Why Cycling?

Why cycling?

Fifteen years ago I was slumping in my chair at another long MBA group meeting and my belly was a large mound making my belt loop rollover. Soon after, my doctor told me that I had high blood pressure and my cholesterol was rising. I had been buying the same pants size since college and now I had to think about moving up a size. I could follow this same path and let myself go like so many of my friends that I see on Facebook. Or I could take another path.
When I was in high school in New Jersey, I rode bicycles a lot. Car insurance in New Jersey was, and is, outrageous. More of my classmates rode bikes to get from place to place than had cars. Also, older, affordable cars in New Jersey were typically fighting rust as well. So me and my friends rode to the basketball courts, movies, the beach, and to work at the mall. I once rode from my home in Tinton Falls to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, 24 miles away. The parking lot attendant could not believe that I had ridden in from near Red Bank (he didn’t know where Tinton Falls was). So at 17, in 1981, I had completed my first half century ( I had ridden around before deciding to go to Great A). I went with a frame pump, platform pedals, a tire repair kit, no tire levers and no cell phone wearing jeans and a T-shirt, riding a bike that weighed over 40 pounds.
Years later, one of my coworkers gave me a bike after I said that I was interested in getting back to cycling. It was a steel Schwinn with the gear shifters on the downtube with friction shifting, where I had to hunt and find the gears when I used the shifters. It was light and fast to me.  The first time I rode 20 miles, I was so tired and sore, going up the stairs to get a shower was a real task. Eventually, I rode on Saturday for about 20 to 30 miles on average. I bought cheap cycling shorts, Speedplay clipless pedals, cycling shoes and a helmet over the next few months. Finally, I bought my own bike, an aluminum Trek 1000, end of year discount bike. It was even faster and lighter than the Schwinn, which I gave away to a friend.
I enjoyed the peace and quiet. After a week of working in an office with all of that commotion, it was nice go out and hear nothing but rubber of the tires against the road and the wind rustling through the grasses and trees along the side of roads and bike paths. Particularly when riding next to the ocean, my trouble seems small in comparison to the size of the ocean. It helped get my mind off my troubles for a couple of hours.
The Trek 1000 was much faster than my old Schwinn, but it had a rougher ride. I could feel everything on the road now.I rode along the Rincon Highway, between Ventura and Carpinteria, two weeks in a row, with the different bikes. I thought that someone had come along and roughed up the pavement along the route. The ride difference was that noticeable.
I thought that I was getting back into shape. I was going a little bit further and going on long rides. Until I mentioned my exercise routine to my doctor, who was not impressed. He simply said that once a week was not enough. My response was that I ride about 50 miles on Saturday. I needed more sessions during the week and not just one long Saturday ride. So I began to ride once or twice a week after work.
Once I hit 50 miles then I began to think about doing a metric century. It’s only 12 miles more, how much more effort can that be? I signed up for a charity ride and built up to that ride for weeks beforehand. The ride went fine and I was tired afterward. But seeing so many riders zipping along and tackling the century ride was a little discouraging. 100 miles seemed so far away and to move so quickly, it seemed impossible. Maybe it was the bike…
Like most cyclists, I believed that upgrading the bike would be the key. I know now that bike upgrades are part of the key, speed and endurance increases come from me and my fitness. But I always kept dreaming of getting a carbon fiber bike. After nine years, I was finally able to afford a carbon fiber bike, through the Trek Project One program. My local bike shop (LBS) owner helped me bring down the price by swapping out the default components for cheaper ones. The ride was definitely smoother and the frame was much lighter. But I was still slow and climbing hills was still not fun.
Over the course of years, I shifted my eating habits, cutting back on breakfasts and lunches and I rode 2 to 3 times during the week and a long ride on Saturday. My weight fell 30 pounds, my blood pressure decreased and my cardiovascular health became better, my maximum heart rate is 10 beats better than what the formula says it should be for my age, 220 - Age = Maximum Heart Rate.
Last year,  I rode in 6 century rides and I was able to complete 8 130 km (80.77 mile) ride challenges, ride a total of 3,700 miles and 152,000 feet of climbing in 120 rides.


Now on Monday mornings, when getting my coffee, people will talk about their weekends. Some went camping, some went to a picnic. When someone asks me, I say that I rode my bicycle in a century ride, and when I explain that a century ride is a bike ride of one hundred miles, usually there is disbelieve and someone will say that they wouldn’t drive a hundred miles much less ride a bike a hundred miles. The questions that my friends and coworkers is the background behind this Getting Started series.
Beyond the health benefits, I get a sense of achievement when I get the top of a hill or complete a long ride. Also, I get to see and hear, what is going on in my neighborhood. You can’t do that in a car. The peace and solitude that I get on bike rides cannot be beaten. In a sense, it is close the mindfulness idea that is becoming popular today. You have to be mindful on a bike while you are riding.