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'12 Fun Facts ... you might not know about cycling

By Lisa Costantini | June 09, 2012, 4 p.m. (ET)

Jennifer Schuble

Jennifer Schuble of the U.S. wins the silver in the road cycling women's time trial (LC 1/LC 2/CP 4) at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

As the days rapidly count down to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, TeamUSA.org takes a closer look at some of the sports that will be contested there. In this edition, we explore 12 things you might not know about cycling — with the help of Paralympic track and road cyclist Matt Bigos.


The fastest speed a person has ever gone on a bike is 167.043 miles per hour. On June 21, Bigos competes at the Paralympic Trials in Augusta, GA to see if he is fast enough to earn a spot on the team headed to London.


We’ve all heard the jokes about spandex and cycling, but according to Bigos, the look is all function, and no fashion. “There is a reason behind the tight outfit: chaffing. Trust me, if you were to spend up to seven hours a day on a bike, you wouldn’t want your clothes to move. A good pair of shorts makes all the difference in the world. In order to make sitting for long periods of time more comfortable, the shorts have a pad or ‘chamois’ sewn in them.”


Cyclists are like the greyhounds of the sporting world. “We train really hard, but then do nothing for the rest of the day. My director once told me, ‘You have to rest as hard as you train’. That advice is something I take very seriously, because without proper recovery, all the intense training we do would be for not.”


Just like spandex, shaving also serves a purpose. “As much as we like to show off our muscular calves, it is much easier to scrub gravel off your injuries if you don’t have body hair to worry about. Not to mention it is easier to apply healing ointment. And since we get frequent massages, the therapist is happier to work your legs when they are clean-shaven.”


Cycling was one of the nine original sports in the modern Olympic Games, having been on the program since the start (Athens 1896). However the first recorded race was 28 years earlier and took place just outside Paris, France. (The other eight disciplines were: athletics, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling.)


You know how hard it can be to keep your travel suitcase under the airlines bag allotment, but try traveling with a bicycle. “You learn to become what many of us call an ‘airport ninja’ because flying with bikes, wheels, and other equipment can be stressful. It doesn’t take long to learn the proper way to speak to a gate agent so you can avoid paying $800 in excess baggage fees. Though sometimes it’s an impossible task.”


“People always want to know if we have an eating disorder because we are so small, but you have to understand in this sport, riders are considered big if they are over 150 pounds. But we eat; trust me. It’s not uncommon to have days where I eat 5,000-6,000 calories and still go to bed hungry because I’ve either run out of food, or simply can’t eat anymore."


Flat tires. They happen. “Not all the time, and sometimes not for weeks or months, but sometimes you can get several in one day. Any good cyclist is expected to be able to change a flat tire on their own, and if you’re with a group, you had better know how to do it quickly.”


Before Babe Ruth joined the Yankees, cyclists were the highest paid athletes. But Bigos doesn’t do it for the money. He says it’s easy to forget “why we started this in the first place. For me, it’s the love of riding, the freedom of being out in the open, and just enjoying turning the pedals over.”


On average a pro cyclist can ride anywhere around 25,000 miles in a year. That’s the same distance it would take to go from Los Angeles to New York City 10 times. Think of the miles they could rack up if they flew.


The cycling venue for the 2012 Games will take place in the Velodrome, located at the northern end of the Olympic Park and can hold up to 6,000 spectators. Because of its distinctive shape, the building — which was the first venue in the Park to be completed — has been dubbed the "Pringle". It officially opened on February for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics.


The Velodrome will make up part of the VeloPark, which will include a BMX circuit, a one-mile road course, a freestyle park, and a mountain bike track. It was built in place of the demolished Eastway Cycle Circuit, which was Britain's first purpose built road cycling center. The Park will be open to the public after the completion of the Paralympic Games.