53×11. The Big Dish.  The Grand Plateu. The Big Dog. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been “Big Ringing” a lot. If you’ve seen someone out on the roads surrounding Stellenbosch pushing a massive gear, for no apparent reason, and concluded that guy was a hacker, it was me. Usually, heavy gear efforts attract commentary from fellow cyclists cruising past, typically saying things like  “change gears” or “you know where the shifters are right?” I’ve haven’t encountered any weird looks or comments as I grind out my sessions at 40rpm…yet.

I prefer doing things the
I prefer doing things the “right” way.

The big chainring is normally reserved for higher speed riding but over the last few weeks I’ve been grinding down the teeth on mine for one reason: leg strength. Anyone who’s seen me on my bike pedalling away will know the term “muscular” doesn’t exactly apply. Last weekend I was told “a butchers apron had more meat” so it’s safe to say I’m more the “lean and mean” type.

Having returned to training a few weeks ago, the first stop in “Project 2014” was to change this perception somewhat by building up some more leg strength. So, along with incorporating some gym work, I added heavy gear seasons. Don’t be fooled, pedalling in a ridiculous gear brings on the hurt. They are designed to increase muscular force by tearing the current muscle fibres in order to make the new ones stronger.

Robert Forsteman
My inspiration: German Track Sprinter Robert Förstemann

Starting a new training regime often seems like a gamble since you don’t know if you’re body will adapt they way you want. I can’t tell if the new approach is working yet. The free weight section of the gym is still terrifying and my chain hasn’t snapped yet from extreme force. No one’s called me “butch” yet either.

Nonetheless, the uncontrollable “holy sh*t” I utter every morning as my stiff muscles reluctantly start to move indicates that things could be working. I may not be a “quad-zilla” like Robert Förstemann but I’m hoping a new approach will squeeze some extra power out of my pins next season.

Need motivation to put it in the big ring? This guy on a 104 tooth gets me out the door in the morning: