There is”gym fit” and then of course there is”hill fit” which, if we are talking about backpacking, are possibly two different things. We can say with quite some certainty that the great walker Wainwright never went near a gym. But with cycling, things are a little different. The fully loaded touring bike is an unforgiving mistress and if you want any sort of pleasure out of the relationship it pays to keep your fitness up and to stay “tour fit” or at least “bike fit”.
I had taken up cycling after years as a swimmer and then a runner, but Esther was still a civilian and one that had just spent 4 years as an art student. I got her a bike and we set off down Easter Road in Edinburgh where we lived at the time. Less than a mile later, we had got to the bottom and she started to cry. She was right of course, just asking to stop and go home would never have worked. Pushing the bikes back up to our flat would be the full extent of our first cycle together. Now, to give her a great deal of credit, she was not put off. She decided to commute by bike to work which was 6 miles away. So the next weekend we went out on what would become her route to work and got half way before we turned for home. Not good, but enough to prove that it was possible. She set out on the Monday morning of the following week with a pal and has been a bike commuter the twelve years or so since. What’s even more amazing, is that during this time she has covered many thousands of miles to and from work and has worn out loads of components but overall saved a fortune ( recorded with Cateye World Commute – have a look!). Go Esther!
So without thinking about it, Esther covers over a hundred miles per week and is “bike fit” all of the time. At the moment, she is using a tweed jacket for the commutes and has never looked quite so stylish (take a look at Wildwood Wisdom Cooperative jackets available at Mosquito Bikes, London). The two years of fighting with her company’s resources department to get the bike 2 work scheme mean that on a summer’s day the bike racks are full (all year round would be too much to ask, this is Scotland ).
Now, to get from “bike fit” to “race fit” as we have done recently takes a quantum leap in application. Lactic threshold is what we are talking about here and it takes a structured approach to what you are going to have to call training if you want to go fast. As Roy Castle used to point out on children’s TV “if you want to be the best you have to beat the rest”, then he went on to more wholesome stuff about dedication (there is little on TV that points that sort of stuff out anymore and Roy even sang it in a tuneful way). One of my friends starts a race with Whitney telling her about one moment in time, but Roy was on the starting blocks with me years before that and he was much more direct.We both did the 107k Hamburg Cyclassics event a few weeks ago as the focus of “project race fit”. We had done interval training and hill reps at 7 o’clock in the morning in the idylic lanes of East Lothian and then Esther had her commute on top of that. But it paid off, with 22,000 cyclists taking part and because it is Germany it all works and 200 miles of road are closed for us and the pro peleton and no one objects. There are no photos of Esther during the ride as she beat me by 6 minutes and parents were not ready with the camera. We both averaged over 25 mph which just goes to show that training works and no one had to take out a gym membership (Esther finished in 2Hr.36 ). Thanks to Adobe for the entry and paying for most of the kit and for taking up the bike 2 work scheme eventually.