For posterity’s sake I’ll try keep this post a bit more politically shady than the title. This post was inspired by a good friend of mine from across the pond who, just yesterday, proclaimed that he is posterior-ly challenged. I too, before cycling, was lacking in the caboose department as well. In fact, I was a real mess before I started running more than a decade ago. No butt, chicken legs and a ridiculous gut to go along with. While running helped immensely with the chicken legs and the gut, the betterment of my heinie was not what I’d hoped.
Enter cycling, or more importantly, triathlon. I didn’t pick up cycling to be a cyclist, I started cycling to be a triathlete. Now, like many, I wanted to start out cheap because I didn’t want to blow an inordinate amount of cash on a real bike only to discover I hated it so my first two bikes were mountain bikes (one garage sale Huffy for $20 and that was followed by my Trek 3700 which I purchased for $100, used). This will be important in a minute.
I took to cycling like a bird takes to flight – a bit awkward at first but once I learned how to fly, I soared. In my first three full months I put more than 800 miles on that Trek. Shortly thereafter I discovered that I was becoming too fast for that style of gearing – I was all about the speed, so just four months after I started cycling in the first place, I picked up my first road bike – and that’s when my monthly mileage started going through the roof, almost 400 miles in September.
This is when I finally started noticing some results on the hind end. My jeans fit better and stopped sliding down. I also filled out cycling shorts and because the winter was coming, tights. Never before did I have a butt I could be proud of until I started cycling. After just under three seasons and 12,325 miles between cycling, mountain biking, spinning and running, you can bounce a quarter off of it.
There’s a wrinkle though. My buddy across the pond is a cyclist as well – and I think he puts in more miles and is slightly faster. I’ve been trying to kick this around since I read his post last night: How could I have grown an ass while he didn’t? How is this possible? It struck me this morning while I was watching the news: It’s the mountain bike – or more importantly, the bike setup and geometry. I’ve written about this before, that after riding road bikes for more than a year, almost exclusively, getting back on the mountain bike for a decent ride puts a serious stressing on the glutes. In fact, after the first time back on the mountain bike, my butt was sore enough that I couldn’t help but take notice. He rides road bikes exclusively.
Cyclists and triathletes know (or should) that there is a difference in the geometry and setup of triathlon and road bikes – the triathlon bike has the seat post more upright… This allows the athlete to use his or her quads for the bike leg while saving the glutes and hamstrings for the run. The road bike on the other hand is set up to use all of the leg muscles. Without getting into a bunch of scientific research, I’d be willing to bet my lunch that the more upright positioning on a mountain bike puts more work on the glutes, thereby bulking them up just a bit.
Now, let me say at this point, there is plenty of research out there that shows cycling is not the answer to building bulk in the glutes, nor is cycling the proper way to build glutes that are too big (the thinking here is that cycling doesn’t provide enough resistance). According to the powers that be, the only way to do that is with resistance training… But that’s never what I was going for in the first place. My butt was too small, so the cycling simply made it normal. In addition, one thing that most should agree on is that cycling is good for ridding fat from that particular area. The reason for making this distinction is that many people have a fear that cycling, especially excessive cycling, will make the butt too big. This, according to everything I’ve seen and read, simply won’t happen.
That said, the setup for my bike is as follows: I ride a properly sized bike with a proper fit and my handlebar is maybe an inch lower than my saddle where the road bikes are more than 4″ and the stretch from the saddle nose to the bar is nowhere near the 21-7/16″ on my road bike (more like 18″). This means I’m sitting a lot more upright on that bike. I’m just spit-balling here so cyclists, sound off in the comments section if your experience is different.