I cracked the ton! Backwards

For the first time in… not sure… I weigh less than 100kg.  The numbers from the Tanita body composition scale are:

  • 99.2kg
  • 24.3 % body fat (still a bit high, but trending well)
  • 3.9kg bone mass (sometimes 4.0, sometimes 3.9)
  • visceral fat 13 (normal range 1-14)
  • muscle mass 71.1kg (this seems a little low, there’s at least that much in my legs alone)

I should qualify the achievement by saying that this month has been quite stressful (my lost passport was only replaced today!) so I haven’t been eating as heartily as “normal”. But I haven’t been skipping meals or avoiding the odd glass of wine either.

Remember, my numbers from 13 months ago were 115kg and 30%. In fact, I just noticed that on 1 August 2013 I bounced up to 110.4kg and stayed above 108kg until mid-September. No wonder people are telling me I’ve lost weight recently. I’ve been looking across 13 months of slow improvements and not noticing the recent changes.

BTW, I am making no promises about my numbers after 3 weeks of earnest eating and drinking in Japan. Any bets?

Cycling – 12 months on (belated)

For many years my Cannondale mountain bike remained dormant (fallow, having a spell) while I contemplated selling it.  It was fun to ride cross country on rough grass fields, but every time I tried any type of dirt riding I felt like I was too high and too ungainly to be safe. That changed on 31 December 2012 when I ventured onto the fire trails near my house and was hooked. I was very sore, but vowed to keep it up.

On 1 January 2012 I tracked my ride with MapMyRide (since converted and uploaded to Strava) and explored more of Mulligan’s Flat.  The initial fire trail gave way to narrow tyre tracks and loose quartz on steep (to me) climbs.  Despite bursting my lungs and frying my legs I was getting into it.

Mulligans Flat – 12 months on

To celebrate New Year’s I retraced the route from 12 months before.  I probably rode at 80% effort to maintain a steady pace and not redline.  So how did I do compared to last year? About 40% faster!

  1. Kangawallafox Climb 5:52 to 3:55
  2. Mulligan Downhill 1:58 to 1:36
  3. Left Coach to Standup 6:11 to 4:06. Considering that the fast, hard clay downhill section was metalled and had rain bars cut in during September and used to be a top gear run, that’s a very good performance.
  4. Standup 1:12 to 0:38

12 months of change

It’s easy to have huge gains in the first year, especially from a low base of activity and fitness, but that’s no reason not to celebrate:

  • Weight fell from 115kg to 103kg
  • Body fat fell from 30% to 26.5%
  • Visceral fat fell from 15 (bottom of unhealthy range) to 14 (in the healthy range, just)

Fitness gains weren’t obvious until October and my weight plateaued at 105kg.  While my times were getting faster my heart rate remained high even on medium-high efforts.  Suddenly I was smashing out times equal or better than previous bests but with heart rate 10-20bpm lower.  I even rode a very steep section between Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, hit 195bpm at the steepest section and my heart rate dropped to 170bpm as the slope moderated slightly to the peak.

12 months of learning

Things that you learn, often the hard way.  Fortunately, there’s help around if you ask and are lucky to have willing coaches.

  • Road/MTB: Correct position on the bike is vital.  The wrong position will cause pain, suffering and general hatred of cycling.  Get measured by an expert and take their advice.
  • Adjust gradually.  Don’t make too many adjustments too far too quickly.
  • Road: If you are not a supremely-fit and flexible athlete or sponsored, get an endurance bike.  You will be faster because you will be more comfortable.
  • MTB: Tyre pressure makes a big difference.  I’m still quite heavy so I leave 35-40psi in tubed tyres.
  • MTB: It is the opposite of what seems right, but put weight on the front wheel.  Grip and cornering confidence will result.  The back wheel can work out things for itself.  Often.
  • Road/MTB: Ride with others.  Whether they are faster or slower or at the same level matters not.  Riding with someone else makes the distance shrink, is safer and the coffee tastes better.  You’ll learn from others and learn more about your own riding too.  Just make sure that at least one of you is carrying a puncture repair kit and a pump.
  • Always offer help to fellow cyclists in need.
  • Don’t be afraid to extend yourself.  It’s only too far and too fast and too difficult until you do it.  My longest ride sat at 70km for months until I almost doubled it to 133km on a Saturday morning for fun.

And for 2014?

For 201, I shall be mostly riding, Audax.  Plodding along over great distances suits me more than racing.  So I’m considering several 100km events this year, culminating in a crack at Fitz’s Challenge.  I just have to learn how to climb unremitting hills.

So, what will you be doing this year?

Calculating the ideal weight for cycling (UPDATED)

English: The graph shows the correlation betwe...
The graph shows the correlation between body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (%BF) for men in NCHS’ NHANES III 1994 data. The body fat percent shown uses the method from Romero-Corral et al. to convert NHANES BIA to %BF (June 2008). “Accuracy of body mass index in diagnosing obesity in the adult general population”. International Journal of Obesity 32 (6) : 959–956. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2008.11. PMID 18283284. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[This is adapted from the article Let there be Light by Selene Yaeger published in the Autumn 2013 edition of Ride magazine.]

What’s an ideal weight?

That very much depends on what you are doing.  Carrying a few kilos is fine for recreational cyclists (in fact, a little fat is usually better than next to none); however, a lower weight will help you become competitive and climb like a tiny Columbian, allegedly.  Since every extra kilogram above my ideal weight will make me 20-25s slower for each kilometre of a climb [Hunter Allen], then I need to figure out my ideal weight.  And reach it.  Here are the 3 methods and 3 rationales to determine ideal weight:

  1. Losing a bit of weight;
  2. Getting lean and a little mean;
  3. Competing at a high level.

What about BMI?

Body Mass Index is a fairly blunt instrument and much older than you might think.  Here is a mathematician tearing into it.

SIR – The body-mass index that you (and the National Health Service) count on to assess obesity is a bizarre measure. We live in a three-dimensional world, yet the BMI is defined as weight divided by height squared. It was invented in the 1840s, before calculators, when a formula had to be very simple to be usable. As a consequence of this ill-founded definition, millions of short people think they are thinner than they are, and millions of tall people think they are fatter. 

Nick Trefethen 
Professor of numerical analysis
University of Oxford

The Economist 5 January 2013

Wii Fit using a BMI of 21 expects me to aim for 83.5kg.  Starting from 115kg on 1 January 2013 it didn’t look like that was physically possible.  When I was quite thin about 15 years ago I was 90kg!

Using the slightly more realistic BMI range of 18.5 to 25 from the Heart Foundation’s handy calculator, at 195cm tall that gives a range of 72 to 95kg.  More realistic, but a bit vague. See also New BMI Calculator (below)

There are alternatives to the BMI that are better at determining risk factors of obesity, including two that only need a tape measure.  Or I could use three that are a more accurate.

1. Ride more weight less

The first method assumes that you are riding recreationally, maybe you used to ride a lot or perhaps you are trying to lose some weight to gain performance.  This formula is more advanced than BMI, but not by a lot.

Step Men Women
1 Baseline 48kg for the first 152cm 45.5kg for the first 152cm
+ 1.06kg for each extra cm + 0.9kg for each extra cm


 kg  kg
2 Frame size  


>165cm <158 158-165 >165


14-16.5cm Small <14 <15.2 <15.9 Small
16.5-19cm Medium 14-14.6 15.2-15.9 15.9-16.5 Medium
>19cm Large >14.6 >15.9 >16.5 Large


3 Ideal weight Small Baseline -10% Small Baseline -10%
Medium Baseline Medium Baseline
Large Baseline +10% Large Baseline +10%
My Ideal Weight (for now) is…  kg  kg

Step 1 is a fairly simple calculation based on averages.

Step 2 takes into account your inherent body shape, good for 10% adjustment either way.  The adjustment for women is more complex by virtue of a bigger range of shapes.

Step 3 is to compare the calculated amount with your current weight.

Based on 195cm my baseline weight is 94kg.  My wrist is 19cm which is a large frame (just), so I can add 10% to take my ideal weight to 103kg.


I’m now 104-105kg (down from 115kg at the start of the year) so what does this mean?  I’m interpreting this as indicating the end of the first stage towards fitness in readiness for more intensity.

And if the weight calculated is less than your current weight, then you need to move to the next formula.

2. Body Fat Percentage

Let’s say that you are riding several times a week, training for an endurance event, you want to change your body composition for more power, or you current weight is below the ideal weight calculated above.

The healthy body fat range is 10 to 25% for men and 18 to 30% for women.  Too little fat can compromise your immune system, so less is not always more.

 1 Measure your Current body fat %
 2 Goal body fat % Male 10-25% / Female 18-30%
3 Current weight x Body Fat Percentage Mass of body fat in kg
4 Current weight – mass of body fat Lean body mass in kg
5 (1 – Goal body fat %) Proportion of lean body
Result Lean body mass ÷ proportion of lean body [step 5] Ideal weight

If I use 27% as current body fat (average of recent measurements by a Tanita BC-522 scale) and 20% as my goal and 105kg as my weight, I have about 28kg of fat, 77kg lean.  From that my calculated weight is about 96kg.


This weight looks like a next step.  Assuming that I reach 103kg (see above) shortly, then 96kg should come with increased training.  That goal seems achievable by not being that far away and would be expected after an increase in training that I was about to undertake anyway.

3. Competitive streak (not bacon)

This is one’s “fighting weight”.  If you are not going for the highest level of the sport, then this weight will be a step too far.  If you focussed only on dropping to this weight you may actually lose power in the process!  But let’s do the sums and see what happens.

The creator of the Cycling Bible series coach Joe Friel analysed top cyclists to see what weight they carried per centimetre of height and found this range:

  • Male – 375g to 430g per cm
  • Female – 340g to 394g per cm

This empirical measure can’t explain everything (Cadel Evans is as wide as both Schleck brothers side-by-side!) but with statistical methods and a big sample you get very close. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_the_crowd#Classic_examples

So at 195cm the male weight range is 73 – 84kg.  Sampling the Tour de France squads, all but one rider near 195cm fits in that range:

  • Michael Schär BMC – 196cm 74kg
  • Bjorn Thurau Europcar – 193cm 78kg
  • Laurent Mangel FDJ – 195cm 83kg
  • Johan Vansummeren Garmin-Sharp – 197cm 79kg
  • Olivier Kaisen Lotto-Belisol – 195cm 82kg
  • Mercel Sieberg Lotto-Belisol – 198cm 82kg
  • Stijn Vandenburgh Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 199cm 83kg
  • Jens Mouris Orica-Greenedge – 197cm 91kg (!)
  • Christian Knees Sky Procycling – 194cm 81kg
  • Mirko Selvaggi Vacansoleil-DCM 195cm 73kg

4. New BMI calculator

While its author warns that the new BMI is still just one number, and that he is just a mathematician, the new formula at least normalises for height.

  • Current formula: BMI = weight/height2
  • New formula: BMI = 1.3 * weight/height2.5

Based on the new BMI Calculator I return to the Healthy range at 102.1kg.


It has been interesting to break up weight loss into goals that align to purpose and intensity of an activity.  Telling me to drop to 83.5kg from my former weight of 115kg is just absurd, even if Wii Fit Board is cute when he says that with a smile.  But if I make that weight via 103kg and 96kg, then 84kg seems reasonable; as long as I accept that I will be riding in most of my spare time every week and I’d better start racing to make it worthwhile.  I could ramp up to that.  Or I could slack off and be satisfied with something in the low 90’s and thighs that could break macadamias.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Mental anguish from a lack of riding

Oh the irony… just as I seem to be making gains in strength and fitness, I’m off the bike because of illness. Not in sub-zero conditions, fog or the exhaustion of exertion, but just at the start of Spring weather.
A bug, maybe two bugs; chest and stomach. There have been so many good rides in the past three weeks and I have had to stay away from all of them. Most disappointing was missing The Berm ride of the Canberra Centenary Trail; 140km in one day. I’m currently missing the first day of a two-day ride of the same trail.
The stomach bug has left me quite crook in the mornings, but generally not too bad. The sniffles and slight asthma symptoms have been annoying rather than debilitating. I suspect that I have greater lung capacity that has compensated for the congestion.
The worst effects have been mental. I am serious missing out on the feelings of pleasure and pain. I am seriously going spare waiting to get back on a bike.
By the same token, staying off the bike has been useful Despite the lack of activity, I’ve lost 1-2kg over these weeks but I’m sure that my leg muscles have more definition.
My first ride will be tomorrow at the Onyabike Giant Demo Day at Mt Stromlo, where I’ll try the 27.5 versions of the Trance and XTC; my first hardtail. I would like to have a few lazy k’s in my legs before attempting a serious ride, but a quick ride tonight is probably all that I’ll get.
New goal: Before the centenary year is out I must complete the Centenary Trail.
No ride, no life.

PR on every Segment – Mulligans Flat ride

I had a great day for results today.  I PR’d every segment I rode and smashed some old times.  I was feeling 9/10 and even though the wattle pollen was noticeable.

Name Dist Elev Speed HR New Time Previous Best
Mulligan’s gate to gate east 3.3km 32m 22.9km/h 164bpm 00:08:30 00:09:07
Kangawallafox Climb 1.7km 29m 24.1km/h 171bpm 00:04:15 00:04:34
Quoll Gate to Curlew Gate 1.4km 9m 21.2km/h 164bpm 00:03:50 00:04:55
Mulligans Not So Flat – The Rest 1.5km 22m 16.0km/h 169bpm 00:05:50 00:05:50
mulligan’s gate to gate west 3.3km 33m 20.3km/h 159bpm 00:09:32 00:10:03
Mulligan’s Sanctuary to Gate 0.5km 9m 21.0km/h 169bpm 00:01:31 00:02:09

On segments 1, 2 and 5 I waited at the top for my colleague Amandeep, so there’s almost 20s to gain there.  On those segments I pushed quite hard, maybe 90-95% effort.  The big difference was that my legs provided power without question instead of crumbling as I reached the top.

Makes me want to set some goals:

  1. Mulligan’s gate to gate east in 8:00
  2. Kangawallafox Climb in 3:45
  3. Quoll Gate to Curlew Gate in 3:40
  4. Mulligans Not So Flat – The Rest in 5:30 (I should aim lower, but I’ll just have to see.)
  5. mulligan’s gate to gate west in 8:00 (which should be easier than going East if the current times from other riders are anything to go by.)
  6. Mulligan’s Sanctuary to Gate in 1:25.

Now that Spring is starting, I might start morning rides and chase these times down.

It also appears that my average heart rate, while still high, is moderating and my recovery time is improving gradually.