Heels over Head: Cyclists are people who are too old and cranky to run

2013-11-21 16:17

Ever so often, all runners must take a break from pounding the pavements, and what better than some active relaxation on a bike.

It’s especially good cross-training if you’re injured and great preparation for when you retire from running one day.

Having done the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge on Sunday, where we rode past many advertisements for retirement villages, I’ve been vindicated in my view that cyclists are, indeed, people who are too old and cranky to run.

A few years ago most runners wouldn’t even think of cycling, and there is a, er, running battle of snobbery between cyclists (whose “training” is nothing near as tough as running, of course) and runners (who are cheapskates when it comes to equipment and who dress like nerds, mostly, unlike kitted-out cyclists).

I took up spinning a few years back because I couldn’t run every day and after the spinning instructor kept nagging us to enter some races, I started doing the 94.7 last year. This weekend’s was my second one and these are my observations:

» Cycling is easy, really, because you sit all the time. That can also be the difficult part.

» You are also able to walk the next day because your muscles aren’t bleeding and torn as much as with high-impact running.

» What makes cycling tough is the strain on your shoulders, the bruising of the bum and eventually your hips get a little stiff. By the last 10km, you might be tempted to just get off the bike and run. It will seem like a real good way to get out of the uncomfortable sitting position – because if nature meant us to cycle, bikes would have grown on trees.

» Cycling doesn’t require as much training as running, especially if you’re a runner. I did the 94.7 having never got on a bike all year, but with spinning classes three to four times a week. Cycling 94km is the equivalent in exertion of running a 21km-30km, but without the niggles the next day.

» Cycling events like the 94.7 have a late start for slow cyclists (unlike the more egalitarian running event, where everyone starts early at the same time), which means you can sleep in a bit, but get fried when you brave noonday temperatures of 30°C plus.

» Compared with running, cycling is a bit of a hassle. All you need to have for a running event is your race shirt and shorts, your numbers and your shoes. For cycling, you also need a working bike, a helmet and you need a vehicle that can transport all these.

» Eating while cycling is a little bit difficult because you need to keep your hands on the steering bar, but it is much better tolerated by the body because you’re not shaking up and down, as in running. So theoretically, you could eat more, but then eating would eat into your time. And long-distance events are really all about the eating, not?

» The great thing about cycling compared with running is the freewheeling downhills, which means that if you do a 94km event, it really only is 47km because you freewheel half the way. The speed is also something most of us plodders never experience when we run.

» With speed comes injury. I saw the horrible aftermath of seven accidents during the race (and I mean these guys were lying on the ground, out and bleeding, covered in plastic blankets for shock) and I witnessed two as they happened (one was a spectacular mangle of steel, and limbs and summersaults, and handshakes after, strangely). These are way more serious than I have seen in four Comrades races. Cycling is, therefore, quite scary if you’re a runner.

» Cycling is a bit of a rich man’s sport, judging on the serious hardware one sees at a race like 94.7. But it doesn’t have to be that expensive. You can borrow your sister’s cheap and heavy supermarket mountain bike – these are especially sturdy. You can cycle in your running kit and old shoes, but do invest R200 on a padded pair of cycling tights from Mr Price. Your ass will be glad you did.

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