L’Étape, Oh Crap! – Part 3: Tiny hats and hairy legs

Here's the latest installment of Gareth's Étape du Tour crazy Alpine cycling adventure.

This is why I'm not a proper blogger! So much for monthly updates. It's good to be back!

Training for the Etape is most definitely underway. I'm following a training programme designed to take me from reasonable cyclist to Etape completist(!) in 17 weeks. It takes a bit of time (four sessions and about 120 odd miles per week) but I'm slowly starting to feel a bit fitter.

It was also a good excuse to get a new gadget, a Garmin Edge 500 bike computer, as the training program is based on heart rate zones rather than my old method of barrelling around until I coughed up a lung. I was a bit skeptical about the heart rate training at first but keeping the pace in check to boost endurance levels seems to be working.

Training in Scotland in spring is always interesting. Rain, wind, more rain, a bit more wind, hailstones, snow, the occasional bit of sun but with bonus wind! The weather means you need a bit more kit than your average Euro cyclist.

The best bit of kit I own is the "wee hat" designed to be worn under the cycling helmet to stop you getting ice cream head at speeds of over 5mph. This was a present from our friends Jillian and Greg in San Francisco and was made by Jillian's friend Sheila Moon. In a nice bit of Scottish health and fitness irony I saw Sheila's company mentioned in a cycling magazine I was reading whilst awaiting the preparation of a fish supper at our local fried foods emporium. Looks like she's still doing well and she can rest assured I offer her silent thanks when I have hailstones bouncing off my skull when out training. 


I don't have a picture of the actual Tiny Hat, but this is a good approximation!

If the weather gets too grim it's time for the spinning bike. This can be a bit boring but to liven things up a bit I like The Sufferfest – series of downloadable training videos. They offer gentle encouragement and a bit of hand holding for the wannabe road cyclist, for example:

Seriously though, Sufferfest is good for keeping your fitness when you can't get out on the real bike and they embrace the road cycling suffering thing with good humour. Recommended!

Another cultural thing with roadies (and plenty of internet debates as to the pros and cons) is for male cyclists to shave their legs. It's meant to make it easier to get a massage post race and make things less messy if you fall off but it seems like a big leap for a peely wally Scotsman. I always have this picture in my mind of shaven legged tanned and skinny European cyclists riding up mountain roads before stopping at an alpine cafe for a wholesome lunch. 


Andy Schleck pondering what's for lunch

In contrast my hairy legs have been taking me over the many hills of Fife in Atlantic headwinds and driving rain whilst looking forward to sampling the wares of Dunfermline's finest Stephens the Bakers and a cup of tea.

Still, it toughens you up and I'm hoping for unseasonably cold and rainy weather in southern France during mid July. No way I'm shaving the legs though, I need the extra insulation for next year's winter training!

6 thoughts on “L’Étape, Oh Crap! – Part 3: Tiny hats and hairy legs

  1. Hi Gareth

    Greetings from Chiltern in Victoria, land of flat terrain and probably more suited to an octogenarian bike rider rather than an Etape du Tour completist.
    On Saturday, we journeyed, by car to the summit of Mt Buller (Aussie skiing country referred to as our ‘High Country”) passing four dedicated bike riders sans Tiny Hat (not sure re state of their legs) on the way up the winding slope.
    Whilst we did a minor walk and enjoyed a coffee as our reward, they obviously ‘grovelled’ and ‘suffered’ arriving to enjoy their coffees with a smug smile and the thought on the easier ride down.
    I admired their dedication and thought of my own very different ‘cycling days’ several decades ago.
    We also visited a great little brewery near Mansfield. Unfortunately, not brewed to your standards 😉


  2. And just what, exactly, is a “peely wally Scotsman”? I don’t think Google translate will help with this one. 🙂

  3. I’m waiting for the “I’ve decided to look like a pro and wax my legs” post. He he…Come to Italy where we will now enjoy four months of beautiful weather cycling!


  4. Hi Christine

    Here’s the entry for the p’s from urban dictionary. There’s a definition there alongside a load more Scottish words.


    We don’t get a lot of sun over here so our skin tends towards the transluscent!

    Even Shauna’s starting to get a bit see through now! Although, I did find a solution on the internet.


    Julia, I was looking at the Veet when I was at the shops today, tempting!

  5. Hey Gareth,

    Great update and glad to hear the training is going well. I love the hat but unfortunately no chance of an ice-cream head in Dubai (unless eating gelato in Bologna of course!).

    Keep us updated…

  6. And here I thought the shaved legs were to reduce wind resistance… On some guys with forestry for leg hair, I can see this could be real problem.

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