real life cycling

Cyclists, triathletes and home truths

Many of us who ride regularly call ourselves cyclists, as if cycling is so much more than just a way of spending our spare time that it defines who we are. It’s not a hobby, or a sport, as much as a way of behaving. It defines the way we eat, the things we talk about, and is, ultimately, the thing we would ALWAYS rather be doing when we’re not doing it.

(Add your own family related disclaimer here…quality time with wife and kids…etc. etc.)

Lots of other people think that’s a bit sad and we need to lighten up and get over ourselves…and who am I to say they might not have a point!

But whilst out on our regular Wednesday night ride recently, the group had swelled in number by one or two who don’t refer to themselves as cyclists, because they give themselves a different definition…


Swim (Photo: tpsdave -
(Photo: tpsdave –

Now, before I get into the usual cyclist v triathlete clichés about their lack of bike handling skills and their inability to ride properly in a group, I would like to reassure you that I won’t be getting into any of that cheap point scoring.

Being a sociable type, and naturally interested in strange and foreign ways of behaving, I quickly got into deep conversation about why someone would first of all want to go for a swim before a bike ride, and then have a quick run afterwards. From what my new triathlete friends were saying I got the impression that they actually relish doing battle with the other flailing arms during the swim, and they genuinely enjoy the punishment (and, let’s be honest, sheer tedium) of the run.

Me? I like to suffer and struggle on the bike as much as the next man, but I want to do it in a civilised way; not after having spent half an hour splashing about in the water, or prior to pummelling my knees into submission in a pair of trainers.

Bike (Photo: Rob Annis - Flickr CC)
(Photo: Rob Annis – Flickr CC)

Before a ride I like to warm my kit on the radiator, knock back a couple of espresso coffees, pontificate over my choice of arm-warmers, tweak my seat position, and have a long and over-elaborate conversation with my fellow cyclists about the best route to take in view of the prevailing wind conditions.

After a ride I like to slip on my retro cotton casquette, eat a cheese sandwich, and recline on the settee with feet raised up on a couple of cushions, basking in the familiar and satisfying ache in my cycling specific muscles.

This leaves me with neither the time nor the inclination to swim or run.

Having said all this, I couldn’t help noticing that not only did my triathlete friends possess the well-toned and muscular calves and thighs of a cyclist, but they topped it off with an upper body worthy of the name. A quick look at my own torso confirmed that, while it doesn’t exactly resemble the badly drawn stick figure of a Tour de France contender, it’s maybe not as muscular as it once was, and so I began to wonder whether there might be something to be said for this obsessive multi-disciplinary training after all.

Run (Brian Minkoff-London Pixels Wikimedia CC)
(Brian Minkoff-London Pixels Wikimedia CC)

Post ride, I mulled it over with the wife:

‘I’ve thought about doing triathlons’, I said, ‘I think I’d have to wear speedos though. What do you think?’
‘About speedos?’ she said, eyebrows raised.
‘About triathlons. I think it would be good for my general fitness, but I’d have to spend so much time training that it’s probably not really fair on you and the kids?’
She fixed me with a sympathetic gaze.
‘Love…you’re no more a triathlete than I am an acrobat’.

Which is a fair point. End of conversation.

I had wondered whether inside every cyclist there is secretly a triathlete trying to get out? In my case, it’s very definitely staying in.


9 comments on “Cyclists, triathletes and home truths

  1. I’ve played with tri’s brother and they are fun but cycling is, for fellows like us, where it’s at. If you want a stronger upper body, do some push-ups and call it good. That’s what I do anyway.


    • Yeah, sounds like a more sensible way of doing it. Fair play to you for having a go at the swim-bike-run; i always imagine the swim might lead to a bit of mid-ride chafing!


  2. Great post. ‘Badly drawn stick figure’ ha.

    As a triathlete, I reckon we are no more than a swimmer, a cyclist, or a runner with a little bit of an attention disorder. I have heard a triathlon referenced to a bike race with a swim warm-up and a run to the finish. A pure cyclist has a pretty large advantage.

    And yeah, swimming helps with the bicpes. Chicks dig biceps.


    • Thanks very much.

      It’s fair to say the cyclists physique is something of an acquired taste!

      One of the lads i rode with is doing the Lanzarote Ironman this year, for which he has my respect (and sympathy, bemusement, pity etc. etc.). Not something i’d fancy doing; sound like you know a bit about the kind of hard graft an Ironman would take?


  3. id rather ride for 20 miles that run for 2, I’m not a runner nave have can’t say ill ever will be, i love being on my bike though


    • I’m with you these days; i used to run a lot in my teens and early twenties, but once i got into cycling there was no turning back for me.


  4. Chikashi

    ‘sheer tedium’: I could not agree more…


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