For the past week I have been visiting Nigeria!

One of the National coaching staff watches on as I put the members of the team through their VO2max tests
One of the National coaching staff watches on as I put the members of the team through their VO2max tests

I was invited here to come and ride with, and test, some of the members of “Team Nigeria” (essentially members of at Nigerian National cycling team), by a Nigerian client of mine who frequently visits London on business.  The purpose of the trip was to help these riders make improvements in their performance, as my host, a cyclist in his 50’s had seen some massive gains in his cycling since he started working with me around 18 months ago.

This is where I came across the term “financial doping”….

Let me explain.  Whilst Nigeria may be considered a reasonably wealthy country in some ways, for anyone watching the television at the moment you will know it is really a country in turmoil, crime and corruption is rife, and a vast amount of the population live in abject poverty.  My visit was funded by a small group of businessmen who want to see their National riders perform well, as it appears the National federation doesn’t really do much to support their National team.

So we were sat chatting about various things, particularly about how my hosts (all recreational riders) could improve their performance at the Cape Argus sportive.  “What gearing do I need for the climbs, it’s flat here!”, “should I take my lighter race bike, or my sportive bike”, you know the typical cyclists conversation!

What no lights!
The training starts for the riders at 5:30am, before first light to avoid the heat of the day (about 40 degrees) and the worst of the traffic! However most of the riders can’t even afford the safety of lights!

Then in a deep booming African voice, I feel some “financial doping” is about to take place!  The rest of the guys fell about laughing, and explained to me, they all starting riding on entry level bikes which were passed on the better riders that didn’t have the money, whilst they bought lighter, faster, or the latest kit!  These businessmen could clearly afford it, but also did a lot to support the up and coming riders…but there was likely to be an upgrade in kit to a lighter bike just for the Argus!

It's not a level playing field
I’m sure that frame wasn’t repaired under warranty, and what about the great drinks bottles! But this guy is a National level rider, and just averaged 35 km/h for 4 hours on this bike!

In the meantime, I was riding with and testing the National riders.  Anyone who has been tested by me will realise that I might often comment on a stiff headset, dry bottom bracket, or brakes that rub, but theses guys kits were unbelievable! One of the first riders had rattle in his rear wheel, I soon worked out he was missing a spoke, and the nipple had gone inside the rim.  Another (the smallest and lightest of all the riders) was clearly riding a bike 3 sizes too large for him, and the steel frame must have weighed nearly 12kg!

Then whilst out riding, I noticed the guy in front of me had no cable to his rear brake, and yes this was his only bike!  He trains and races like this!  The frame had been broken and the “repair” was done in a way where he couldn’t run a cable to the back wheel.  …and this wasn’t the only example of this.

Bike frame repair
No brakes and a rather dodgy looking frame repair! Would you be confident riding this?

Most of the rest of the guys were clearly riding in “hand-me-down” kit.  One was very resplendent in his Bespoke (London bike shop) kit, whilst others have shoes that either  appear to not fit, or have clasps that are broken, and several didn’t even have regular drinks bottles!  These guys are the best riders that the country has, and yet they have broken/dangerous kit, “financial doping” is something that they were not worried about.

So what point do I want to get over to you this week?  “Financial doping” is something that has clearly affected my Western riders.  They want the best, latest, lightest, fastest kit!  But at the end of the day, it’s not the bike that does the work, it’s the body.  So unless you are training optimally, and have a body fat around 4% “financial doping” won’t get you the results you are looking for.  The effect will be short term, and last only until a newer faster/lighter product hits the market!

So think about your next purchase, do you really need it?  Or would you be better investing in your fitness?

Train hard, and look after your body, and you will see results!

Good luck, Garry

As a postscript, I am hoping my work with the Nigerians continues for a long time to come, and if you have some kit sat at home that is gathering dust and not being used, please consider letting me know, so I can pass it on to an athlete to who it will really make a difference.  Anything from a set of lights, a heart rate monitor, shoes, cycling clothes, to components, a set of wheels or even a whole bike or frame set!  Thank you!