Stuttgart-based Christian Weis is a powerhouse rider who is eyeing up his first ultra-distance race.
What is your sporting background?
I did weight-lifting and bodybuilding for six years from the age of 16. My dad was into extreme triathlons like Celtman and Swissman, and one day when he came home from a race I told him that triathlon can’t be that difficult – it’s just a bit of swimming, running and cycling. He opened his computer, found a race and signed me up for a triathlon two weeks’ later.
I had barely run and never ridden a road bike before, so I borrowed my dad’s bike, wore horrible clothing, yet everyone at the race was shocked by the power I could put out due to my years of bodybuilding.
When did you realise you had a talent for cycling?
I decided to do a half-iron distance triathlon, and despite riding a normal bike I finished only 20 minutes behind Sebastian Kienle [winner of the the 2012 and 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and 2014 Ironman World Championship]. I realised that I wasn’t too bad at cycling and it was the discipline I enjoyed the most, so I reduced my gym sessions and now only go once or twice a week. I know how to lift heavy weights and that keeps me in perfect shape to generate lots of watts for cycling, which I need because I’m 6 feet five inches tall (1.95m) and weigh 100kg. I need a lot of power to get up hills.
Do you feel at a disadvantage because of your size?
No, on a flat road there is no advantage for people who are light. On climbs I have to put out more power, but most of the rides I do don’t have a lot of climbing, so my weight is no great disadvantage. Last year, for a bit of fun a friend and I rode the Dragon Ride in Wales [300km, 4,100m of ascent] and we finished eighth and ninth. Weight is not an issue when it’s muscle.
How did you find the experience of Everesting?
It’s fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard. I reckon Everesting [repeat ascents of a hill until you climb 8,848m] is the most difficult climbing challenge in the world. A friend and I started after work on a Tuesday at Box Hill in Surrey, and rode through the night. For the first few hours you have a lot to talk about it, but after that you are cycling without any chat. Starting in the evening was a good move because it meant we could finish in daylight. My biggest challenge was nutrition. In weight-lifting you don’t have to eat a lot, and you don’t need a lot of carbs. I always eat healthily, but while Everesting I reached a point where I couldn’t eat any more because my stomach was so full of vegetables and fruit. It was a big mistake. My friend just ate gels, chocolate and nuts, which have lots of calories in a very small volume. I didn’t eat at all during the last four hours. We rode 77 times up and down Box Hill, covering 370km in just over 22 hours – when we went to work the next day we were underproductive employees!
What had brought you to the UK?
I work for the supermarket Lidl as a project manager, and I wanted to gain some new insights into other cultures, so I moved to Wimbledon for a year.
How do cycling cultures differ between Britain and Germany?
They’re completely different! Before I moved to London I tried to get some friends together to ride 200km and it took me more than three months to find people who wanted to do it. Plus, there are no special cafés for cyclists. When I moved to London I never expected such a big and welcoming cycling community! I had been really worried about not being able to ride my bike at all.
I dropped a message to my local bike shop asking if I could join their Sunday ride, arrived in London on the Saturday evening, built my bike during the night, planned a route to get there on Komoot, and cycled to join them on Sunday morning. It was great.
When I first jumped on a road bike I never expected the whole package that would come with it: riding through astonishing countryside, having fun, making great friends, enjoying cake and coffee, doing challenges together.
That first ride was was also the first time I saw a titanium bike, a J.Laverack Jack belonging to endurance racer Darren Franks.
What made you decide to invest in your own titanium bike?
I cycled the Dunwich Dynamo [the self-supported overnight ride from London to Suffolk to watch the east coast sunrise] and when we reached the sea we decided to pedal back. It ended up being a 450km ride. I did it on my Canyon Aeroad, which was not the most comfortable bike, but the ride was fun, so I thought ‘why not buy a new bike?’
Personally, I don’t like things that everyone else has – that’s why I had customised my Canyon with a camouflage wrap.
When people hear ‘titanium’ they think it’s heavy and ask why I didn’t buy a carbon fibre frame. But I made the decision based on all the advantages that titanium has: stiff, comfortable, light, durable, beautiful…
How did you find the commissioning process?
I spoke a lot about the bike with Darren Franks. A J.Laverack is not the cheapest bike and when you buy something that is customised for you, you can’t send it back after 14 days if you don’t like it, so you need to be sure it’s going to be a bike you want to keep for a long time. I had a detailed bike fit at J.Laverack and then started to customise the bike. The first thing I wanted was the Streamline head tube and bottom bracket to internally route the cables. I also had my birthday engraved on the seat tube, and added a mount for a third bottle cage on the down tube.
I specified the AERA carbon dynamo seatpost, so I can have a rear dynamo light on the seatpost with no visible cable, and I chose the Aera dynamo disc fork that gives me internal cable routing for a front light. I always ride with the lights on, even during the day, for safety.
My wheels are special, too: 56mm carbon rims at the front and 65mm at the rear, which is a little more aerodynamic, although the real reason is that deep section wheels look great. When you weigh 100kg crosswinds are not such a big deal.
And how does it ride?
It’s insane – so comfortable, light, agile and fast. It eats carbon bombers for breakfast!
Follow Christian’s cycling adventures on Instagram at @fitnessschwob
– 60cm J.ACK frame
– ÆRA AR Dynamo Disc Fork
– Hand-brushed frame finish
– Personalised bead-blasted date stamp
– Engraved headbadge design
– Streamline integrated cable routing (headtube & bottom bracket)
– Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset
– Supernova E3 Triple 2 front dynamo light
– Supernova E3 Tail Light 2 rear dynamo light
– ÆRA Carbon Dynamo Seatpost
– Pro PLT handlebar and stem
– Lizard Skin bar tape
– Brooks C13 saddle
– ÆRA AR|65 carbon rear wheel hand-built with Hope RS4 hub & Sapim CX-Ray spokes with brass nipples
– ÆRA AR|56 carbon front wheel hand-built with Son Schmidt Delux dynamo hub & Sapim CX-Ray spokes with brass nipples
– Continental GP5000TL 28mm tubeless tyres