Recently I’ve seen a multitude of articles on cycling websites about body image and weight issues within the professional peloton. Now if you’re a professional cyclist, weight of course does matter. When you’re dragging yourself up endless mountain climbs all day for a living, grams count! Power to weight (watts per kilo) is king!
For us mere amateurs, weight is arguably less important. Nobody is writing you big cheques or throwing free bikes your way if you crest the climb first on the Sunday club run.
But still, there does seem to be a problem. It’s been highlighted recently with the rise of “eRacing” where weigh-ins can be public and entering your correct weight makes a big difference. In any competitive cycling environment (professional, amateur, virtual, or just post-ride bragging rights) it’s very easy to go too far with dieting or improper eating in an effort to slim down.
A few days ago I stepped on the scales for the first time this year: 59.8kg. That’s around 132lbs for you imperial folk. As a benchmark, I haven’t weighed under 60kg since high school and I generally hover around 62-65kg (~140lbs).
Okay, nobody has ever accused me of being “fat” but I’ve never been completely happy with what I’ve seen in the mirror. In my opinion/perception I’ve always carried a little extra around the waist. So if someone like me can feel a little “too soft around the middle” I can’t imagine the pressure some other riders must feel to shed pounds.
This year I’ve been riding pretty hard, clocking decent weekly mileage, while also making a few changes to my eating habits (mostly saying no to that extra slice of cake). I wasn’t unhealthy before and this hasn’t been in an effort to lose weight, I just felt like trying to live a little healthier as I hit my 40’s. I personally don’t think I’ve been eating less, but the scales don’t lie and two people have asked me if I’m “on a diet” recently.
I feel super fit and I’ve been whipping up the hills (oh, I wonder why that is) but it still came as a bit of a shock to be under the 60kg mark. I’m actually not even sure that’s a “healthy” weight for me! I don’t feel like I should drop any more – not that I’m doing it on purpose – and I actually feel far more “body confident” right now than I have my entire life. If I hadn’t stepped on the scales I probably wouldn’t have worried at all.
The average weight of Grand Tour winners has dropped over 10kg in the last 20 years. Magazines and websites are plastered with “cycling for weight loss” articles and images of stick thin roadies cresting tough mountain roads. The pressure to look “pro” is all around us. I can see how the drive to get “skinny” could easily overwhelm and lead amateur cyclists down a dangerous path.
So in amateur cycling, is there an image problem around weight?