Monday, August 06, 2012

NY Times - Yep, I made it!

my awesome blog - which doesn't even have a unique domain name - has been cited by the new york times as expert opinion.

when i got a random email from greg bishop, the journalist who wrote the article, i was a shocked, to be honest.  'me?  a expert opinion on quads?  AWESOME.  i hoped he found me by googling "big quads" or something like that... but i found out the U.S. national coach, Ben Sharp, referred him to my blog....which gives some street cred to the coach who also brought home a silver medal. 

don't believe me? it even made the front page of the online nytimes!  Here is a screenshot i took at 8:15am.

and here is a screenshot i took at 9:30am.  it looks like QUADS bumped lebron james as trending article.  yeah, dog!

anyway, mr. bishop emailed me a bunch of hilarious questions.  they were so awesome, i want to publish the interview in full.  enjoy!


Let's start with the genesis of the blog. How did it come about? How did quads become a sub-topic? How did you come to write the legendary quad post?

I started by blog (http://bethbikes.blogspot.
com/) when I first started cycling, back in 2007 (there’s an article about how I got into cycling in our region’s weekly:

Blogging was kind of "the thing" back then, before Facebook and Twitter ( saturated social media. Tons of people in the biking community in Northern California were blogging, and it became a fun way to communicate with people between the weekend races.  At that point in time, I was definitely blogging more than training.

I measured my quads the first time back in the summer of 2007.  It was kind of a joke, a very skinny friend of mine would kid me that my quads were bigger than her head.  I rolled with it and did a measurement and wrote a blog post about it.  A few other people tried to measure their quads on their own blogs - but they were measuring in the wrong spots.  I mean, cyclists (especially "roadies" ... aka road riders) have an obsession with being skinny - so I had to kick that mindset in the pants, and sort of became a crusader to glorify the big quad.  

How did you learn about the proper way to measure quads? Or is that your step-by-step guide, ie something you made up?
Have you ever had to correct someone?

I made it up.  I mean, I had very big quads at the time – and yeah, maybe they weren’t all muscle … but I wanted to make the rules so I would win!   What’s the saying: "you no playa da game you no maka da rules"?

Anyway, the point of measuring quads is to get the biggest number possible.  It isn't like measuring waist lines for skinny-minnies … this is about bragging about massive (sometimes) muscular quads!  So, naturally, you measure in the biggest spot.  I have to correct people all the time as they almost always measure to low, saying "oh that is just fat up there."   Sure, that may be true …. but people making those kind of comments obviously didn’t get the point of measuring quads.  Go big or go home!

This might be a dumb question, but you say in the blog that you can measure improvement by measuring the quads. What would be indicative of progress? Like how much could someone gain, ie your quad before cycling, afterward?

Quad size does not necessarily correlate with cycling speed, but that doesn't mean huge muscular quads aren't awesome.  Back when I was writing about quads all the time (and doing my first races), I was measuring in above 60cm in diameter!   Now, that’s pretty huge … but nothing in comparison to someone like Jennie Reed (world Keirin Champ and current Olympian for the US Team Pursuit) who’s quads were OFF THE CHARTS!  Nowadays, I am a measly 57cm … which is puny.  But now I am a national champion, so I guess I can't be too down on myself for losing some of my quad-tasticness.  

Anyway, the measuring is a fun thing to do, like after races - it is a good way to bond with competitors (keep things friendly – after all, it is just a bike race!), and to check out their goods up close when you put a tape measure around their leg and give a little squeeze.  But, you probably should get permission before grabbing folks thighs.  Otherwise, you could get a knee somewhere you don’t want.

Regardless of measurement size, quads are a major intimidating factor across all cycling disciplines.  For real - we bike racers ALWAYS check out our competitors’ legs.  Bike racing is totally mental, so the more you can psych out your competitors with intimidating legs, the better.  And there are a few things you can do make your quads look better.  Rub on some of that warming oil before a race - the shine makes the muscles look way bigger and if you’re lucky (or dehydrated), you might even get a little bit of that freaky ‘cut’ look that bodybuilder types get.  Or, you can make sure that your team’s clothing has a design that creates a bulging (not slimming) effect in the quads.  Thinning stripes are a serious no-no.  Some cycling kit designers totally don’t get it! Oh, and when standing around before a race or at a podium presentation, be sure to flex and stand in a way that makes your quads look their biggest.  It’s all about the presentation.  

Speaking of, is there a range of acceptable quad size in cycling?

I am sure that height has something to do with it, but if you are over 60cm you are pretty badass.  And we always measure metric.  It's international friendly.

Who has the biggest quads?

Jennie Reed's quads are pretty big.  I saw them up close and got to measure them once.  It was awesome!  What is most impressive about her quads is that the lower quad muscles by her knees are almost as big as the muscles up by her hip bone.  Dude - that is why she is a world champion!  I know that German guy, Robert Förstemann, could be the Quadzilla of the cycling world … but, Jennie Reed’s are legit.  And she doesn’t use a tanning salon.

Inline image 1
Jennie Reed’s quads and mine

Inline image 2 
Me measuring Jennie Reed’s quads.  World Champ Stripes – FTW!

The skinniest? And do they get made fun of for how small their quads are?

Amber Neben's quads are pretty small, but she can pretty much kick anyone's butt whenever she wants, so I doubt she gets made fun of for it.  She’s a world champion in the time trial and rides more miles in a month than most trackies do in a year … I mean, she probably does five hill repeats while a track sprinter is still resting between their first and second 8 second sprint.  But if Amber ever came out to the velodrome, I’d totally make fun of her quads and make her leg wrestle me.

Any urban legends from the past? (Like this dude had quads the size of oak trees in 1912.)

Those German track sprinters are pretty much legendary.  I don't think any of them have names, even - they just get referred to by their quad size … “Herr Achtzig to the line”

Love this line: Friends and strangers love touching your strong legs.  ... How often has that happened? Unprompted? Any strange stories in that regard?

Well … I force my fiancé (and coach) to massage my legs all the time … so that’s not really unprompted … but, I can say that he loves touching strong legs.  But at this point in our relationship, it’s only my legs he’s going to ever touch again!!  I don’t care if some 61cm chick goes waltzing down the street!

Perhaps another dumb question. But what exercises are best to make quads bigger? How often do you lift? Reps? Most cyclists say they don't do a lot of upper body. I think that plays into this. Do you agree?

Weight lifting can definitely bulk up the quads.  The one year I did Olympic lifting at this awesome Tongan gym in Oakland, I got up over 60cm.  But I also ate a crap-ton of ice cream that year, too - so, I’m not sure if that’s causation or correlation.  Anyway, that was back when I thought I was a track sprinter ... and now that I have conceded to my fate of being an track enduro and (gasp) a roadie - I really don't lift much anymore.  Well, my coach does make me do core work and some weights for my arms to keep my biceps from being laughable.  Biceps can be intimidating, too …so, I think weight lifting is important if you want to intimidate other racers and aren’t interested in getting a bunch of tattoos or body piercings.

Have you ever participated in a quad-off? 

Not really.  Most of my competitions were virtual via the internet.  And we know how much lying goes on over the webs … but I did do some leg wrestling a few times.  That was awesome.  But I think I pulled a muscle in my butt … so, haven’t done that in awhile.

Is there a legendary one (ie the walk-off in Zoolander)?

Is there someone no one else would challenge?

Well … I’d love to see a quad-off between someone like Jennie Reed and Robert Forstemann, but every time I see that picture of Forstemann in his underwear I kind of get the heebie-jeebies … so, maybe not.  

Anyway, I wouldn't challenge someone like Jimmy Watkins because his quads are massive and he’s super intimidating with his scowls and facial hair (note: he’s actually a TOTAL teddy bear).  Oh, and Jimmy is a firefighter, so if Forstemann ever needs the jaws-of-life to pry those undies out of Forstemann’s thighs … he’s your man.

Some US guys told me they had to get specially made jeans. Is that true? If so, where? How do they label the sizes or whatever?
I also heard there used to be some Brazilian jeans store in Philadelphia that cyclists liked to flock to for custom fits. Ever heard of this?

I am SO happy you brought up jeans!  In addition to quad measuring, jeans have been another big campaign on my blog.  Finding jeans - especially for a woman - that fit an athletic body type is next to impossible.  All the jeans we have access to are way too tight in the quads and just overflowing in the waist.  Jean companies are missing a huge market in their designs … athletic women!

In 2008, I began a campaign on my blog for "keirin cut" jeans.  Doesn’t that have an awesome ring to it … keirin cut!  The keirin is the coolest track sprinting event and that’s why jeans designed for athletic women should have that name.  These jeans would be designed to have room for big quads, but also have a smaller waist.  Back then, there was a US domestic professional road racing team, Rock Racing, with Rock & Republic jeans as the title sponsor.  Michael Ball was the CEO, and I sent him a number of emails - all chronicled on my blog  (http://bethbikes.blogspot.
com/2008/08/r-and-quads.html ) - trying to get him to make a new jean design based on this ‘keirin cut’ technology.  He ignored me, because he sucks.  But, I am still hopeful that someone will make some keirin cut jeans and give me 10% of all profits for the genius idea and name.

Lastly, I guess, on the more serious side.
Have you met cyclists who were self-conscious about their thighs? Or is it a sport in which everyone can truly embrace that?

I hope that all cyclists - from track to road to BMX to mountain bike - are proud of their quads and bodies on the whole.  I mean, we pedal hours and hours every week - it’s a full-time job – so often, our bodies are seen as a measurement of our ability.  And that can lead to some crazy concepts of self-worth.  So, I’m a big advocate of embracing quad pride.  And hell, we are always checking out each other's legs anyways … that’s why we cyclists shave our legs … to make the muscles look ripped!  Don't let anyone tell you differently.  

Also, is there a way to quantify quad size relative to performance?
Are there any elite sprinters with small quads? Any folks with huge quads who aren't that great?
Vicky Pendleton's quads don't look that big - and she is amazingly fast.  And she gives the best interviews in the world.  Maybe you can get her to measure them for you?  That would be awesome.  Be sure to send them to me!  And I wonder how big Marianne Vos' quads are – she’s the best cyclist in the world, man or woman.  So, that would be a huge get.  I have always wanted to measure Sarah Hammer’s quads, but I think she might be a germaphobe, so I have never dared to get close enough.  She did take a picture with me once, however, and put her hand on my back, so maybe the germaphobe thing is just hearsay.  As for folks with huge quads that aren’t that great?  … I’m sure there are some sumo wrestlers who could go off the charts – but thinking about those boys on bicycles just makes me giggle.


Tom said...

found your fun and fantastic blog thanks to the NY Times article. Thanks for the great reading. Good luck in your competitions!

Aussie Kev said...

A quad off should be an olympic event !!

scott said...

I found your blog thanks to the NYT and while I may only be a once-every-Olympics-and-occasional-big-televised-event fan of cycling, I'm a full-time owner of big quads (mine are rugby thighs and come with attractive stud scars). Now I know you are the official Quad Ambassador I will follow your blog religiously (it's also funny and well-written).

Ves Mandaric said...

You are great, and you know what, we measured them in '70, and compared them to Lothar Thomas and Olaf Ludwig.
Check here good old days of corticosteroids CCCP and DDR.
You rock!