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  1. #1
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    Losing weight over Being muscular & poweful?

    I've done some research, and from what I gather it's all about losing weight to get faster. But wouldn't being powerful have it's advantages?

    I'm looking into racing and I'm coming from a football/weightlifting background. So my body type is a bit muscular. I feel that being powerful would have greater advantages than losing 10 lbs of muscle? Anyone have facts/input on this?
    By powerful, I mean full body, obviously powerful/strong legs are a must.

  2. #2
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    Inertia is your enemy, you have to accelerate, turn and stop all that extra mass. For a given power output, the lighter rider will be faster.
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  3. #3
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    On the track, yes.

  4. #4
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    I'm qualified to help here. I think this question has a lot of "what if" scenarios. First, weight isn't as big of a deal if you race on the flats and you race for shorter distances. It's a big deal but not as big of a deal. If you do a lot of climbing weight matters a LOT regardless of the distance. I'm fortunate because I can get away with my 215lb race weight here in Texas and be competitive. With that said, I'll never be a pro and I'll never win a race in Colorado or BC or anywhere else with crazy elevation changes regardless of the power I can generate.

    If you're not climbing and you're a heavy strong rider with the ability to go the duration of the race and a good power to weight ratio (cat4 or better by training peaks standards) you can do extremely well in Cat2 and maybe even Cat1. I know this from experience.

    I had a crossfit background when I started racing at the end of 09. Kinda had an offseason linebacker physic and weighed in at 240lbs. Could easily squat over 300lbs. None of that mattered on the bike. As my coach at the time explained, it's great to have strength but we need bike strength which is different so we got to do some converting. It wasn't until we started training my legs for the bike that I started getting faster on the bike. My upper body mass was pretty much useless and if anything it made me more rigid and inflexible which isn't exactly what you want for XC. In two season of racing, I've never seen a muscular or big guy do well at any of the races I've participated in. I did well in Cat3 and Cat2 because I had a HUGE power to weight ratio and spent 8-14hrs a week on the bike training. In cat1 I'm mid pack and I'll probably not move up to the front simply because 2 hours carrying 215lbs at a race pace is a huge task even on the relatively flat courses of Texas. The amount of energy you have to put out and create is way more than a person 50lbs lighter has to put out. To make that much energy you need fuel and a lot of other things. I don't understand the physics of it all but they aren't favoring us. Regardless of strength being heavy (over 180lbs) does NOT favor a bike racer.

  5. #5
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    As far as thick boys, seems that I see more of that on the road side, especially crits. Even here in Utah, with our plentiful vertical , I was suprised by the size of the dudes in the Cat 3's (road). When I race Expert MTB, I have just about the biggest butt in the group (at 5'10", 165); but in Road Cat 3, I have just about the smallest.

    Also, I see big dudes do well in endurance road events. RR>130 miles.

    As ewarner said, Velodrome is where it's at for linebacker looking guys. Get on Youtube and look at some Velodrome Racing videos and you'll see.


    BTW, I fattened up to 170 to get ready for a Cat 3 crit tomorrow. There really is no reason to emaciate myself, like during the MTB season. It's all about raw short-term power and aerodynamics.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewarnerusa View Post
    On the track, yes.
    *cough* 'Roids *cough*

    added weight requires more energy to climb. in XC mountain biking the race is more often won on the climb (the descent can cause the same person to lose though).

    as others have stated, big dudes will do better on the track, crits, or flat TT's. when it comes to climbing (most XC will have a significant amount) it all comes down to power to weight ratio.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1dkl1 View Post
    I've done some research, and from what I gather it's all about losing weight to get faster. But wouldn't being powerful have it's advantages?

    I'm looking into racing and I'm coming from a football/weightlifting background. So my body type is a bit muscular. I feel that being powerful would have greater advantages than losing 10 lbs of muscle? Anyone have facts/input on this?
    By powerful, I mean full body, obviously powerful/strong legs are a must.
    I have lost weight this summer....but I have lost more power so I am actually slower...

    With lots of climbing (MTB around here) it is all about power to weight ratio.

    On the flats it is all about power.

    Look at the Tour de France General catagory riders and compare them to World Cup MTB riders....pretty similar builds

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    I was thinking more towards like better "power to weight ratio". Example-someone that weighs 150 all muscle will not in fact climb as someone 180 all muscle. My theory is that more available muscle power would equal faster in general.

    About flexibility; that is just the elasticy of the muscle. I feel that "muscling" over logs/rocks/etc. helps out. (I haven't rode with many people so I'm hardly sure if this has anything to do with being fast)

  9. #9
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    Don't confused flexibility with the elasticity of muscle. True flexible strength comes from having power throughout the full range of motion vs a short range (think something similar to the legs of a 100m sprinter vs a xc runner).

    Long distance/endurance power comes from 1) using all the relative muscle groups, and 2) having consistent power throughout those groups. Everyone is correct in the calling out of the power:weight ratio being a main contributor to how you perform as if you do not have the sustainable power to push the given mass then you will not have forward motion. Having "big muscle" will not improve this over long distances (as shown by the velodrome guy) as you are required to maintain the power output to continue moving the given mass.

    So really you need to be worried more about what you output ratio is compared to the ratio needed to continually move the given mass. At some point you will get to the point where you will move past the pain and screaming of your legs and continue to pedal at a rate that is sustainable for long periods of time and that will continue moving you forward. That will become a baseline, however throwing in attacks, sprints, crashes, and what not will all effect that energy and power level.

    Just as the old adage goes: A body in motion tends to stay in motion. So no matter what you will keep moving, just the relative pace needed will be dependant on your power.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1dkl1 View Post
    I feel that "muscling" over logs/rocks/etc. helps out.
    I used to think this way. As I started moving up I found that power is no substitute for finesse, smart riding, and efficiency - at least in racing. I thought that being able to hold 1,600watts for 10 sec and continually making little burst over 1700 would be more than enough strength and power. At the end of the day, racing wise, that is all irrelevant if you don't cross the line first. It takes a lot more than strength to finish a race.

    I've got a pretty wicked sprint and a very high ftp. I've had my butt kicked on the road (flat roads) by guys who I'd normally crush heads up just because they rode a lot smarter than I did. Same thing on the mtn bike. power means a lot and blasting through short climbs, killing sprints, bursting over obstacles, accelerating out of turns, and just abusing the drivetrain is impressive but after a little time at race pace it gets harder and harder to find the energy to make those power blips happen and ultimately it starts draining you till you have no gas left for your race pace and have to helplessly watch people continue to come around you.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewarnerusa View Post
    On the track, yes.
    Now..those legs + a skinny upper body would be a serious recipe for success on the track! And yeh...how do you spell roids again??

    I feel sorry for that bike. Poor thing

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    *cough* 'Roids *cough*
    Track Sprinter towards all other cyclist: "*cough* EPO *cough*"
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1dkl1 View Post
    I was thinking more towards like better "power to weight ratio". Example-someone that weighs 150 all muscle will not in fact climb as someone 180 all muscle. My theory is that more available muscle power would equal faster in general
    It all depends on what duration you are referring to for application of power. The longer the duration, and even with shorter durations when the body is already at a relatively high level of output (i.e. during a race) it is more likely that you will be recruiting energy systems which don't scale linearly between a 150lb rider and 180lb rider. All other things being proportionately equal in their basic physical makeup, it's easier and more likely for a lighter rider to have a higher power to weight ratio than a heavier rider, which is where your assumption above falls off the rails.

    A look at the body types of top climbers versus "roleurs" in road races like Tour de France tells you all you need to know about how this is more than conjecture.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1dkl1 View Post
    I was thinking more towards like better "power to weight ratio". Example-someone that weighs 150 all muscle will not in fact climb as someone 180 all muscle. My theory is that more available muscle power would equal faster in general.
    You have to remember that the amount of force applied to the pedals during endurance cycling (rather than short bursts in disciplines such as track sprinting) is relatively low. Sustained cycling power outputs don't really require that much leg muscle strength. The amount of force applied by pushing down during a typical pedal revolution is massively lower than the amount of force your legs would produce in a weight training exercise such as the leg press for example.

    Upper body strength is more important in mountain biking than on the road. You need enough functional upper body strength to be able to control the bike offroad safely so some upper body strength and muscle is useful. If you look at the pictures of Julien Absalon and Jaroslav Kulhavy below they have slightly more upper body muscle than a top road racer like Tony Martin but are still quite light. Additional upper body muscle bulk beyond the minimum that's required hurts your power to weight ratio, on or offroad. If the aim is to get faster on a bike then it's worth losing at least some upper body muscle. Having lots of upper body muscle also hurts you aerodynamically because it increases your frontal area increasing drag. The more drag you produce the more effort it takes just to push through the air, especially at higher speeds.

    You can use a calculator such as the analytic cycling ones to estimate how much of a difference weight loss and changes to power output would make to your speed.

    If you have a rider who weighs 180lbs (81.65kg) climbing a 2km 10% gradient hill against a rider weighing 150lbs (68.04kg) at the same wattage of 250 watts then the lighter rider would theoretically be 106.6 seconds ahead by the top. The lighter rider would ride the climb at 7.9mph (3.51m/s) whilst the heavier rider would climb at 6.6mph (2.95m/s). (Ignoring bike weights).

    Weight Loss for the same power output
    http://www.analyticcycling.com/Force...ight_Page.html

    In order for the two riders to ride alongside each other uphill at the same speed of 7.9mph (3.51m/s) then the rider who weighs 180lbs (81.65kg) would need to be producing 299 watts, 49 watts more than the 150lb (68.04kg) rider.

    (The hill gradient is expressed as a percentage. A 10% gradient would be 0.10 in the calculators)

    (The speed is expressed in m/s, 175mm cranks, 90rpm cadence.)

    Power Output to go at the same speed
    Forces on Rider

    Speed for a given power
    Speed

    Pictured below: Mountain bikers Julien Absalon and Jaroslav Kulhavy, Road Racer Tony Martin
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Losing weight over Being muscular & poweful?-julien_absalon2.jpg  

    Losing weight over Being muscular & poweful?-jaroslav_kulhavy2.jpg  

    Losing weight over Being muscular & poweful?-tony_martin3.jpg  

    Last edited by WR304; 10-03-2011 at 10:39 AM.

  15. #15
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    i have the same body type as you it sounds. The skinnier I got as i started mt bike racing the faster I got. I used to have some decent muscle on my arms/back but now it is mostly gone. My thighs are more solid but other than that I feel like a pencil compared to my college football playing days. My riding is so much better after losing the "extra 10 pounds of muscle". If you only do flat courses/road type courses weight isn't as big of a deal, but if you are doing climbing and alot of starting and stopping then weight is a huge issue and the lighter man wins.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dontheclysdale View Post
    I used to think this way. As I started moving up I found that power is no substitute for finesse, smart riding, and efficiency - at least in racing. I thought that being able to hold 1,600watts for 10 sec and continually making little burst over 1700 would be more than enough strength and power. At the end of the day, racing wise, that is all irrelevant if you don't cross the line first. It takes a lot more than strength to finish a race.

    I've got a pretty wicked sprint and a very high ftp. I've had my butt kicked on the road (flat roads) by guys who I'd normally crush heads up just because they rode a lot smarter than I did. Same thing on the mtn bike. power means a lot and blasting through short climbs, killing sprints, bursting over obstacles, accelerating out of turns, and just abusing the drivetrain is impressive but after a little time at race pace it gets harder and harder to find the energy to make those power blips happen and ultimately it starts draining you till you have no gas left for your race pace and have to helplessly watch people continue to come around you.
    +1!

    Im new to this and pretty much a beginner so take it worth a grain of salt from me.

    I weighed 255 when I started training this spring. By my first race I was 200. Ive raced at around 200 all year. I thought I was skinny (in fact my girlfriend told me "DONT lose anymore weight please."), but now I know if I want the podium im going to need to be at least 15 pounds lighter.

    Im still bulkier than the other guys in my race cat (im built like a linebacker even at 200#). My legs are as strong as anyone I know (think full stack on leg press at gym with ease), but I can tell the extra weight really effects me when it comes to competing in the top of the pack.

    XC racing really seems to favor lighter racers from what ive seen around here (most races require multiple climbs).
    Last edited by pattongb; 09-27-2011 at 05:14 PM.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewarnerusa View Post
    On the track, yes.
    Obvious photshop job. The arms are a dead give-away.



    But even the "real" big track guys are usually loaded in the legs but not particularly big up top. Upper body mass is just balast in cycling, especially during an xc climb.

    Last edited by Stumpjumpy; 09-27-2011 at 05:57 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1dkl1 View Post
    I'm looking into racing
    Try a race and see how you do then look at the bodies of the people that beat you. I bet they're all thinner and leaner than you BUT you have to decide if you want to look like that.

    Andy Schleck would kick my ass on any type of bicycle. Do I want to look like Andy Schleck? Hell no.

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    I also think alot of it has to do with the type of muscle you have. I have a muscular build, I can power up a steep, technical climb with the muscles I have but I am spent after that. There are fast twitch muscles and slow twitch muscles. The leaner guys might not be able to bench 300 lbs but could bench 100 lbs all day long, the muscular guys might be able to bench 300 lbs but not last very long for lack of endurance. For the most part it genetic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    *cough* 'Roids *cough*

    added weight requires more energy to climb. in XC mountain biking the race is more often won on the climb (the descent can cause the same person to lose though).

    as others have stated, big dudes will do better on the track, crits, or flat TT's. when it comes to climbing (most XC will have a significant amount) it all comes down to power to weight ratio.
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  21. #21
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    What kind of weight are you talking about? Fat or muscle. In reality most of who think they are losing muscle are actually losing fat and losing fat will always help your cycling.

    Most endurance cyclist train very similar. Tony Martin, or Cancellara train very similarly to Andy Schleck, the difference between them is the way their bodies react to training.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bridger View Post
    perhaps, but she's beautiful!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TurnerRick View Post
    I also think alot of it has to do with the type of muscle you have. I have a muscular build, I can power up a steep, technical climb with the muscles I have but I am spent after that. There are fast twitch muscles and slow twitch muscles. The leaner guys might not be able to bench 300 lbs but could bench 100 lbs all day long, the muscular guys might be able to bench 300 lbs but not last very long for lack of endurance. For the most part it genetic.
    +1

    I too have a full build (read...used to be muscular from years of competitive wrestling) and struggle with the longer all out pushes. However, in the past couple months I have dropped 24 pounds and am slowly working on improving my slow twitch muscles over my fast twitch. In my legs I am just as powerful as I have been, but now that I am focusing more on slow twitch movements, I can last much longer. The added weight loss has been a huge help also.

  24. #24
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    Even in track sprinting the rider with the biggest legs doesn't always win. As mentioned above you have other factors, such as the percentage of muscle fiber types, which also influence whether you'll naturally be good at certain sports and events.

    Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fiber Types

    If you're looking for pictures of track sprinters then Robert Förstemann is a good example of a big powerful rider. He makes Chris Hoy look skinny. No photoshop involved.



    Pictured below: Robert Förstemann
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Losing weight over Being muscular & poweful?-robertforstemann2.jpg  

    Last edited by WR304; 09-28-2011 at 08:47 AM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by WR304 View Post
    Even in track sprinting the rider with the biggest legs doesn't always win.
    e.g. Theo Bos of the Netherlands, who has a huge palmares of Olympic, World Championship, and World Cup wins on the track in relatively recent years in the sprint and kilo also, but has a fairly light build.
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