07 March 2014

Does Size Matter?

Recently, I met a seminarian who used to work in the fashion industry.  (Now there's a journey!)  She recounted dressing Christy Turlington for a show:   "Her arms were so thin I thought I'd snap them off!", she recounted.

We all know that most bicycle racers are thin.  Jan Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour de France and might've won in 2001 had he not crashed, was often criticised for his weight. Even so, he was fitter and trimmer than 99 percent of people in the industrialised world.

Believe it or not, back in the 1890's, some fans as well as trainers believed "bigger is better" in cycling.  The rationale seemed to be that bigger men had more muscle and more weight to propel it, which would make them more powerful cyclists.  

There was even a cyclist who went only by the name of "Grimes" who carried  257 kilograms (567 pounds) on his 183 cm (6 foot) frame.  His chest measured  157 cm (62 inches) in circumference; perhaps that gave him more lung capacity.

Here he is, on a bike specially designed for him:

This illustration accompanied an article called "Grotesque Forms of Cycles" in the 30 December 1899 issue of Scientific American.  Check it out for illustrations of other bike that live up to the title's claim.

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