The best non-compliment compliments for cyclists

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Christmas is meant to be about giving, or so I’ve been told. Overwhelmingly however, I think we tend to get caught up in the hype of writing our wish lists or talking about what we got from Santa (like that awesome new Garmin that measures your power, heart rate, cadence, and predicts the future!). I know I was longing after the new Lazer helmet that reads you heart rate, while my Dad lusted after the new Trek Madone. He’s been training a lot more lately and I secretly thought he was making a play for the bike for Christmas.

So in the spirit of this time of year I wanted to give back. Presents may offer people momentary happiness but in my experience nothing makes you feel better or puts that spring in your pedal stroke than a well-timed compliment. The thing is, over the years I have come to realise cyclists seem to cherish rather unique compliments; ‘Your hair looks great’ just doesn’t cut it for most cyclists, instead we’d rather hear ‘You can really pull off helmet hair.’ Here are some of the most unique non-compliment compliments you can give cyclists this giving season:

1. “You look banging in bibs”

Usually reserved for babies aged between 0-18months old this has to be one of the most ego-boosting compliments to give any cyclist. Lycra is a necessary evil in cycling – something about it being aero – but for many, skin tight clothing isn’t one of our favourite items to don every day.

On our annual Hosking Christmas ride this year my sister asked me if her tyres had enough air in them (they didn’t, she was sitting on about 70psi). While I pumped up her wheels she strutted over to our peloton in her lycra hot pants. Our Danish import Julie Leth gave Chelsea the once over – somewhat similar to how the Weeknd looked at the majority of the models as they strutted down the Victoria Secret runway – before stating simply, ‘you looking banging in bibs, Chels.’  Chels did a quick duck face and pose combo before saying, ‘oh thanks Julie!’

2. “You have no upper body strength”

As cyclists we pride ourselves on our legs. We also pride ourselves on having arms that resemble twigs.

I won’t name names but I’ve heard rumours that some of the grand tour guys refuse to carry even the household groceries for fear of over stimulating their tris and bis. As such, complimenting a cyclist on their lack of upper body strength is another great non-compliment compliment to give this Christmas season.

3. “Have you been in China?”

While Shanghai may be a fantastic holiday destination, for professional cyclists a trip longer than a week or so to China is synonymous with weight loss. The ongoing clenbuterol saga renders red meat off limits and most cyclist avoid trying anything new when racing. These factors grossly inhibit one’s diet when racing in China. After five trips to China for the Tour of Chongming Island I can attest that after seven to fourteen days a diet of rice, canned tuna, bananas and peanut butter no longer leaves the taste buds watering.

I had a teammate who came back from China in 2014 four kilograms lighter. She put the China races at the top of her ‘racing wish list’ in 2015.

In reality anything that involves commenting on a lack of fat will sit well with a cyclist. A Canberra local and a member of Canberra’s ‘Girl Squad’ (if you’re wondering what I’m talking about you should go read Gracie Elvin’s recent blog) Em Parkes took it as a compliment she was helping size  a bike for someone’s wife who wasn’t there. She asked if his wife was about her height, he replied, ‘yeah, but she’s actually been well fed compared to you.’

What’s that? I look like a super model? Thanks.

4. “Your varicose veins make you look like you’re a real cyclist”

Another of Canberra’s ‘Girl Squad’ members, Lisa Keeling, tells me this is one of the best non-compliment compliments she’s received as a cyclist.

It’s true too, I often catch male pros comparing the pipes on their legs. I mean, if you don’t have veins popping out of your legs can you really call yourself pro? (I don’t have leg pipes and I’m likely to never have any so my best hope is for varicose veins).

5. “Those are some good tan-lines”

To cyclists, the darker the tan line the more committed you are to your training. By commenting on a cyclists tan-lines you’re essentially applauding their dedication to their training. Holden Women’s cycling team member Louisa Lobigs says when you finally reach the point of rocking the arm tan line with your summer dresses you know you’re a ‘real’ cyclist.

6. “Those quads…”

Last but not least, how can we go past the age old leg compliment? We don’t spend hour after hour, day after day, spinning our legs in circles for nothing. So please, ogle them.

My best leg compliment probably came from this little old lady in the United Kingdom just days best the start of the Women’s Tour of Britain in 2014. As I was walking out of her store she said to me, ‘you’ve got lovely quads. I wish I had those at your age.’
I have sizeable legs and at times I can be quite self-conscious about them. Deep down, I’m sure I’m still on the market because I’m yet to find a guy whose legs are bigger than mine and not the plethora of other reasons my parents may suggest. But after all, if you can’t trust little old ladies then who can you trust?

Of course, these are by no means the only non-compliment compliments you can give to cyclists. Please do not let me limit you, I mean if you’re not complimenting them on their twig like arms at least compliment them on their sock height (providing they are appropriately positioned above the ankle and below the calf).

So this Christmas season instead of giving the latest cycling gadget think about giving a cycling tailored compliment. Or both, both is good.

Chloe Hosking is a professional cyclist riding for Wiggle Honda. The Australian found cycling as a pre-teen and spent her early years on the bike riding around Canberra with her dad. Chloe took an untraditional path to Europe, self-funding trips to ride with composite teams and club teams at international races. She hopes that her success inspires other Australian women to recognize the multiple pathways to European racing.

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