at 6 foot tall, that’s a pretty shit idea – one, it’s not that easy to shed muscle. Two, we had to drop our body fat so low we got really slow, and probably needed about 3 years of training to function properly at that weight. Three, we would be racing against people around 5″8 – 5″10 tall, who the lightweight category was actually designed for, who could keep muscle and a bit of body fat, and race rings around us, and even with more time to train, they’d still beat us. And lastly, we probably had a lot in common with folk with eating disorders – obsessive exercising to drop weight, 500 grams of lettuce for lunch, for guys our size to maintain weight we had to be on  a permanent cutting diet.

    All in all we realised it was pretty fucking stupid and a lot more fun to row heavyweight, eat all the things and drink all the beer, and actually go fast and compete. There’s a sweet spot out there for living as an amateur athlete, being able to function at work/life?bike, and still crush souls.

    And that photo has to be taken with a fish eye lens so it’ll be distorted to shit.

  3. @Ron

    @wiscot

    And YES that is something I love about smaller sports, like cycling. While we consider them gods, they’re still accessible gods. Too many pro athletes live in odd fantasy worlds where they’re so far removed from reality because of the money involved.

    Living in Cardiff I often come face to face with pro/international standard rugby players. They are the only people who ever make me feel dainty. I queued in a cafe beside ex All Black and Cardiff Blues player Xavier Rush; he’s about 6’2″ so not freakishly tall, but the guy is built like the proverbial concrete khazi. His shoulders must be 50% wider than mine.

    And on the subject of rubbing shoulders with legends, I was on my way out of Arms Park after one match and found myself walking next to Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies. They were both walking out with the fans, signing autographs and chatting. Great to see.

  4. @RobSandy

    @Ron

    @wiscot

    And YES that is something I love about smaller sports, like cycling. While we consider them gods, they’re still accessible gods. Too many pro athletes live in odd fantasy worlds where they’re so far removed from reality because of the money involved.

    Living in Cardiff I often come face to face with pro/international standard rugby players. They are the only people who ever make me feel dainty. I queued in a cafe beside ex All Black and Cardiff Blues player Xavier Rush; he’s about 6’2″ so not freakishly tall, but the guy is built like the proverbial concrete khazi. His shoulders must be 50% wider than mine.

    And on the subject of rubbing shoulders with legends, I was on my way out of Arms Park after one match and found myself walking next to Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies. They were both walking out with the fans, signing autographs and chatting. Great to see.

    Awesome! I saw Edwards and Davies play for Wales against Scotland at Murrayfield in the 70s. Is there a rugby hall of fame? If there is, they are automatically in. Mind you, the players in general today are much, much bigger than they were up until the 90s when the game started going all-pro. Most of the 60s, 70s, 80s players looked like regular guys (depending upon position of course). Of course, now they’re all pros and train like crazy. Davies and Edwards were amateurs and had “jobs” and anything that smelled of being pro was punishable – or you just went to the dark side for the money (aka rugby league.)

  5. @wiscot

    @RobSandy

    @Ron

    @wiscot

    And YES that is something I love about smaller sports, like cycling. While we consider them gods, they’re still accessible gods. Too many pro athletes live in odd fantasy worlds where they’re so far removed from reality because of the money involved.

    Living in Cardiff I often come face to face with pro/international standard rugby players. They are the only people who ever make me feel dainty. I queued in a cafe beside ex All Black and Cardiff Blues player Xavier Rush; he’s about 6’2″ so not freakishly tall, but the guy is built like the proverbial concrete khazi. His shoulders must be 50% wider than mine.

    And on the subject of rubbing shoulders with legends, I was on my way out of Arms Park after one match and found myself walking next to Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies. They were both walking out with the fans, signing autographs and chatting. Great to see.

    Awesome! I saw Edwards and Davies play for Wales against Scotland at Murrayfield in the 70s. Is there a rugby hall of fame? If there is, they are automatically in. Mind you, the players in general today are much, much bigger than they were up until the 90s when the game started going all-pro. Most of the 60s, 70s, 80s players looked like regular guys (depending upon position of course). Of course, now they’re all pros and train like crazy. Davies and Edwards were amateurs and had “jobs” and anything that smelled of being pro was punishable – or you just went to the dark side for the money (aka rugby league.)

    and no pads, or helmets for that matter.

  6. @wiscot

     

    @Ron

    Awesome! I saw Edwards and Davies play for Wales against Scotland at Murrayfield in the 70s. Is there a rugby hall of fame? If there is, they are automatically in.

    Yes, there is, and Gareth Edwards was one of the first inductees with Gerald Davies following closely behind. There’s a vast difference in the game since they played but there’s a strong school of thought that Edwards would be just as good if he played in the modern era. He was that good.

  7. @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    The times changing is interesting. Somehow I doubt that the Barry John school of tackling would work these days, great though he was in his day.

    What’s that? ‘Run out of the way and leave it to someone else?’.

    I see Barry around Cardiff quite regularly. He’s a very keen and dedicated drinker these days.

  8. @RobSandy

    @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    The times changing is interesting. Somehow I doubt that the Barry John school of tackling would work these days, great though he was in his day.

    What’s that? ‘Run out of the way and leave it to someone else?’.

    I see Barry around Cardiff quite regularly. He’s a very keen and dedicated drinker these days.

    Yup that’s the technique.  The old Arms Park used to be more or less level with the water table at High Water back in those days so on a rainy day it was a complete quagmire and I seem to remember Barry John still having a clean shirt at the end of an international.

  9. @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    The times changing is interesting. Somehow I doubt that the Barry John school of tackling would work these days, great though he was in his day.

    What’s that? ‘Run out of the way and leave it to someone else?’.

    I see Barry around Cardiff quite regularly. He’s a very keen and dedicated drinker these days.

    Yup that’s the technique. The old Arms Park used to be more or less level with the water table at High Water back in those days so on a rainy day it was a complete quagmire and I seem to remember Barry John still having a clean shirt at the end of an international.

    That was the old fashioned fly halfs’ perogative! When I played there (thought I’d drop that in there. I played at Arms Park. Yes) it was mostly sand! Now it’s more or less astroturf.

  10. @RobSandy

    Yeah I started at Fly Half (at 8) did a stint at Scrum Half, then at Full back, then Centre but played for the senior school (U18) and club rugby on the Wing.  Quit at 27 after dislocating my knee.

  11. @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    Yeah I started at Fly Half (at 8) did a stint at Scrum Half, then at Full back, then Centre but played for the senior school (U18) and club rugby on the Wing. Quit at 27 after dislocating my knee.

    Not much scope for dodging tackles at full back! I played in the pack until I finished school (mostly at prop – I was proportioned a bit different as a kid) and didn’t play at uni. Then I started playing again about 25, playing centre. At one point in my playing days I was 103 kg.

    I stopped due to a combination of injuries, the negative impact it was having on my health and fitness, and also because I realised I wasn’t actually any good.

  12. @RobSandy

    @Teocalli

    @RobSandy

    Yeah I started at Fly Half (at 8) did a stint at Scrum Half, then at Full back, then Centre but played for the senior school (U18) and club rugby on the Wing. Quit at 27 after dislocating my knee.

    Not much scope for dodging tackles at full back! I played in the pack until I finished school (mostly at prop – I was proportioned a bit different as a kid) and didn’t play at uni. Then I started playing again about 25, playing centre. At one point in my playing days I was 103 kg.

    I stopped due to a combination of injuries, the negative impact it was having on my health and fitness, and also because I realised I wasn’t actually any good.

    Played in HS. Started at tight-head prop, then second row (on the right) and an occasional spell at #8 and flanker. Played a couple of times for the bank I worked for after HS but soon gave up for two reasons: a) I was getting seriously into cycling and b) I was playing against big mean bastards who could cause me damage.Oh and c) I was shite.

    All Blacks versus Barbarians, Cardiff Arms Park, 1973. Greatest game ever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMd7PQavavw So many legends on the field at once it’s incredible. Grant Batty? Coolest try-scorer ever.

  13. The try of all time.

    Talking of then vs now though…..

    1.  The half hearted Haka with half the NZ team clueless.

    2.  That try would now probably have stopped at the high tackle on JPR

    3.  The conversion attempt……..

  14. @Teocalli

    The try of all time.

    Talking of then vs now though…..

    1. The half hearted Haka with half the NZ team clueless.

    2. That try would now probably have stopped at the high tackle on JPR

    3. The conversion attempt……..

    What I think the 1973 Haka showed was that it was a bunch of white guys doing a trad Maori war dance. It wasn’t the slick, well-choreographed performance they put on now, that’s for sure. Clearly, the 73 team knew the basics and just went through the motions.

    Clearly, the All Blacks had been instructed to decapitate JPR Williams. Seriously, just about every tackle was high and he was tall so it wasn’t like you were trying to tackle Batty or Going who were about 4′ tall.

    Watching the conversion attempts make you realize what a joke American Football 3 pointers and extra point kicks are – right in front of the posts, someone holding the ball and maybe 50 yards away being considered long. I remember Andy Irvine scoring a winning penalty from inside his own half against England in the 70s.

    This is great: https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=scottish+rugby+1970s&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-003  I’m pretty sure I was at most of the Murrayfield games here. The old, good Murrayfield where fan\s were completely mingled and you could bring in as much booze as you wanted. Zero crowd trouble. Now it’s all seating and the concessions are probably extortionate. Good times.

  15. @wiscot

    The Duckham dummy/sidestep/light afterburners was always a joy to watch too.

    I remember one came at Twickers vs France where we took in whole barrel of beer complete with a trestle table and glasses.  The French were producing wine bottles and glasses from copious inside overcoat pockets – “You share your beer if we share our wine?”.  Great game.

    Then there was the Irish game I had to watch on TV the following day where we scored (I think) 5 tries but I could only remember 2 of them.

  16. @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    The Duckham dummy/sidestep/light afterburners was always a joy to watch too.

    I remember one came at Twickers vs France where we took in whole barrel of beer complete with a trestle table and glasses. The French were producing wine bottles and glasses from copious inside overcoat pockets – “You share your beer if we share our wine?”. Great game.

    Then there was the Irish game I had to watch on TV the following day where we scored (I think) 5 tries but I could only remember 2 of them.

    Yeah, some things have improved, but to be honest, I’m not sure I’d lay out the cash for an international these days. Back in the 70s, my Dad could afford to take five people to both home games at Murrayfield pretty much every year. Every once in a while we were in the stand. Now you’d need to sell a kidney to afford that. I’m sure the atmosphere is different too. I remember booze being shared freely – then in the early 80s they confiscated cans of coke FFS.

  17. @Chipomarc

    Lance used to say ” get use to going to bed hungry “.

    Right!  Just catching up on old posts.  He was most definitely a cunt of the highest order but this is a line that is worthy.

  18. @Owen

    My goal is to drop a full 11 kg by summer, but it’s going to take some serious willpower. I’ve already cut out alcohol during the week.

    Yup, same here.  I have actually cut out all alcohol until I get back down under 75 kg’s.  I stopped riding mid-summer this last year after three cyclists were killed in my home state of Vermont within 6 weeks by cars with the final one being a doctor from my med school who was hit on a clear July afternoon at 5 pm on a clear, straight stretch of road with no other cars present by a legally drunk driver.  The driver was not arrested, did not serve a day in jail and after the trial completed this fall, she ended up with 200 hours of community service.  Just made me sick.  I’m sure it helped that she was the local policeman’s wife.  Anyways, I gained about 4 kilo’s over the last six months and have started to turn it around.  Climbed back on the bike in late December and have been riding rollers at least 3 times a week and getting an outside ride in on the CX bike on the odd weekend day.  Already have dropped just over 1 kilo in the last 3 weeks but it is fucking HELL not having a drink in the evening with the VMH while she has some wine!!!  But, not only have I dropped a bit of weight, I cannot believe how my overall joy of life and outlook and mental state have improved.  My VMH and all five kiddos have remarked on it as well.  Cycling, definitely my drug of choice.

  19. Good to hear from ya, Buck!

    We had 4 cyclists killed in my city last year. Two were frequent, skilled road cyclists, two were commuters on cycling-unfriendly roads. One guy was hit on a road that should have bike lanes, dictated by city ordinance. One was hit around the corner from my house. Driver *admitted* they saw him coming…but decided to pull out anyway. NOTHING happened to the person. You tell me what other way you can kill a human, admit it, and the cops blame the dead person for cycling too fast?

    I nearly got hit this morning when cross a t-road on the MUP. Fucking worthless piece of shit driver came from behind me and made a left turn, cutting into my side of the road and traveling far, far too fast. It’s painted with a crossing AND there was a cyclist coming the other way AND there were around 45 cars backed up at the closest light. And the fucker did it anyway. In those situations I can’t help but seriously desire chasing them down, pulling them from their car, and beating them senseless. I’m just overcome with rage. That fucking lady saw me and was too impatient to show my life any respect. Goddamn, it is difficult to stay positive when so many motorists are reckless fucks and threaten us when we’re just riding along or riding to work. And when you know they’ll get off free when they do drive into us.

    A law professor at UNC-CH actually wrote a piece last week saying she’s “openly hostile” to cyclists who filter to the front of a line of cars at lights. I wrote her a very strongly worded email. Regardless of how you feel about that and that it’s good practice to obey all the road laws/rules…sometimes I honestly don’t give a fuck when 98% of motorists break the law every single time they drive. Speeding, failure to use indicators, texting, failure to use lights when wipers are on. On and on. Okay…so I should follow all the laws, but none of you are? That makes sense. Especially when my 7 kg bike is known to be a killing machine.

  20. Safe to say that when you’re looking comparable to a past tour winner (who hasn’t exactly let himself go), you’re ticking the boxes in terms of the required upper body emaciation.

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