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Getting better and finding happiness through cycling (duruk.net)
179 points by cancan 1811 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments

Great story. Here's my variant.

I never learned to ride a bike as kid. At age 33, I realized I was about to move to a city where biking is close to mandatory (Melbourne), so I sucked it up and went for a couple of one-on-one adult bike lessons. Despite a first lesson that was so painfully fumbling and awkward I almost gave up, I showed up once more and figured out the key: when you start to fall over to the left, steer to the left, and you will suddenly no longer be falling. Rinse and repeat. We did a little cruise around the neighborhood, and hey, I was biking! Although I did have my ceremonial first fall when I crashed into a bollard at the end of a bridge (at very slow speed, fortunately).

Then I started commuting to my new workplace by bike. 15 minutes, a nice and easy ride, mostly on bike paths separated from road traffic -- but it was still scary as hell initially, and I walked the route a few times, trying to figure out exactly what I'd need to do to cross every road and turn every corner. The first morning was freaky, but I still remember the feeling of adrenaline rush when I arrived at the office the first time: Whoo! I survived! And then on the way back later that day, my shoelace gets caught up in the gears and I do a slow-motion crash onto the bike path. No real damage, but my nerves were sufficiently shot that I had to walk the bike home and skip the next day. Two days later I was at it again.

Next I attempted to learn curb hopping. My spectacularly mistimed 2nd attempt saw the wheel hit the curb full on, so I flew head over heels and shredded one knee to bits on gravel. Turns out you can keep biking just fine with a bloody knee, it only starts to hurt once the blood gets a chance to congeal.

And now I commute by bike every single day, rain or shine, 0 or 40 degrees. I wouldn't give it up for the world and am considering upgrading from my current trusty but heavy mountain bike into a zippier road model.

Push your laces into your shoe and put your sock (a long one!) over your pant leg on the chain side. That'll save you at some point in the future. You got pretty lucky, falls can be quite nasty. Another safety tip: on any turn that is a bit sharper stop pedalling and keep the inner pedal highest. That way you increase ground clearance (pedal strike on ground or kerb becomes next to impossible) where you need it most. And if you're going for a tenspeed style racing bike (or 27 speed these days ;) ) or something like that please don't use toeclips until you're a very confident rider.

I'm not sure if there's a way to avoid problems learning toeclips. I cycled since childhood but was terrified by stories of "death clips", and decided not to get them.

But at a race prep meetup for a long triathlon I was the only one without them, and got mollycoddled by the organisers. They gave strong advice to get them.

So I got them and took it easy - riding around a park, slow rides. I still had several bad falls when I got onto the roads though. And I need to go through busy roads to get to the country (no car).

I found that you need to be very deliberately transactional in the way you cycling when you have clips. For example - as you approach lights, once you get a certain distance out of it's still read then that's it - you just start start unclipping. You don't want to play the game of edging up to the lights, because a car might do something confusing and then you're screwed. You need to position yourself in traffic much more carefully, and hold off on some situations you wouldn't have thought twice about when you had pedals.

I agree. You can't learn to use death clips without a little pain. I'm all for them on road riding or mellow XC rides, but some of my buddies started using them on full down hill tracks like in whistler BC. They swear by them and yes a lot of world cup racers now use them, but I think it's few and far between because of the learning curve. I don't think I could ever do it, I'm not fully comfortable on a full suspension bike unless I can eject quickly. It's bad enough getting tied up in your handlebars, let alone not getting your feet out as you endo a cliff drop.

>put your sock (a long one!) over your pant leg on the chain side

Better to just buy a pair of light-reflecting velcro strips. They sell them for just this purpose. I always find that somehow my pant leg comes out of the sock and catches on something.

I concur about toeclips - not necessary at all for normal commuting in the first place.

Yeah, figured out the sock trick pretty fast, and also switched to shoes without loose laces -- haven't had a problem since. And trust me, even if I do switch to a road or (more likely) hybrid bike, I won't be adding clips to my repertoire any time soon!

I just use a rubber band.

I wear cycling shoes, and seemingly without fail, at least once a month or so, I forget I'm clipped in and topple over. Small price to pay for the extreme efficiency improvement. I've been lucky in that this happens to me when I cruise up to a stop, rather than in the middle of an actual emergency.

Give it some time. One not so good morning ages ago I was underway to an employer sponsored course in 'effective cobol' (whatever effective cobol is still eludes me to today, so I guess the course wasn't all that effective). A car cut me off on a green light for me straight ahead by turning right into my path going as fast as I could to try to catch my train in time (cycle to my dads house across the city, drop off the bike there, take the subway to the train station and then the train to Utrecht, miss the connection and be a half hour late). I braked, much too hard on the front trying to avoid becoming hamburger, the rear of the bike left the pavement and because of my clips was attached pretty good to the rest of me. I smacked to the pavement with the bike landing on top of me. I didn't really realize how badly I was hurt until the receptionist in the place where I was going came close to fainting when I walked in, my whole face covered in blood and scratches from the impact everywhere where skin was exposed. If not for the dumb toeclips I'd have been much more in control of the fall and it likely would not have ended as bad as it did. Since then no more toeclips for me.

I hope your emergency will continue to be in your future, unfortunately mine caught up with me. After I stopped using toeclips I went as fast as before, even did emergency stops a couple of times, including another front wheel flip (and with those new disc brakes that's even easier now than before) but nothing ever came close to the time when I was strapped to the bike.

The one good thing about the bike falling on me was that I was pretty poor at the time and the bike didn't have any damage ;)

It sounds like you have bad braking skills, and are blaming it on the toe clips.

Hey. Really nice story. I have a similar story; one time in high school I really got into curb-jumping and essentially had the same thing happen to me where I wasn't orthogonal enough and hurt myself badly.

Anyway, just wanted to say, definitely give a nice road-bike a try. They are really amazing, wonderful machines. I have a feeling you'll never want to ride anything on road ever again :)

If you do get a road bike, don't curb hob on it or you will destroy the wheels in no time!

If you are not totally confident in bike handling you might be better off with a hybrid model where you still have some of the comfort and control of a mountain bike but with slightly skinnier and slicker tyres.

Road bikes go faster and destabilise much more suddenly ,especially in the wet.

You can curb-hop without destroying the wheels but you'll likely mess up often enough that practising that is best done on a very old bike.

Obviously hopping 'down' is no problem at all, hopping up the front wheel is easy (just pull up on the handlebars as you approach the kerb, shift weight backwards and push on the top pedal, then drop the front wheel which should have come off the ground by now on the kerb so it never sees the step and make the drop gentle). You can practice that just fine without a kerb. The rear wheel part of the gentle kerb hop is the tricky bit, I can do it with my eyes closed but describing it is a lot harder. The basic idea is to move your cog forward quickly while at the same time squeezing on the pedals inward. That way you can lift the rear end of the bike onto the kerb. If you flex your knees a bit then you can do this even onto substantial kerb heights.

Once you've mastered that hopping down is mostly the reverse to spare the wheel from impacting too hard at the end of the drop. If you're really good you can do this at speed without any noticeable bounce. I'd hate to do this with my 120kg fully loaded 3 people bike ;)

Great description. This reminds me of the guy who (basically) won the world championship cyclocross by being able to hop over the barriers instead of carrying his bike over:


I've found happiness through Ultrarunning. I can relate to many of things that the author mentions but one thing is particularly poignant:

> I distinctly remember the first time I actually made it up that hill, I remember feeling that if I could do something that I sucked at so bad couple weeks ago now, I could do apply that to anything.

Once I found I could run for 3 hours non stop it felt amazing, then 4 hours, 5 and so on. It was the first time in life that I really got the feeling that hard work could bring massive benefits to areas that I had no previous experience in. And no one had to show me. I could just go out and do it.

Anything really is possible.

How do you manage food and water for long runs?

Organised races are easy as they are provided at aid stations. My normal saturday run is usually my longest and is the one where calorie intake is needed. I've tried different solutions including carrying it all with me. Now I tend to park the car 'in the middle' of my run. Then I'll just do 2 hour loops from the car. The main item needed is water as its easily possible to carry enough calorie and electrolytes with you. I'm also currently living in Western Australia where is normally just hot and there isnt much water on the trails.

If you are interested in running nutrition (or any endurance nutrition) I wrote about a presentation I went on a few months ago http://justrunning.net/2012/09/the-steve-born-seminar-15-sim...

Running in loops.

When it is not an organized run, you will have to manage water on your own. We have a 5km loop and we put our water bottles in a vehicle at the start point.

Depending on the distance that we plan to run, we increase/decrease the number of iterations of the loop.

When running in loops is not an option, people are advised to get a fuel belt.

When I meet successful people in business from time to time, I more often than not find that having conquered the business world - physical challenge brings them more happiness than another business success could. Especially if it just a 5k that some average athlete shrugs off; all challenges are personal. Sometimes, if running a profitable business, building and managing people effectively is not a challenge, a 40 min 5-k can very well be.

Book recommendation, not just about cycling: The Rider, by Tim Krabbé

"The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. ‘Good for you’. Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately.”



Cycling is great, I highly recommend it. Don't think of it as a cheap hobby though, once you get into it you are almost guaranteed to start breaking things on a cheap bike and want better gear.

As a side note, if you do get a bike on a shoestring budget get an older bike as those things were built to last; modern cheap bikes have gimmicky suspension setups (suspension is great but there are vast differences between cheap elastomers and a plush oil based setup) that don't help and add weight (and parts to go wrong) to the bike.

Also if you are finding it difficult to get into, try different styles of cycling. Fast road riding, cross country mountain biking, long distance cycle touring , downhill mountain biking and BMX riding are all vastly different experiences that use completely different skills and muscles.

On another note, if you get serious I do highly recommend so called "clipless" (a cleat in the shoe locks into the pedal) pedals for most styles of riding.

These things seem so scary and dangerous to start with, but I can virtually guarantee that once you are used to them you will not want to go back even for technical offroad riding. The extra efficiency and control you gain is astonishing, toe clips don't even come close. Of course make sure you practise on a grassy area first and get the feel for them and make sure you are confident with them before heading into traffic.

Falling off your bike when you stop for a red light is at best embarrassing and at worst really dangerous.

Also Sheldon Brown's page (RIP) on cycle maintenance though heavily outdated unless you have an older bike is probably one of my favorite parts of the "old internet".


Agree on Sheldon Brown's site. Amazing old internet site.

I can't get into clipless riding though. I tried toe clips and found it incredibly dangerous riding in the city (New York City). I don't feel safe unless I can bail off the bike in an instant. It also seems the clips discourage cyclists from stopping at red lights.

Maybe it's a good idea for more rural riding, but I pretty much never do that.

You can still bail off the bike in an instant if the pedals are properly adjusted--see, for example, professional mountain bike riders. If cyclists aren't stopping at red lights, it has nothing to do with their pedals.

Clipless pedals (the terminology is a bit confusing; "clipless" are the pedals that can be "clipped into" using special cleats, as opposed to the toe-cage style "clips") do take a bit of getting used to, but they are no less safe once the transition has been made (should only take a week) and the benefits are enormous.

Toe clips are way scarier than clipless once you get used to clipless.

With toeclips there is something physical that is stopping your feet from moving and you have to get your foot completely clear of the strap before it is safe to put it down.

With clipless on the other hand, if you have your pedals set right (spring tension) it becomes an automatic reaction when you know you are about to stop or about to go down. You also get much more freedom of foot movement without destabilising the bike. I got into a few hairy situations riding some technical trails but ejecting feet from pedals was never an issue.

Nowadays I actually find it more hairy riding with flats since I have to worry about my feet falling off the pedals accidently if I hit something too hard.

Agreed. To properly get out of a toe clip pedal, you have to 1. take your hand off the handlebar 2. crouch down 3. catch your thumb on the strap tightener 4. pull it away from you 5. remove your foot fully from your cage

with clipless:

1. kick your heel out so that your foot is more than 13.5 degrees with your toes pointed towards the bike.

2. there is no step 2.

FYI, if you had a road bike you were probably using SH-51 cleats, which only release by twisting the rear ankle laterally. There is another model, SH-56, which can be released in multiple directions, including by yanking straight up; it's primarily meant for mountain biking. If you're really concerned about unclipping, these might be better for you.

Personally, I haven't had any problems with the SH-51 pedals, including city riding (in San Francisco). Part of it is psychological -- when riding slowly, particularly while splitting lanes, it's a little bit nerve racking to be clipped in at first -- but if you compare to toe clips, you'll probably find that you actually don't step off the pedals very frequently. The other aspect is that it's not completely natural to twist your ankle when falling (since normally you'd roll your ankle doing this!), but after a couple of falls or near-falls you'll get used to it and start to do it without thinking. Every once in a blue moon I'll have to stop extremely suddenly, or start to fall (e.g. misclip in while starting uphill), and I'll now turn my ankles without consciously thinking about it. With clipless you'll find that can actually unclip faster/more easily than toe clips since you can push forwards or sideways with your foot while falling, instead of being restricted to pulling back.

I hate clips with a passion in city traffic. Split seconds matter and the time you need to unclip could easily be the difference between ending up in hospital or not having a scratch. For open road use they're fine but in traffic I see no upside, you're on and off all the time anyway due to traffic lights, pedestrians, people opening their doors and so on.

That's why the dual use pedals like Crankbrother Mallets (especially the mallet 2) with dual-use shoes (like 5.10 Minnaars) are so useful. Riding in clips whenever it's safe, and then when you need that ability to bail, unclip and keep on riding.

i use mountain bike clips and shoes for riding in sf. the clips dont hit the ground when you walk, making it possible to do errands without changing your shoes. after i started riding for exercise, it quickly turned into riding to get around the city.

OP here.

Agree fully with you on clipless pedals, after proper training though :)

Once I got used to clipless pedals, I realized how little control over the pedals you have without them; I feel like my shoes are going to slip all the time.

Cycling is the perfect hacker sport:

* You can go out riding by yourself, or with groups.

* You can geek out about the tech involved if you want.

* It gets you outdoors in a context very different from sitting on your ass in front of a computer. Great for clearing the head.

The biggest drawback is that it's tough to find the time for a good ride (at least 2 hours), whereas something like running takes less time.

If anyone ever makes it over to the Padova area with their bike, I'd be happy to take you out on a ride and show you the area. The Colli Euganei and Colli Berici are both pleasant and attractive areas to ride.

Great. I love mountainbiking and was serious about it for more than ten years now. I agree with all you are saying. I would add that there are still opportunities to improve and build better bicycles. Especially the recumbent bikes community is very actively hacking better machines. I have some friends involved and was able to try several prototypes - if I have the extra money to invest I would definitely support this. It is innovative, useful and fun! I have also used a bicycle for commuting in every city I've ever lived. It is probably the best way to explore the surroundings and get to know the city map. Just note: I have experience only from Europe and Eastern Asia. David, I would be happy to visit you someday with my bike in Padova.

I always wanted to be an amazing jump roper. As a kid I couldnt ever play with others jumping rope, I just couldn't do it. When I would jump rope solo, I had to double jump each time because I was so physically out of rhythm.

Last year my new years resolution was to get in shape. In the summer I jumped rope almost everyday. There becomes a moment when you are jumping, where you stop jumping and you feel like you are floating. Your legs are moving the rope, and as you continue your mind flourishes and floats. I love this feeling; jumping rope is my cycling.

Last time I went to the gym I was doing double revolution jumps and this guy looked at me and was like "I haven't seen anyone do that since Rocky". ADRIAN.

You can get massive endorphin high from cycling hard and up hills. It's really hard to describe unless you've done it. I believe this is the same rush some runners get. Road bikers tend to go for this sort of high, mountain bikers often get in to the downhill. I am a bit weird in that I prefer uphill to down and usually ride a mountain bike.

One thing I would recommend is, once you're out of traffic or are confident of staying on the edge of the road and not being hit by passing traffic, try playing some trance or other high energy music through headphones. You don't need a special iPod or expensive headphones, just a regular smartphone in your pocket (if like me you remain unconvinced about doing the lycra thing) and in-ear headphones threaded through your shirt will do it. This isn't just a random recommendation: by adding high energy music, I find that my subconscious regulation of breathing changes and I am able to more accelerate my metabolism both more quickly and to a further point.

Source: During my first startup in southwest China I used to leave the office about 4 or 5pm and cycle up a Himalayan mountain at high speed before retiring to social drinking. Through the wonders of cycling I managed to lose a lot of weight and maintain high energy despite heavy drinking :) Also used to do whole day group or solo rides on the weekends, sometimes both days, usually with more off-road.

I've also done (usually month long) cycle tours around southwest China, France, Romania, and Taiwan.

A couple of years back, while living in the Hollywood hills of LA for a year, I got a bit in to road biking .. the mountains north of eastern LA are fantastic for weekend rides. Unfortunately I'm living in Bangkok now, no chance to cycle but a huge private pool to enjoy, and plan to hit southwest China on a regular basis to visit the squirrels in my favoured cycling environment: high altitude Himalayan pine forest. Ahh, nature and exercise are so life affirming :)

Where in SW china were you doing your cycling? And what kind of startup were you doing that allowed you to be there? (NB I just moved back to SF after a year and half in Kunming)

Cycling: all around Yunnan. http://pratyeka.org/bike/southern-yunnan.html is my original trip. I mostly lived in Jinghong (Xishuangbanna) and Kunming.

Startup: My own, since there was nobody doing anything there that required my skills I simply made my own project. China-focused multilingual hotel reservation system, with integrated global SMS, digital fax, from-scratch diskless Linux-based VOIP call center.

Cycling to work was one of the reasons I lost 50lbs. I biked about 10km each way from my apartment in Kitchener to my office in Waterloo (Ontario). Now live in Toronto where, outside of winter I cycle on a daily basis. Sold my car last year too, which is a nice cost saver.

If you know how to get around safely, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't want to cycle. Most people are worried about sweating, but is easily solved by not riding like some Tour De France wanna-be and enjoying a nice casual ride.

I live right in downtown Toronto, and frankly I'm terrified out of my mind to try cycling around!

It's definitely not perfect not the most pleasurable experience but if you find the right streets for your route it can become quite a relaxing ride. :)

I had a light weight Dawes galaxy touring bike (more comfortable than road bikes) and tried cycling for about 2 years. Problem is I live in London where there are actually no pleasant cycling experiences to be had. I gave up after the third attempt by psychotic drivers to take my life and bits of what I can only describe as cycling routes worse than an outback road in Afghanistan. Oh and dog owners - the scum of the earth: either end up rolling through shit or having them out of control jumping at you.

Plus it was awful being sopping wet and covered in 'london shit' that you can't clean off without resorting to rubbing yourself with swarfega.

Horrible experience. Even a picadilly line tube train (known as the tandoor) is better in the middle of summer with sweltering 32oC and no air.

Respectfully, I have to disagree. I have plenty of great experiences cycling the city, and the quality of the "cycle routes" varies greatly across the boroughs. Yes, if you're out an about in south london, it's pretty clear that you're in "car is king" suburban planning, and the density of rail lines makes planning good routes difficult (as there are few ways to cross, everything is funnelled though a few major junctions). In spite of the blue paint, the A3 is NOT a cycle route, the most ironic thing being that most of it can be ridden on residential streets directly parallel for a much improved experience.

I ride 12 miles from dalston to gunnersbury most days, even though the overground goes direct (and the overground is infinitely more pleasant than the picadilly), because it's extremely pleasant. I don't take the obvious route, straight down through angel and bloomsbury, heading for bayswater and goldhawk road, that would just be silly. Instead I took a look at a map and plotted a slightly longer course through camden going north of regent's park (and also skipping to the north of shepherd's bush. And it's great, very little traffic, not even many buses.


You can't expect all roads in a big old city to be "pleasant" to cycle, hell, many of them are unpleasant in a car. But you have the freedom on a bike to plot massively more different routes to your destination, ugly roads are rarely unavoidable.

At least that's my experience in the north. I often feel a bit exposed cycling clapham / stockwell / brixton areas late at night, but that's because I haven't invested in the local knowledge...

My experience is quite contrary. I've lived (and actively cycled) in three cities: San Francisco, London and Helsinki and although London is absolutely the worst of these three to cycle from the safety perspective, I nevertheless learned to enjoy cycling in traffic. I've rarely been more alert and present in the moment as during my morning rides to work. It gave me quite an adrenaline rush and I felt great afterwards.

That rapidly changes the moment you get knocked off. Someone pulled out on me in Clapham and clipped my panniers and nearly knocked me off. Scared the shit out of me.

Humans are just sacks of jam in an accident. No thanks.

Get yourself a scooter.

I found a better solution was to just work from home and go for a run around the local park.

I work from home too, but a scooter still makes way more sense than public transport for almost everything except where alcohol is involved.

I too can vouch for the changing power of cycling (and long distance running, which I discovered around the same time). It replaced a nicotine addiction for me, alleviated mood problems and continues to help me think clearly. I'm the sort of person who requires regular solitude--long runs or bike rides give me that (they can be deeply meditative) and force me to get some fresh air.

Arranging their life in such a way that regular commutes can be accomplished on a bicycle or by foot is one of the most valuable lifestyle changes anyone with a desk job can make.

I recently got into road biking myself, but one thing I disagree with in this post is that you should buy an expensive road bike to start. I bought a $400 road bike off bikesdirect.com and another $120 on step-in pedals/shoes and outside of a few more cheap accessories I've not spent more than $700 on the whole package. It's the best bike I've ever personally ridden and I have really gotten into the sport (I'm training for a triathlon next summer).

It reminds me of when I bought my first new car, a 2007 VW Rabbit. I knew what I wanted - the four-door non-sport edition, but the dealer asked me if I wanted to test drive the GTI which I didn't know came in a 4-door. I was very tempted but resisted because I knew as soon as I test drove the GTI, the Rabbit would feel sluggish in comparison. The point is, if you start out by test driving something expensive, whether it be a bike or a car, your expectations will rise from zero to very-high and it will taint the well of cheaper options.

It's much more economical to buy a cheaper bike when you have zero expectations, especially if you don't know whether or not you will commit to the sport long-term. You can always sell it and upgrade to a nice $1000+ road bike in the future if you end up loving the sport. I might even recommend going cheaper than I did and buying a used road bike on craigslist for far less than the $400 I spent on a new bike (however cheap $400 is for a new road bike). As others have mentioned here, half the fun of owning a bike is learning how to maintain, repair, and upgrade it over time.

I think what you have would count as an expensive bike. Since you can get a working bike from a place like Walmart for just about 200.

That said, if you are counting what you have in the not too expensive department, I agree completely. I got a pretty good deal on craigs list. Is an older bike, but unless you plan on going competitive, it is hard to go wrong with a quality bike.

> I think what you have would count as an expensive bike. Since you can get a working bike from a place like Walmart for just about 200.

No, that there is a cheap bike. Average bike prices are around $700 or so. An expensive bike is ~ $4K with carbon fiber/titanium frames. Sure, you can get a Walmart bike for $200, those things fall apart very soon and encourage bad posture.

I should have clarified, "to many that view bikes as a toy, a 700 bike is an expensive bike." It is not that I disagree with what you are saying. I just realize there is a majority that does not want to spend more than 200 on a bike. And that isn't "before accessories."

Myself... I just wish I biked more. I don't have the courage to bike the full 14 miles to work, and the 3 miles each way using the train just feels sorta "meh."

I am highly tempted by the bike lights at revolights.com. If anyone has experience with those, I'm all ears.

The type of bike you can get from Walmart shouldn't even be considered in the same category. It may be "working" in that it can roll when it leaves the store, but if you attempt to do any serious miles on it, it will break quickly and/or require inordinate amounts of maintenance.

$200 will get you a pretty nice refurbished bike from the 70s or 80s around here. Used parts are abundant and cheap. Unless you are racing the weight doesn't make a huge difference. Especially as you are just starting out.

That describes my bike perfectly. '86 Trek. I love the thing, but I don't exactly have a lot of experience to rate it against. All of my other bikes were either mountain bikes or Xmart specials. Great for what they were. But not something I'd want to ride every day to work.

of course, I realize I do things wrong by taking advantage of the speed my bike can get. I put the smallest tires I could easily find on them and have been having a blast with how easy hills are. Probably not the safest riding on the planet, but I have learned not to overtake cars if I can avoid it now.

I'm about to get into biking too and agree with your comment about getting an inexpensive bike for starters.

I'll probably buy a new bike instead of a used one.

It has worked well for me in the past. I lost 30 lbs when I got back in to cycling, but it's slowly crept back on[2] so I need a new effort to sort it out.

My commute is only 8 miles and I do this the vast majority of days in all weathers (London, UK) even if it's icy or snowy (this weather to come in the next few months) as I've got a spare pair of wheels with Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tyres on them.

Combining my commute (the alternative is to take the train) with a 30 minute exercise session saves me time and I still get an hour of exercise a day, and I also get a bit of time to arrange my thoughts for the day.

Yes there are increased risks, but these are greatly outweighed by the health benefits.

It can get quite addictive, and the distances soon build up. I got back into cycling about 6 years ago and did a 60 mile charity ride. Those 60 miles certainly felt like a long way by the time I'd finished, but that led to doing a 200km Audax[1] in ~10 hours (they're not races) and then progressively longer rides all the way up to rides lasting multiple days and doing ~300km+ each day. Last year was Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km which has to be done in under 90 hours. That was fun, despite my relative lack of preparation.

1. Other countries call them Randonnees or Brevets. Which are generally measured in kilometers hence the swapping of units.

2. Several reasons; gluttony and apathy mainly. Easily sorted by being less lazy and keeping an eye on food intake again.

Cycling is one of my fondest memories from childhood. One of the biggest drawbacks to living in the city I live in is that it isn't very cyclist-friendly, so I don't really view biking to work as an option. I live about 6 miles from my office but any reasonable route to/from work would require riding on congested roads with drivers who don't know how to interact with cyclists. The possibility of serious injury or death resulting from someone hitting me with their vehicle at 35mph just isn't worth it. :(

Car commute routes often have more-or-less parallel routes better suited for bicycling. If you are pedaling on the same route you would drive on, it is likely to be well worth spending some time trying to find a more suitable route. I would prefer a longer route with many stop signs over a congested multi-lane route with traffic lights. Spend a weekend morning in your car with a road map looking for smooth pavement.

Disclaimer: Works well in grid layouts (western US), less well in older cities, depends on local topography, rivers, rail, etc.

Can I ask, which city?

Moved to Amsterdam few months ago. Love biking to and from work. Average daily 60 minutes on my bike. Helps me a brown man used to tropical weather get over the cold. ;-)

A very hearty welcome to my hometown. Enjoy the fireworks tonight!

Yes, yes, yes! This article matches the feeling I had when riding a road bike for the first time. The sense of speed and freedom is amazing, like rediscovering the joy of a bike without training wheels. If I can offer one piece of advice, it is to find a group of like-minded cyclists to ride with. Nothing builds camaraderie like toiling in the saddle with four other guys on a Cat-2 climb, and you will learn so much from their experience.

Cycling fundamentally changed my life for the better about 10 years ago. I got pretty deep into it — became a bike messenger in NYC and later in Richmond, Virginia. Did a couple of long-distance tours (2,000+ miles). After friends and family, it's the fabric of my life. I don't own a car, and I ride every single day, whatever the weather.

Cycling provides a lot of valuable life lessons in the form of metaphors. And after you reach a baseline of physical fitness, the sport turns out to be mostly a mental / psychological challenge. For example, when I'm climbing a hill, I charge at it. I climb all the way through with full effort until _after_ I crest over the top. I don't stop the effort just shy of the finish. It's much more gratifying than giving up just before you're done because you know the pain's about to be over.

Cycling provides a life-long way to push yourself, test your abilities, traverse the globe, see beautiful places, and find camaraderie, and relive the joy and freedom of being a kid on two wheels.

For me this is the bit which really rings true:

"I successfully avoided my picture taken. Not so much consciously, but more with the knowledge that it would come out not particularly flattering."

It reminds me of a point Tina Fey made in her Google talk that she just had to learn a particular expression which would make her look good and then bust it out whenever her radar picked up someone taking a photo. I started mimicking that idea, along with various body language tricks and found myself pleased with the results. It makes it much easier to get motivated to work out and dress stylishly when your starting point is already better than you thought because of a few powerful little modifiers. In the spirit of the OP, that's not the end - it's the start of getting better at something!

I took up cycling from similarly un-athletic beginnings out of necessity because I had no other transportation. That necessity was lucky for me, because I never would have had the discipline to follow through on it if I had the option not to. I'm great at thinking of excuses. It's too hot/cold. It's raining. I'm tired. I'm late. But after a few months, something changed, and I started looking forward to my rides, and found that they were getting easier. After that it didn't take much before I was totally hooked. That was 8 years ago, and the benefits to my health, energy, and general outlook on life have been large. Group rides can also be a great way to meet people over a common experience.

Anyway, bikes are great.

I live and work in London, and while cycling would free me from the shackles of public transport, I am almost certain I would be killed on the roads within 6 months.

Cycling is dangerous when you share such tight little roads with 20 tonne trucks, cars and other vehicles.

I've been riding seriously for 18+ months, in rural and urban environments in the South of England. I get nervous when I think about the accidents I read or hear about in the news, but I have never had any problems with deliberate harassment, and only a couple of times when people have been careless and I had to bellow at them (works incredibly well, bellowing).

Training and hi-viz are everything: I have lights for daylight running and a fluorescent jacket.

Jacket: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackrock-Workwear-Highland-Visibili... Headlamp: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lumen-Cycling-Bicycle-Light-HeadLigh... Blinkies: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cateye-HL-LD130-TL-LD130-Light-Set/d...

Also, learning how to ride correctly has made a huge difference, try this book:


If you want the reassurance of a helmet (I have mixed opinions) get a Specialized since they're made to a higher standard than most other brands.

Try to find quieter routes if you want to try riding. This app can help:


As can scouting your route using street-view, etc.

Try it, you should live :) And as OA says, you'll live well too.

Thanks very much - that app shows me a quiet way from home (Raynes Park) to work (Leatherhead); 13.4 miles. It's far enough off the busy roads I know that I would never have discovered it unaided. On to Street View... then the forecast is good for New Year's day, so it's a good opportunity for a practice run.

Looks like the forecast for new year's held out. I'll be able to get back on my bike for the first time in three weeks (flu + weather).

Cyclestreets route planning is simply amazing at its best and has mobile web and apps too:


Base data comes via OpenStreetMap but various Uk cycling orgs and quangos have contributed too.

Most London boroughs offer free cycle training, even to adults who've cycled a great deal in the past. If there isn't anything free then there are plenty you can pay for, if it gets you free from public transport it may definitely be worth doing it.

I've cycle commuted in London for years and still try and find a course once a year to go on to keep my knowledge fresh.

You'll learn lots of things; what not to do, how to ride assertively (not aggressively), how to ride defensively, when to ride assertively or defensively, the greatest dangers and how to mitigate those risks, etc.

Birmingham UK: similar issues on a smaller scale. Many cyclists take to the pavements instead that causes other issues (I'm getting quite good at jumping out of the way). The organised cyclists used to have 'critical mass' riding now and again


seems to have gone off a bit.

I'm guessing you watched the recent BBC documentary about the 'war' between cyclists and other road users?

As long as you have your wits about you, take all reasonable precautions (helmet, lights, high-vis clothing, etc.) and ride defensively, I don't see much that can go wrong.

I had the same experience learning to unicycle in my late thirties. Fall, try again, repeat. It's hard to actually get hurt (the unicycle just slips from under your butt and you end up more or less standing) and if you persevere you'll reach the great moment in which you can actually ride the thing... first a coupe of meters, then 5 or 10 from time to time, then you don't know how but you are actually able to ride it. But it still feels it should be a physical impossibility, and I still feel happy and exhilarated when I do it.

Very inspirational. I fell in love with with mountain biking when I move to BC. It's the one thing that year after year keeps me balanced and allows me to live a happy life. There's nothing more satisfying then finally conquering a drop or technical feature. Especially when your first impression was "that is not possible".

I recently wrote a post about this (www.nickmulder.me) I started at 17, raced professionally till last year when I got a kink / blod clot in my legs.

Cycling is a nice distraction from your passion but for me personally, it became a passion that cannabalized my other hobbies. Its quite an addiction, the reason I think is because it is so quantifiable and if your'e a bit of a numbers guy like me it is a perfectly gamified concept (check out strava.com)

Nonetheless, having commuted each day of my young life through wind, rain, snow and having put over 100,000 kilometers on my bike I can attest to the fact that the feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled.

Whatever your reason may be, cycling is an amazing way to channel your energy and strive to reach your goals.

I caught the bug last year (2011) got a new bike in February this year and severely broke my leg in March (non cycling accident). Even with the bad leg I managed to lose a bunch of weight and feel great.

Thank your for sharing your story.

Great story. Thanks for sharing.

Congrats to you for finding something you're passionate about and sticking with it, and improving your health.

Can't help but wonder ... how is the weight now? I am sure it is a lot better.

Used to be around 185lbs at 5 8. Now I'm at 150ish, probably could go down to 145 or so.

Do keep in mind that you're replacing fat mass with muscle mass the more you continue to ride and tone your body. If it seems like you're slowing down in the weight loss, you might just be building muscle. 5'8" / 150 is pretty skinny, if I have anything to say about it.

Just in terms of health recommendations (by the CDC, WHO, ect...) the ideal range is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. For someone who is 5'8", that would 122 to 166 pounds. Power athletes would be heavier of course, but as a group they don't have the greatest health outcomes.

Probably; I do look pretty skinny but the body-image issue is a pretty real thing; I need to convince and realize that I am skinny. I also have some extra skin and stuff that I want to get rid of. I mean, I am not trying to lose weight at this point, more like I am looking for a reason to not eat too much crap.

My personal favourite cycling site:


My #2 is already mentioned elsewhere (Sheldon Brown).

This is really awesome. Thanks for sharing it, it's a perfect example of a fundamental truth about life. Many happy miles ahead.

If you want to see some crazy road biking check out Martyn Ashton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZmJtYaUTa0

Mountain bike. It's SF. And Trek makes some of the best.

It's amazing how difficult it seems to be to get happy with these things and it always just lasts for a few moments. Whereas God can make one happy in a much deeper sense without all the effort. Also it can last much longer (until you neglect the relationship with him)

I don't see how this is relevant. Having a god in your life doesn't exclude you from the benefits of trying and conquering new things in life. Also, a relationship with god probably won't give you sweet quads.

No wonder the Bible Belt has such high obesity and diabetes rates.

Can't tell if you're trolling, but are you suggesting that riding a bike requires more effort than having a deep relationship with God? I suspect your local religious leader would disagree.

Exercise is good for your body and your mental health. Any sane religion would not discourage it.

Ah right, I should have known that saying something about the effort was going to be taken like that. What I meant is the effort is completely different. The story about biking makes it very obvious that it's just a very temporary happiness that can be achieved by something like that. It's not reliable in any way. You fight for one moment of happiness and you don't even know if it will even come. Wonderful.

Existentialists spend their whole lives chasing fleeting moments of earthly happiness. It's all we got. Don't take it away from us.

If you've managed to find God's love, all the best to you. Still, even if this is your permanent, reliable source of serenity, it does not mean you shouldn't seek happiness in this mortal world as well. Your comment is completely irrelevant.

>Don't take it away from us.

I wasn't taking anything away from you

>Your comment is completely irrelevant to me.


Yes, nothing like a good old-fashioned delusion to brighten up your life.

As if your way to brighten up your life was not a delusion. If you insist on the material worldview everything is a delusion, that means me and you (the ego) included. None of that is real.

It's sad how much you hate God around here. I hope for you that he's not real.

It's sad how much you hate God around here. I hope for you that he's not real.

The god delusion, awesome. Being a student of philosophy for a long time, and avid cyclist for longer, and someone who's shed the childish notion of the vengeful god, I can say for certain there is no god and therefore, there's no reason to worry about 'him' being 'real'.

However, if you round a corner on your bike and slam into an oncoming car, THAT is real. God will not magically make your molecules pass through that car and leave you unharmed. God will not fill up your energy when your climbing those hills nor will he fill up your stomach whenever you want. You have to do that, because THAT is real.

Yes, we live mostly by the ego. So it is and we continue forward finding happiness here and there (sometimes all over - the universe to me is far more beautiful than the notion of a vengeful, side-taking god), just 'living' the human experience. People let 'god' ruin that, always have, (sadly) always will.

Cycling helps us produce endorphins. If our body holds out and we don't feel like puking after that one or many hills, we can feel elated. That's brain chemistry. There's no magic switches and god has nothing to do with any of that. He saves no one from accidents, stops no wars, does not magically wave his hand/wand and turn that homeless guy into a 'cured' millionaire. Just like he will not magically lift me up so I can fly thru the air to the top of a nasty hill.

No, he's definitely not real, nor does he need to be. When I was young and realized organized religion was a sham, a veil was lifted over my eyes. Human existence has so much beauty (and sure, plenty of pain and suffering, just ask the Buddha) and I'm just happy being a part of that. I only have one shot to experience all of it. So, for me, cycling is a part of that beauty, just like the OP said. Stop robbing everyone of their experiences with beauty just because you believe in a hypothetical, invisible, vengeful, biased, super being. Leave us mortals who have to deal with reality every day to enjoy our postings in peace.

Thank you.

(edited for typos)

You keep talking like what you experience would be real. I would like to remind you that in your worldview everything you experience is brain chemistry, also the notion of self. You are not more real than the dream that you had last night.

>However, if you round a corner on your bike and slam into an oncoming car, THAT is real.

The pain isn't real. The notion that you are on a bike is not real. The only thing that is real is that matter slams into matter. Everything else is a product of consciousness which in materialism is nothing but a fluke of nature, but certainly has nothing to do with reality.

> Stop robbing everyone of their experiences with beauty just because you believe in a hypothetical, invisible, vengeful, biased, super being. Leave us mortals who have to deal with reality every day to enjoy our postings in peace.

Oh, I didn't know that the only thing you want is people patting you on the back so that you can enjoy your happy life. Sorry for waking you up and question your existence. Dream on then.

Thank you.

Yeah, and how did you learn about this god of yours? By reading a material object - a book - written by material beings based on ideas generated in their "brain chemistry," that's how. There's no special metaphysical basis for a knowledge of god, despite your stupid rationalisations.

And we don't "hate God" here - we don't hate any of the imaginary deities invented throughout human history. All of those ideas played an important role in early human culture, even if they are now all firmly past their best by date. Anyway, how can you hate something that doesn't exist? Your claim that we hate your god makes as much sense to us as a Hindu telling you that you hate Ganeesh and Shiva would to you. You would make similar arguments to a Hindu as to why their silly superstition is false, while preserving your own superstition from the same equally-valid critique. We simply observe the most logical and efficient explanation of the many competing ancient superstitions and surmise that they are all equally ungrounded in reality.

We are simply irritated by people who refuse to quit clinging to ancient, irrelevant superstitions, refuse to accept the cutting edge of human knowledge, refuse to accept and take charge of our position in the universe and advance the human story, refuse to accept our true ignorance of the nature of the universe (implicit in claiming that ~3000 year old ideas made up by people orders of magnitude more ignorant than us still have any relevance or signal any absolute truth) - and worst of all refuse to keep their irrelevant ignorance in their pants and instead run around trying to criticise intelligent, enlightened, superstition-free people.

Also, you don't know jack about the way/s I brighten up my life, bitch.

After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Genesis 5:21-23

Sounds like a major Bible workout to me!

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