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Ask Oli: The stupidest things I was told to do in order to be a better cyclist

Unhelpful and sometimes damaging pieces of advice for a young developing cyclist

by Oliver Evans

Oliver Evans riding with his friend Mitch Ketler on gravel, in a t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, socks rolled down and a bar bag. Photo: Maxim Ellison

There are endless differing ideologies, philosophies and opinions when it comes to competitive cycling and how best to approach it as an athlete. Directors, coaches, riders, some rider’s parents, your ex-girlfriend’s grandmother – they all have and will share their two cents, whether you asked or not (I didn’t).

I’ve decided to put together a short, nowhere near exhaustive, list of some of the stupidest things I’ve been told I need to do if I want to be a better cyclist.

  •  “Don’t eat Spinach, it contains too much protein.”
  •  “Do not eat for an entire day after a 5 day bike race, as your body needs to spend its energy on recovery, and not on digestion.”

Yeah, sounds about right. It’s not as though I need to replenish anything after racing, or that energy comes from food or something ridiculous like that.

  •  There are three things you can do to be a faster cyclist:

1. Roll up your socks (I roll mine down on training rides to combat tan lines)
2. Roll down your jersey sleeves (again, combating tan lines)
3. Don’t ride with a bar bag

Well of course! That’s the secret! Those are the three main things I need to do to get faster.

  •  “Do not have a girlfriend. It’s better if you have no reason to want to go home.”

I mean, who wants to have a reason to go home, right?

  • “Eat celery if you must eat, so that you burn more calories than you consume.”


  •  “Don’t walk. You only need to know how to ride your bike and sleep.”

What if I need to walk to the fridge, to get umm… celery of course?

  • “Don’t ride gravel.”

Actually, I will ride gravel, thank you very much!

  •  *walks by and squishes my stomach* “Oh! You enjoyed lunch today” *waggles a finger at me*.

Actually, day 5678 of rice wasn’t that great.

  • “The reason you sweat so much is because of all the crap you ate on your rest day.”

The ‘crap’ I ate was carrots and hummus on my rest day three days prior and I was sweating as I did a 2.5 hour climb up Big Bear at high tempo in 30-degree heat.

  • “You don’t eat for four days after this race.”


  • “When you go for any ride with teammates, kill them. Kill your friends!”

Really, man? Really?

  • The night before the Canada Games time trial, I was told: “You need to delete your blog. Other racers will know you’re weak (because I suffer from depression?) and will have an unfair advantage which isn’t fair to your teammates.”

Excuse me? How will they have an advantage in a time trial over my teammates because I’m sad sometimes?

  • – “Cut your hair.”


  • “If you want to enjoy professional cycling, go home and watch it on tv. As a professional cyclist, you must learn to hate your life. Learn to hate your bike. Learn to hate yourself. I’m being nice when I say you get five days a year to smile. But don’t cry. No more crying! Be a man. Hate your life.”

Yeah, sorry, I didn’t sign up to be a professional bike rider because I actually hate riding bikes.

On unsolisidated and unhelpful advice

Don’t listen to any of the above pieces of wisdom. They’re ridiculous. Over the years I’ve been encouraged to develop an eating disorder and to be depressed. I’ve been told to lose any ounce of identity I have and conform to peoples’ ideals of what it means to be a cyclist. I’ve been shamed for my mental health struggles and intensely disrespected. This is not what it means to be a professional cyclist. This is what it means to be unhealthy, unhappy, and someone else’s version of you. Old school philosophies still have a strong presence in cycling and they don’t belong. Not at all.

Oliver Evans is a 19-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, who is currently based in Victoria. He races on the road with H&R Block Pro Cycling.