How to be Light

Many people have noticed, lately, that I am an excellent climber. Fast. Focused. Featherweight. Also, I am very, very handsome, but that is the subject for another post on another day.

It is not uncommon, truth be known, for me to receive requests for climbing guidance from professional cyclists, though I am contractually obligated to not mention these cyclists by name. Considering the remarkable sums of money these people are paying me, I am more than happy to respect their need for privacy.

Because I value you, dear reader, above all my (very, very) high-paying clientele — and because I know that the only reason you do not gladly pay a $49.95 monthly subscription to this site is that I do not ask it of you — I shall today offer you the same guidance. At no charge whatsoever.

Today, I shall tell you how to fly up the hills. Today, my friend, you shall be transformed.

The Easy Parts
There are three crucial components to being a magnificent climber. No, of course you cannot expect to be as magnificent as I am, but you can become at least relatively magnificent, and you should be satisfied with that.

The first two parts are simple, but the basics must not be ignored.

First, you must pedal. Some fools believe that they can simply coast uphill, through the medium of offering promissory notes to gravity against future descents. And while I have patented this idea and have built a prototype drivetrain that successfully implements this theory, it is not yet available for production or sale. The reasons are technical, but basically boil down to a problem with the elastic bands breaking.

It is not enough to pedal, though. You must pedal in sine waves. Yes, I know: conventional cycling wisdom would have you pedal circles. But conventional cycling wisdom doesn’t get paid ridiculously large sums of money by the top pro cyclists in the world, now, does it? Consider the motion of a pedal as it goes by you. Is that pedal going in a circle? No. It’s oscillating up and down as the bike moves forward. A sine wave. How will this help you pedal better? It won’t, but it’s still true.

Second, you’ve got to stop braking as you climb. It just slows you down.

How to Be Light
Once you’ve got the basics — do pedal (in sine waves), don’t brake — down, you’re ready for the vital third step in becoming a climbing powerhouse.

You must become light.

Many cycling pundits think they understand this vital technique for being a world-class climber, but they don’t. Not really. All they know are the crude basics: lose weight, ride a light bike. Sure, that’s fine as far as it goes, but the details — how do you lose weight? How do you make your bike light? — are where traditional givers of advice will fail you.

I, dear reader, will not fail you. The following strategies will help you become the climber you have always dreamed of becoming. (Unless, of course, you have been dreaming of becoming as good a climber as I, because that would be laughable. Set your sites on something attainable, you charlatan!)

Techniques for Making Yourself Light
Most cyclists believe they already know how to make themselves light — diet and exercise — and that the only variables are time and willpower.

Nothing, I am happy to say, could be further from the truth.

This is all you need to do:

  • Shave. This has been considered good practice among cyclists for years, but the full extent and reasoning behind shaving has never been fully explained. Shave everything. Head to toe. This includes your eyebrows and eyelashes. No decorative facial hair (this goes for you too, ladies). Not only is hair non-aerodynamic; every single little hair has weight. In fact, don’t just shave. Wax. That way you can get the hair beneath the surface of the skin. Special note to Tinker Juarez: You could be fourteen pounds lighter if you got rid of all that hair.
  • Exfoliate: I’m not talking here about using a mildly abrasive skin cleanser here. I’m prescribing a twenty minute session, top to bottom, with 80 grit sandpaper. Some people might call this torture. I call it the cost of greatness.
  • Avoid Sunscreen: This one’s easy. You know all that sunscreen you rub onto your skin? Yeah, you think it doesn’t weigh anything? Well it does. Stop using it; it’s weighing you down.
  • Fingernails and Toenails: I know, you already trim your fingernails and toenails nice and tight. That’s a good first baby step. Now finish the job. All the way to the cuticles, champ.
  • Liposuction: Some people call this unnecessary surgery with no demonstrable long-term benefit. I call it the shortest route from point Fat to point Fast.
  • Remove unnecessary body parts: Do you know what your tonsils are good for? How about your appendix? Nothing, that’s what. So what are you carrying them around for? And while we’re having this discussion, answer me this: do you really think you’d walk any worse if you removed your pinky toes? And don’t even get me started on the dead weight everyone dangles around by virtue of keeping their earlobes.
  • Remove unnecessary decoration: Got a tattoo? You think that ink doesn’t have mass? Ha.
  • Dehydrate: Many cycling authorities encourage you to stay hydrated if you want to ride well. I’ll let you in on a little secret: they tell you that because they’re coaching someone else they want to beat you. The truth is, water is incredibly heavy. And while I recognize it as a necessary evil (my kidneys sometimes fail when I let my water mass dip below 40%), I’m not going to lug any more up the hill than I have to. You shouldn’t either. I recommend going without fluids for at least 36 hours before a ride of any significance. Then, during the ride, spit. A lot. And don’t drink anything.
  • Bloodletting: This got a bad rap because it was invented back in the medieval ages, but just because something was invented a long time ago doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. I mean, wheels were invented a long time ago too and I don’t see you rushing to eliminate those from your cycling rig.

Techniques for Making Your Bike Light
Many people spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to make their bikes light. I heartily endorse this behavior. In addition to purchasing lighter parts, though, you should also consider making your bike lighter through the medium of removing bike parts. For example:

  • Remove the rear brake: Everyone knows that most of your stopping power is in the front brake. So why incur the expense and weight of that redundant rear brake? A good modern front brake has enough stopping power and then some. You know how much weight you’ll save by getting rid of the rear brake, cabling, and levers? Fourteen pounds, that’s how much. Most people don’t realize how heavy rear brakes are.
  • Remove the bottle cages: Since you aren’t going to be drinking when you ride anymore (see “Dehydrate,” above), you won’t be needing those bottle cages anymore, will you? Nor the bottle cage bolts.
  • Sand the paint job off: I’ve heard that some bike manufacturers put between 2-5 coats of paint on their bikes, and then seal the job with a high-gloss finish. For those manufacturers, I have a question: Do you you also insert lead weights into the tubes? Because you may as well.
  • Never carry a saddlebag: You know, I have ridden hundreds of times without any tools or flat-fixing supplies without ever missing them. In fact, the only time I have ever missed not carrying stuff to do bike field repairs is when my bike breaks or flats. And that’s hardly ever.
  • Never let your sweat drip onto your bike: You’re going to sweat when riding (although if you’ve done your dehydrating properly, you won’t sweat much). Just don’t sweat on your bike. That leaves a salty residue, and salt has mass.
  • Helium: Fill your tires with helium. Fill your bike tubes with helium. Before rides, breathe a helium/oxygen mix, which is 30% lighter than conventional air. I do not understand why so few people understand this.

Techniques for Making Your Clothing Light
Over the centuries, cycle clothing manufacturers have refined their wares to the point where cyclists can be comfortable in the saddle all day.

But being comfortable isn’t the point, is it? Being light is the point. Here is how to customize your bike clothing to get rid of that ungainly bulk:

  • Get rid of the pockets: You’re not carrying anything in your jersey pockets, are you? Of course you’re not, because anything in those pockets is going to weigh something. And since you aren’t using those pockets, you may as well get rid of them.
  • Get rid of the armpit fabric: Cutting a gaping hole in your jersey directly beneath the armpit serves dual purposes. First, it makes the jersey lighter. Second, it has a cooling effect, which is useful since you won’t be sweating much anymore and will be more susceptible to heat stroke.
  • Get rid of the collar: Are you going to wear a tie with that jersey? No? Well then, what’s the collar for? I mean, besides to weigh you down?
  • Shorten your shorts: When you get right down to it, the primary function of the bike short is to hold the chamois in place. So why do they go all the way down onto your thigh, sometimes almost to the knee? Chop them off higher and you’ll get rid of several unsightly tenths of an ounce. And you’ll get a nice tan on more of the tops of your quads.

Final Analysis
Do I expect many cyclists to follow my advice? No, no I do not. And why will most of you snigger and ignore me? Because most of you are not truly committed climbers.

Just you wait, though. In a few short days the Tour de France will be on TV and — as you see cyclists with the healthy glow of freshly sanded skin, the dull gaze of people who have not had a drink in two days, brakeless (and paintless) bikes and sheared short shorts, that not everyone has been laughing off my (very, very) wise (and, frankly, expensive) counsel.

And then you too will do what it takes to be light.

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