I started off this year with the idea that I would need to lose as much weight as possible to be a better cyclist. Essentially, that really meant, to be a better climber. I knew that being overweight was really killing me on the rides, and the hillier the ride, the more it killed me. A friend that I ride with often dropped about 60 lbs and suddenly he was flying up the hills, waiting for me at the top. So I took a long, hard, look in the mirror and decided that I too, needed to get to a more reasonable weight.
Most cyclists will tell you that cycling is a power/weight ratio sport. Changing either or both of these elements will make you a faster rider, and essentially better climber. I figured that I could stand to lose about 50lbs and still be above 10% body fat, and I would be better off. All the while during the weight loss, I have been keeping my protein intake high so that my body doesn’t break down the muscles for energy and stays working on “fat loss”.
I looked up some cycling power calculators to see how much of a difference there would be if I lost the weight. It didn’t seem like that much. I put in my current weight, picked an incline percentage and duration and it spit out the number of watts I would have to maintain to climb. Then I dropped the weight and the watts were less, only slightly less. But as we all know, gravity isn’t the constant that scientists tell us it is.
Gravity is a harsh mistress. When going up a hill, especially one that tops above 12% grade or so, the gravity of earth seems equivalent to that of a super black hole, pulling you back to the bottom of the hill. When gliding down the other side of that hill though, it seems to barely hold on to you as you wish it was pulling you faster.
This past weekend on my ride, having lost only about 20 lbs so far, I found the hills … easy. Mother Earth seems to loosen her embrace on me in a way that wasn’t reflected in the cycling calculator. I was leading the pace line in to a moderate climb (maybe 5-8% grade for about 1/4 mile). Knowing that all day I was passing people going up the hills, I dialed it back. Way back. I dropped to my smallest gear and just relaxed as I pulled the group up the hill. At the top of the hill I looked back and to my dismay, I was alone. I had accidentally dropped them. This was the most pleasant surprise I had all day. I wasn’t hammering, I was almost coasting up the hill, and somehow I had gotten away from them.
With another 30 lbs to lose, I can only imagine that by the time I am done, gravity will be reversed and I will be using my brakes to keep from flying off of the tops of the hills!