Why A Beer Belly Actually Makes You Faster

By Brian Lemay 100 comments


(triumphant music plays) – Since retiring, I’ve been
wondering just one thing. Can a beer belly make you faster? – How? I hear you ask. Well, there is a precedent for this. Back in 2011, Frank Schleck
wore a CamelBak hydration system backwards, on his front, during the Critérium International time trial. And at the time, the
Gazzetta dello Sport claimed that this offered a
significant aero advantage, as much as two seconds per kilometer. – Oh! That’s quite a lot, that. The UCI then investigated
this, and subsequently banned all riders from using
hydration packs, or CamelBaks, on their fronts, as these act as a faring, giving the riders an
aerodynamic advantage. – We have spoken to
cycling aerodynamics guru, Dan Bigham at WattShop, who it turns out has actually tested this for real on a number of riders.
– No. You mean other people
are as crazy as we are? – Yeah.
– Ah! – So he sent over a load of data, now, we anonymized this
for the riders in question, ’cause they don’t want their data shared, but, I can tell you it
does contain men, women, world tour riders, and
competitive amateurs alike. So, it’s pretty interesting
stuff, and it was all tested in a controlled
environment of a velodrome, and in each case, there
was either a CamelBak or some padding fit to the rider, below the heart rate strap on their tummy. We’ve got data from six riders here. Now, rider one was 11 watts faster at 48 kilometers an hour
with some padding attached. Rider two was three watts
faster at 48 kilometers an hour. Rider three was 2.5
watts faster and that was their fastest speed at
53 kilometers an hour. Rider four was six watts faster
at 45 kilometers an hour. Rider five, neutral, no
benefit sticking the belly on. And rider six was actually
four watts slower, so some riders gaining
substantially from it, some riders it wasn’t
really much different, and some riders were slower. But on the whole, the trend
is, that it’s actually faster. – Yeah, and what’s five watts
may not sound like a lot, it is measurable, and
that can be the difference between winning and losing, or, in fact, setting new world titles or not. – Yeah, it can be a significant
amount of difference. This got us thinking here at GCN. What if you have a natural faring? One that you’ve spent weeks,
months, maybe even years down the pub, perfecting,
honing, and sculpting into the optimally aerodynamic shape. – Well, if you do weigh
more, you will be slower when you accelerate uphill or on the flat, but once up to speed, your
weight has little impact, and, in fact, aerodynamics
become the dominant force. – Yeah, and undeniably
weighing more will have a slight penalty when climbing, but does every cloud have a silver lining? Even potbelly-shaped clouds? – Hmm, well, the UCI
can take your CamelBak, but they can’t take your love handles, so. – Well, you guessed it. It’s time for an experiment. – Do we start at the pub? – Not yet. (upbeat techno music) To try and replicate the results, myself and Opie will both ride a predetermined out-and-back
section of road, that’s fairly constant in gradient, allowing us to keep on the power, and is around 10 minutes long, well, depending on how fast we go. This isn’t the most
accurate test in the world but to make it as accurate as possible, we’re going to be riding
the same bike on both runs, both myself and Opie, and
we’re going to be maintaining the same position on both runs. The only variable that we’re changing is either having a belly
or not having a belly. Also, with regards to the
power output we produce, it will be slightly different, we’re going to aim to
hold the same power output on both runs, but any slight
differences can be computed and accounted for once
we process the data. (upbeat techno music) – We’ve done our first
runs, and now we need to repeat the experiment,
but with beer bellies. It’s gonna be tough,
man, we’re gonna have to put in weeks of training
with a strict diet, loads of discipline, and dedication. – A strict, but nonrestrictive, “see food and eat it” kind of diet? – Yeah.
– Nice. (retro dance music) Come on Ollie, we all know you have data, share the results with us.
– Right. I’ve computed them in the laptop and the data appears to suggest
an average saving, for me, of about two watts when traveling
at 35 kilometers an hour. Now that isn’t a lot,
and almost insignificant when I was going even slower than that, but it increases the faster you go. So at 48 kilometers an
hour, the saving is actually a few more watts than that and
actually quite significant. Now I don’t travel at 48
kilometers an hour all the time, contrary to popular belief,
but it would certainly help when descending, or riding with
a strong tailwind, I guess. – Yup.
– Now, your results. Now you rode a little bit faster than me on out-and-back section, and- – I was trying to. – Yeah (laughs). Perhaps, as a result, you saw
a bigger aerodynamic gain, ’cause your average saving
was nearer to five watts, which is pretty significant. – Yeah, I mean, you may
or may not feel that and it’s kind of
counterintuitive in my mind, because we often talk about frontal area and you would think having a bigger belly, it’d be more frontal area, but it actually fills the void because humans aren’t
particularly aerodynamic on bikes. – [Ollie] Yeah. – And you know, otherwise,
without that big belly there, you’re kind of like a
parachute riding along. – Yeah. I mean it’s still
really surprising to me. – You know what, it did feel quite fast, and, well, it was a bit of fun. – So there you have it. Now, you might not be
concerned about saving four or five watts, but next
time someone accuses you of having a belly, you can correct them. It’s not a belly. It’s actually a finely-tuned and sculpted aerodynamic faring, designed to optimize athletic performance against the clock. – Well, I’ve heard a rumor that Dan Lloyd likes a beer or two,
so he will be thrilled with this revelation, I’m sure. And I bet he’ll give
this video a thumbs-up, so make sure you do to, and if you’re in the
need of a bottle opener, check out the one we have
available on the shop. – It’s our pickle. I like
it, see always thinking. And, if you’re feeling hungry
after watching this video, then why not check out one
of Emma’s awesome videos where she makes her oat cuisine porridge.

100 Comments

Currie Gillespie

Dec 12, 2018, 7:43 pm Reply

So, we should store or spares and extra layers in front pockets. Now we just need a better jersey 🙂

Clive Woakes

Dec 12, 2018, 7:46 pm Reply

This explains why so many of the older male masters track riders have guts. Check out the videos on YouTube of this years Masters World Championships. Years of training for the right body shape.

Sergio Cristancho

Dec 12, 2018, 7:49 pm Reply

Crazy beer belly building montage, but if a beer belly was needed why not just call Dan?

Héctor Gil

Dec 12, 2018, 8:12 pm Reply

???

autisticlife

Dec 12, 2018, 8:18 pm Reply

This is the best news I have had all day. I'm mid 50's and carry a beer belly I feel great now.

Juhan Lee

Dec 12, 2018, 8:27 pm Reply

Yo my body is crazy aero dynamic

David Green

Dec 12, 2018, 8:35 pm Reply

Nice beer too…something that I've already factored into my training diet. Must drink more ?

zeus zuki

Dec 12, 2018, 9:02 pm Reply

And another added benefit, you don't need to calorie count for optimal power.
I always wondered why at the sniff of a head wind the skinny riders in our group "sit on" ?

iohanan metellus

Dec 12, 2018, 9:10 pm Reply

Sounds like an elaborate excuse to drink beer but ok

Jon Petering

Dec 12, 2018, 9:23 pm Reply

Where did you film the video? Beautiful place!

Wayne Young

Dec 12, 2018, 9:42 pm Reply

Until you coming to a stop. And gravity takes over ?. Head towards a truck without a wind defectors. One foot above the cabin is one tonne of wind pressure. So having a belly as you guys said makes the wind go around more easily.

LaughingSaint

Dec 12, 2018, 10:12 pm Reply

To belly or not to belly that is the question: beer and cake! Yes please ?????

Willian. Direction

Dec 12, 2018, 10:14 pm Reply

Best news I have heard for a while pity it doesn't work climbing

John Jenkins

Dec 12, 2018, 10:44 pm Reply

Ollie is that a Velocomp AeroPod mounted on the bike? Is it any good?

Michael McDermott

Dec 12, 2018, 12:14 am Reply

Ollie must get fed up having to prove he's not packing front hydration packs, just his little A cups.

Michael McDermott

Dec 12, 2018, 12:16 am Reply

#gcnhack Win cycle races simply by cultivating a benign intestinal tumour.

Michael McDermott

Dec 12, 2018, 12:18 am Reply

Travolta Stayin' Alive –> Travolta Pulp Fiction

evelasq1

Dec 12, 2018, 1:12 am Reply

LOL!

Russell Bainbridge

Dec 12, 2018, 1:33 am Reply

EPIC!?

Petinka

Dec 12, 2018, 2:08 am Reply

What you win in climbing you loose at the flat. 🙂

Gordon Moat

Dec 12, 2018, 2:57 am Reply

Cyclists long ago knew this secret. That's why they had jersey pockets on the front.

anthony gonzalez

Dec 12, 2018, 3:41 am Reply

Offfffff season shittt

Hans Schotterradler

Dec 12, 2018, 3:49 am Reply

I hope you enjoyed that Franziskaner. I'm jealous.

jirdesteva

Dec 12, 2018, 3:50 am Reply

That's fantastic ! Now I can change my name to FLASH ! The irony is palpable.

Obi Dave Kenobe

Dec 12, 2018, 3:52 am Reply

I predict the next trend pro cycling will larger bellies — and even more massive quads to overcome weight increase.

Dave Pratt

Dec 12, 2018, 4:23 am Reply

On the bike, I refer to it as a "organic fairing". When I swim, it is my "organic wetsuit".

Dennis 4523

Dec 12, 2018, 4:56 am Reply

Where is Dan??!?!?!?

doopdedoo

Dec 12, 2018, 5:04 am Reply

Next tell me how much aero benefit I get from my glorious flowing beard.

Zhi Jiang Chew

Dec 12, 2018, 5:17 am Reply

No Dan with his "mineral waters"

Doug Thorpe

Dec 12, 2018, 5:27 am Reply

Next video should be if wide shoulders tapering to a slim waist are aero. Of course my body has a very slim taper from the shoulders to my obliques, super aggressive taper obliques to waist, and then waist to quad so i feel aero fairing that is not

Robb Chastain

Dec 12, 2018, 5:45 am Reply

If Ollie's gonna rock a beer belly, he may as well complete the aero look by wearing that visor, too.

Sumanth Kashyap

Dec 12, 2018, 7:18 am Reply

Oh god, this is Hilarious!!!

FLMKane

Dec 12, 2018, 7:21 am Reply

But… what about breast enhancements ?
Hopefully they DONT decrease drag or the UCI might ban them.

Liam Shaughnessy

Dec 12, 2018, 7:45 am Reply

Inflammation is bloated belly
It’s never a health benefit
GCN you’re losing us bro

lotus bleu

Dec 12, 2018, 8:41 am Reply

One of the best video I've watched on GCN !

Stephen Collins

Dec 12, 2018, 8:42 am Reply

Imagine Chris Froome with a beer belly. Eek!

Vab1ar1

Dec 12, 2018, 10:17 am Reply

I’m a 44 year old Clydesdale, and I hear from the Cat 3s that I’m more aero than them. They still drop me, but I can keep up most of the way.

LiveFreeandShred

Dec 12, 2018, 12:33 pm Reply

Nice montage of how to act like a normal american.

Javor Georgiev

Dec 12, 2018, 12:52 pm Reply

And here I was just feeling happy my stomach finally started coming around looking well-toned. How am I supposed to get faster now when I dislike beer? Now all I have is ass and legs that make people regret realizing I'm male after closer inspection.

Chris Capoccia

Dec 12, 2018, 1:02 pm Reply

5:55 "with a strong tailwind" I'm sure Ollie would fix this if he thought about it again, but aero gains would be based on the speed of air relative to the bike. tailwind would actually subtract and reduce any aero gains. But overall good funny video

MSc Bijles

Dec 12, 2018, 1:06 pm Reply

Could you also test what happens when you ride without a beer belly, but with some beers in your belly? Let's say 1 pint for a person <70 kg, 1,5 for someone near 85 kg and maybe even 2 for a ~100 kg person.
Whenever I ride back home from a few drinks with my mates, I feel like I'm actually riding faster than normal, grinding a bigger gear etc. I'm willing to believe that's just a state of mind, but if you could test it, that would be awesome.

Bobby Silver

Dec 12, 2018, 1:35 pm Reply

It's one thing having a hydropak on your front. It's quite another having a beer belly.
Most people with a beer belly also have a big fat arse and that will offset any benefits.

xandebastos

Dec 12, 2018, 2:15 pm Reply

Traveling at 48km/h the poo want to leave

uwotm8

Dec 12, 2018, 3:02 pm Reply

40 inch wast and 9inch arms. seems aesthetic lol

Minna Hayman

Dec 12, 2018, 3:14 pm Reply

That training montage is brutal…. :'D

bugboy152000

Dec 12, 2018, 4:13 pm Reply

#GCN so I shouldn’t feel as guilty about being a fat guy on an aero bike?

Jan Skrbek

Dec 12, 2018, 6:06 pm Reply

Friend of mine would say that beer makes you faster even on uphills and when accelerating. His argument is that after drinking a beer you have that "heavy legs", so they're able to push more weight to the pedals. So before every race he drinks two beers (each one to each leg), so he's gonna put out more power. And especially because he's a mountainbiker, he'll deffinitly do better even on descents (you're a little bit dizzy after alcohol, you know ?) although he's probably slimer than most of the people reading this comment ?. Btw. His theory sounds interesting to me, but I don't think it really works, he hasn't beaten me yet and I don't think he'll ever do so… ??

L Foster

Dec 12, 2018, 6:43 pm Reply

I may have an aero benefit, but constantly kneeing myself in the guts causes a lot of comprises on position, and the extra weight of a "natural aero pack" is a lot slower.

Bill C

Dec 12, 2018, 6:44 pm Reply

Another thing I’ve noticed is that my excess tummy helps keep me planted in cross winds and gusty days. My much lighter son gets tossed all over the place while I just trundle along.

Alex K

Dec 12, 2018, 7:04 pm Reply

Best news I've heard all day

Steve H

Dec 12, 2018, 7:29 pm Reply

Outstanding beer selection!

Evan MacDougall

Dec 12, 2018, 8:35 pm Reply

Omg, the training montage made me spit out my beer. Hilarious video! Chris is awesome.

Matthew Leo

Dec 12, 2018, 10:03 pm Reply

You know, it's well known among power lifters that you want a keg, not a sixpack. Guys moving huge amounts of weight almost always have giant beer guts.

I've heard various theories as to why this is so, but here's what I think: elite strength athletes, the kind of guys who are deadlifting north of 400 kilograms have to force feed themselves like foie gras geese to be able to train at the length and intensity they do. And the nutrient they need the most is carbohydrate, because that's the best fuel to run muscles on. Consume lots of carbs indefinitely, and you get a beer gut.

This makes me wonder whether competitive cyclists might not benefit from a less extreme version of the routine bodybuilders use to get ready for competition, since bodybuilders and cyclists both need to be strong and lean. Bodybuilders alternate between phases where they train to gain strength and phases where they train to maintain muscle as they lose fat. In the fat loss phase they cut out carbs and eat a high proportion of protein to avoid muscle wasting. The difference is that a bodybuilder peaks for competition at the end of a fat loss phase; a cyclist would probably peak at the end of a strength gain phase.

Master Shake

Dec 12, 2018, 1:31 am Reply

What the Hell GCN?! Here I am watching your shows, taking notes, applying somewhat useful knowledge to lose weight on the bike and now I'm being told that my front fairing makes me more aero? Well, thank the Cycle Gods I decided to hold my libations down the sink! Now if we can get that bonus on Zwift I'll switch my water bottles to beer!

Stephen Schwartz

Dec 12, 2018, 1:51 am Reply

Sorry but there is one fact you got wrong. It won't make a bigger difference with a tailwind – because the advantage is derived from less drag because of wind speed from the front. More tailwind -> less frontal windspeed. Other than that – interesting vid.

hb8dinwa

Dec 12, 2018, 2:16 am Reply

Helps with aerodynamics, but adds weight that will hurt on climbs and getting started. At best, it's a total wash, except for the health issues that go along with carrying extra weight. Also, if you can ride often enough that a couple watts makes a difference in your life and still grow or even maintain a beer belly, my hat's off to you.

David Seltzer

Dec 12, 2018, 5:18 am Reply

How did Dan not participate in this?! ??

xGshikamaru

Dec 12, 2018, 6:12 am Reply

That's well within the margin of error of a power meter, so I'd argue it makes no difference.

Oliver Edwards

Dec 12, 2018, 11:45 am Reply

Well done chaps, that was one of the best GCN vids to date, I properly lol'd at the montage and I'll be quoting the findings for the rest of my riding days, thank you!

Günther R. Wenninger

Dec 12, 2018, 11:51 am Reply

Weizen for the win!

Jonny the Legs

Dec 12, 2018, 1:15 pm Reply

Does a cameltoe improve your drag coefficient when out of the saddle and sprinting?

Jonny the Legs

Dec 12, 2018, 1:17 pm Reply

Do mono-brows extra cause drag?

Garrett Born

Dec 12, 2018, 3:35 pm Reply

I knew it! Thanks for the encouragement fellas

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz

Dec 12, 2018, 4:01 pm Reply

No offence, I'm glad someone finally touched on this important topic – nonetheless, a GCN presenter discussing a beer belly is akin to a Catholic priest discussing making children!

adrian b

Dec 12, 2018, 5:38 pm Reply

This explains why I'm getting flogged by fat guys.

James Pegram

Dec 12, 2018, 5:55 pm Reply

Drink beer eat chips ride a bike, life doesn't get much better ?

Jorge Rodriguez

Dec 12, 2018, 6:05 pm Reply

Now, this is my kind of training!

Richard Schultze

Dec 12, 2018, 6:45 pm Reply

Thanks, GCN. That means a lot to me. :-))

David Beange

Dec 12, 2018, 7:37 pm Reply

Allied to the aerodynamics there is also Fatmentum for the downhills.

Juan Chacón

Dec 12, 2018, 5:45 pm Reply

Jajajaja… You guys….

Nicolò Scudeler

Dec 12, 2018, 7:51 pm Reply

Ahahah I love you guys !!!

GnarShred

Dec 12, 2018, 1:42 am Reply

Acetaldehyde is not cool

Alex W

Dec 12, 2018, 6:19 am Reply

Beer belly doesn't get you KOMS

Sam Leonard

Dec 12, 2018, 9:56 am Reply

Very funny!

Niko Heinonen

Dec 12, 2018, 10:11 am Reply

You sexy bicycling beasts!!

Alan Funt

Dec 12, 2018, 10:15 am Reply

Thats me sorted then

Imported Cyclist

Dec 12, 2018, 6:40 pm Reply

That's how you do a training montage! Shove it, Rocky!

yurimow

Dec 12, 2018, 5:29 pm Reply

… brought to you by franziskaner weißbier

Mike Richardson

Dec 12, 2018, 8:57 pm Reply

Big Mig's lung capacity gave him a distended belly look on some older tt pictures… Seems like it may have given him a double advantage?

BeauIXI

Dec 12, 2018, 7:44 pm Reply

7:06 – Is "top pickle" some variety of British compliment?

Bing Yiu

Dec 12, 2018, 5:16 am Reply

lol… I just bought a new bike, all new gear try to loose the belly… so I'm all wrong now XD

Julian Bulatao

Dec 12, 2018, 11:44 am Reply

This should make me the fastest cyclist out there then!

Ron Drey

Dec 12, 2018, 1:23 pm Reply

That was very funny . Now I know what to say to my wife!

Kendrick

Dec 12, 2018, 5:53 am Reply

That diet sequence is comedy gold.

deezynar

Dec 12, 2018, 7:47 am Reply

All of the aerodynamic benefits are more than wiped out by the extra weight and the oxygen being stolen by the belly blubber.

kevina6587

Dec 12, 2018, 1:54 pm Reply

this must be true, as i took a KOM off Chris recently and I'm significantly more lardy than him.

Galen Kehler

Dec 12, 2018, 9:55 pm Reply

I'd love to be more aero like this but I have no room between my stomach and legs ?

Tim Dodd

Dec 12, 2018, 5:18 pm Reply

I’ll drink to that!

Veritas Originale

Dec 12, 2018, 9:54 pm Reply

Mmm…K! ?????Ahahahahaha-cheeky Brits!-)

DerWitsch

Dec 12, 2018, 12:38 am Reply

Hmm Franziskaner Hefeweizen..

Alec J

Dec 12, 2018, 12:49 am Reply

Dangit, I was trying to get RID of the Hank Hill body shape.

Dracula Says I Have Great Taste

Jan 1, 2019, 11:56 pm Reply

Be more efficient: Getting fat allows you to burn more calories per pedal stroke when training.

BikeSWPA

Mar 3, 2019, 10:51 pm Reply

stuffing things into your jersey to look fat is the same as blackface

Chris Campbell

Mar 3, 2019, 6:10 pm Reply

So this is why I am so much faster on the descents than the rest of the family it all makes sense now

Pr0 GengOo

May 5, 2019, 5:37 pm Reply

DAMN, I've been preparing for tour De France my whole life and didn't even know it …

Clint Nieves

Jul 7, 2019, 12:16 pm Reply

Dad bod cyclists+aero bikes will definitely benefit from getting home faster when they sneaked out for a quick ride from their significant others ?

Timo Wernicke

Oct 10, 2019, 8:53 pm Reply

The thing is, that a big belly affects your breathing a lot. I would like to see you try achiving the same effort with restricted oxigen ? I some happen ro know what I am talking about by gaining 30kg after a horrible accident while riding about 500 km per week and could walk or ride for about 6 month. Now I am at 105kg at a hight of 183cm. Try to replicate that abd you will find out that a if beer bellyed ride passes you on your journey he is actally working significantly harder than you might expect.
Love your show mates, keep up the awesome work

captain pugwash

Oct 10, 2019, 8:26 am Reply

This is an interesting concept, does a trans person's newly acquired tits make him / her faster also ?

IAmARaven

Nov 11, 2019, 8:58 pm Reply

Casually explained comment?

doesn ́t matter

Nov 11, 2019, 10:23 pm Reply

Good choice of beer for having a beer belly

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