Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Unplanned Scenic Drive Ride

9/6/14 253lbs, 55 pounds lost since 8/30/11

I have a couple of favorite El Paso rides, and one of them called my name yesterday. There is a wonderful, paved and painted bicycle path that runs up Artcraft Drive from the banks of the Rio Grande River, and a second one that runs next to the river for a few miles. The path on Artcraft is a loop that goes up one side, and back on the other side of the highway. Additionally, they have extended the path into New Mexico up towards Santa Teresa, but I don't know how far that one goes yet.

Well, it has been several years since I've ridden that path, so I racked up the Black Knight Bicycle and drove to Artcraft for a good ride. I did two laps of "the loop" and when I was sufficiently tired, after about 45 minutes of riding, I rolled back to the car to head home.

Only problem was my car, the world famous "Apa's Lil' Red Truck" overheated on the way home and I had to park her. I was stranded on Baltimore Street at Madeline Park, which is on the hill just East of the UTEP area. After sitting for a few minutes feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get on the bike and ride home, and then call a tow truck to come pick up the vehicle.

I hadn't been over Scenic Drive on a bike in a few years also, so I was having difficulty remembering how challenging it was. But I thought "Heck, why not?" and took off on the bike eastbound to go over the steep drive, then drop down to Central ELP and home.

The trip took about 35 minutes, 8-1/2 miles, which is an average speed of a tad over 15mph, which is pretty good considering my age (61) and the fact that a good portion of the trip is steep uphill work. Average speed was certainly helped by many of the hair-raising descents!

At the end of the ride, I was surprised by how good I felt, and the fact that I still had a lot of energy. I figure that total mileage for the day was about 18 or 19, which should make a person more tired than I seemed to be.

But I sure did sleep good last night!

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Gotta Stop Racing People - Old People Don't Race!

Or do they?

9/2/2014, 251lbs - 57 pounds lost since 8/30/2011
40 Minutes

When I turned 60, about a year-and-a-half ago, I had a meeting with myself and agreed that I would not be so competitive when I'm out riding the bike. Mind you, I don't go out to be competitive, but when I see another cyclist I can't seem to stop myself. I - have - to - go - faster!! I'm a freak. So when 60 happened, and I decided I should be biking like old people bike, part of it was promising myself to not chase down and pass roadies.

Roadies? You've seen them. Tight, lycra shorts; colorful jerseys; Thousand Dollar racing bikes. They're all over the place. They don't go out for bike rides; they train. When I see one of these guys, I can't resist. I have to try to chase them down and pass them.

Am I successful? Occasionally. The type of bike I ride is called a City Bike, and they are built for fast city riding and commuting. A great percentage of urban cyclists and commuters use these bikes, and they're not slow bikes by any means. Here's mine, dressed:
Looks like a Roadie Eater, right? Right?
And guys like me ride our urban bikes every day. We're in all parts of the city, challenging cars for lanes, riding to the post office and the shops and the movies. We are as likely to hop on the bike to run an errand as use the car. Since we're on our bikes all the time, why would we not be in condition enough to challenge these road guys?

So today, on the Tuesday of my vacation, I decided to go for a spin on the bike. My goal today was to merely put in about 30 minutes of aerobics, then to lock up the bike and have breakfast at the local Village Inn. After about 35 minutes of moderate sight-seeing, I headed West towards the VI. I probably had about two miles to go to get to the restaurant, flying down a neighborhood street. As I passed an intersection, I looked to the left - and passing through the intersection only a block away, going my direction, were two Roadies! My eyes got big and I felt myself starting to drool.

I told myself not to race these guys. I'm 61 darn years old, I said. But I suddenly found myself in a higher gear, a brisker spin, increasing speed to 15 - 16 - 17mph. At the next intersection, I glanced over - and they were a little further behind! Then another block passed, and a steeper downhill part of the street sent me to over 20mph - I looked to the left again - I had gained another 15 or 20 feet! I was kicking their you-know-whats! It doesn't matter that:

  • They were out on a leisurely spin, having a nice conversation 
  • They had no idea at all that they were in a race
  • Their two ages, combined, were still 20 years younger than I

But I beat them! No excuses!

See you on the bike!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Coming Up on Three Years

8/24/2014 252lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/2011
25 minute moderate aerobic spin

Late July in 2011 saw me make a very important decision in my life. That decision was to go car-light, meaning to utilize the local bus system and walking for my primary transportation. After about two weeks of walking, I switched to bicycling and the bus system. 6 weeks after I started this, on the 30th of August, I "couraged up" and put myself on a scale for the first time in years - 308 pounds. For the

complete narrative of my weight loss - including how I gained all that weight in the first place - click here.

So now I'm coming up on my three year anniversary since that weigh-in. I'm still overweight at 252 pounds, but not obese. I feel very mobile and strong. Almost 60 pounds lighter, it's a great feeling of accomplishment and a source of pride. I love being able to ride my bike, get up out of chairs without it being a struggle, and keep up with kids and grandkids.

According to the BMI charts, I still need to lose another 42 pounds to be at the upper end of my healthy weight range. I don't believe it, though - I love being 230 pounds and anything less than that I look too skinny.

Anyway, it's an important third year anniversary for me, so I will enjoy the bike rides I take this week with a certain relish. I hope to see friends and family members on the road - But I won't, I guess. Most have put their faith in Doctors and Pills.

See you on the bike!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Riding in Rain . . . AGAIN!

8/9/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
35 minutes in the rain

Today we woke up to a soft, but steady rain here in El Paso. The weather report indicated that the rain would last throughout the morning, and then the sun would come out. So, my plans - initially - were to wait until the afternoon to go for my bike ride.

But the last few rides have been in the rain - and (as I indicated in the blogs) all of these rides were extremely enjoyable. So, at about 10am, after a great breakfast made by my Bonnie, I decided to ride in the rain anyway. I mean, after all, think about it - The only possible "negative" is that I would get wet, and that's really not a negative at all. Of course, at 61 years of age now, my 3 kids and my poor wife think I'm going to catch pneumonia and die just because I get wet. I try to convince them that diseases like this happen to people because of viruses, not warm, gentle summer rains. But one of the facts of life is that logic does not work on blood relatives, so I just shrug my shoulders, climb on the bike, and ride anyway. Then, a couple of hours after the ride, they realize I haven't died, so they feel better.

It's probably a little more dangerous to ride a bicycle on city streets in the rain, but not enough that it would keep a person off of the bike. There are two major considerations:

  1. Corners are slick, so cyclists need to slow down more than usual when turning. I slow way the heck down, never pedal in a corner, and wait to accelerate until I've completed the turn. In 1979 on my trusty ol' Trek 520 touring bike I started accelerating mid-turn on a rainy day and the wheels slipped right out from under me. It hurt, folks, and I learned my lesson.
  2. Be more visible. People driving cars cannot see us cyclists as well during rainstorms. My bike has the most amazing array of lights of any bike I have ever seen - so when it is raining I have all my lighting on high and I am as visible as a lightening bolt. If some cager plows into me and sends me straight into the arms of Jesus, it won't be because he or she didn't see me, that's for sure.
Interestingly there were no other cyclists out riding through the rain in my neighborhood this morning, although I imagine there were lots out later in the day. Edgemere Park did have lots of walkers and joggers, though.

I did get very wet, but I did not die of pneumonia today.

See you on the bike!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Confounding the Diet Nazis

8/6/14 251 lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
37 minutes around the neighborhood, stopped for breakfast

Today I posted a little note at Facebook that said: "Eating a Denver Omelet with pancakes, laughing at the diet nazis - in the middle of a 15 mile bike ride - at Village Inn". Well, I guess I was incorrect on the distance. I actually rode only 7-1/2 miles, but it was a great workout for my heart and legs. At least there wasn't any rain today lol! If it's any consolation, I had plans for 15 miles but the day called me home.

If you spend any time searching the internet and listening to experts and studying diet programs, it is easy to conclude that the key to weight loss is what you eat - both the quantity and the quality. However, personal experience tells me that (at least for me) exercise as a lifestyle is much more important to attain health and weight control. As a matter of fact, there have been times in my life (as recently as 3 years ago) that I have experienced substantial weight loss through exercise alone, without dieting.

There is one reclusive exercise proponent, a man named Covert Bailey. You find very little about this man on the internet these days. He is not listed on Wikipedia, there are no videos of him at YouTube, and his old website says simply that he is retired. He was one of the few pro-exercise voices. Of course, there are several more, but Mr. Bailey was a pioneer, and shook my planet.

I have rarely dieted, until recently, and after that experience will probably not diet again.

For the science behind why I believe exercise is the primary permanent weight-loss and health engine, and why I appreciate Mr. Bailey so much, look at the links listed here at my website markstone.org.

My personal experience is lifelong, but in this following couple of paragraphs I will detail the last three years:

I weighed in at 308 pounds on August 30, 2011. At that time I was about a month into a bicycle commuting, car-lite lifestyle that had me riding my bike about 5 days per week, with a total of 35 or 40 minutes per day in the saddle. Between that August weigh-in and January 21, 2012, I lost 33 pounds not dieting. Not only was I not dieting, I was recklessly overeating. 33 pounds lost in 5 months = 6.6 pounds lost per month.

On January 21, 2012, my wife and I joined Weight Watchers. I weighed 275 at the beginning, and when we quit WW at the end of 2012 I had lost 45 pounds in 11 months. During that time, I continued to exercise but backed off on the duration and intensity, and no longer commuted on the bike. 45 pounds lost in 11 months = 4.1 pounds lost per month. Additionally, when we quit WW and I did not adjust my cycling, I gained back 20 of those 45 pounds. Just recently I have kicked up the bike mileage and frequency again, and am losing the weight. 

This is a small example of a pattern I've seen my whole life long: Exercise produces faster, more permanent weight loss than dieting. Apart from the physiological reasons stated at my website (see link above in this post), exercise can be (and is for me) a healthy lifestyle, whereas dieting is just - - dieting.

For the full story of my battle with weight since 2003, scroll to the top of the page and click the link there.

See you on the bike!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Another Bike Ride in the Cooling Rain - Continental Tyres - No Aggressive Drivers

8/5/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
30 minute Spin in the Rain

First, though, I want to post a picture of a T-shirt that I saw on Facebook today. Being a grandpa I found it very special:

Real Grandpas Go Cycling! Love it!

This afternoon was another bike ride through a soft rain in my neighborhood. It wasn't a "thunderstormy" type of event, but a gentle rainfall. I didn't use any kind of rain coat, I figured that if I got wet big deal. I wasn't going anywhere but home, so who cares if I got wet?

The only real difference in how I ride when the streets get wet is in cornering. I slow down quite a bit more and I don't pedal in the corners. The less torque on the rear wheel, the better! I do turn on my full night-time array of lights, however, because when the rain is coming down it's more difficult for cage drivers to see little old men on bikes. I don't want to be a hood ornament, so I make myself as visible as possible.

I love my Continental tyres on the bike so much, that I invested in a set of Continentals for our Dodge Caravan. I figure if the quality is so high on their relatively inexpensive bicycle touring tires, it must be very high on their expensive automobile touring tires. It cost over 6 bills to make the purchase tho - Don't tell Bonnie what I spent! (Actually she already knows. I'm just kidding. She's not too happy with the cost, but I want her to be safe in her car.)

An interesting side note to today's wet ride: I think it's been two or three months since I've seen an aggressive anti-cycling driver. Sometimes the mere presence of a cyclist on the street makes drivers mad, so they honk and "buzz" us (which is to pass dangerously close to a cyclist on purpose) or yell or throw things. It's been quite a while (relatively speaking) since I've encountered someone like that. I don't think I'm riding any differently; I still take the lane when I need to, and ride like the bike is a vehicle (for example, making left turns from the left turn lane, etc.), but no one acts mad. I'm probably on a lucky streak of some kind, I guess.

I don't understand why people would get mad and/or aggressive at a person just out to get some exercise on a bicycle. But it happens, and, unfortunately, quite frequently. I don't know why I've been given a respite for the last several weeks, but I'm not going to argue.

See you on the bike!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Active Rest from a Tiring Day?

8/4/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11

Yesterday I went on a relaxing, nonsensical ride that my body thinks it should not have gone on. It illustrates that when a person is tired, he or she may not be tired the way they think they are.

Huh?

I had worked 7 straight days when I came home from my job yesterday afternoon. I manage a restaurant, if, when done correctly, is a lot of work. I'm not interested in arguing with anybody about whether a restaurant management position is "work" or not – You'd be surprised how many people think it's easy. There's an immense amount of stress, and if a manager wants to keep loyalty and his or her job it takes
Me and my crew
active involvement. Every day leaves me tired, and after a string of days all I want to do is collapse into an easy chair when I arrive home.

Yesterday afternoon was one of those days. When I pulled up into the driveway, I sat in the car for a few minutes so tired I was unable to move. When I finally drug myself into the house and sat down, I did not want to get up. But I was in the middle of a little "island" of time where I could put on the gloves and skid lid and take the bike out for aerobics. A busy Grandpa has to take advantage of these little islands, or bike rides (and their associated health bonus) become rare.

So I forced myself out of the chair, and said to myself "I'm going to ride anyway. I don't care if I'm tired."

When I got out on the bike, however, I realized something that I've learned over and over in my cycling career: and that is tired from work and tired from bicycling are two different things. Even though work
My Restaurant Management Style
was physical, most of the "tired" feeling was emotional and the result of the stress.  Getting out on the bike, getting my heart rate up into "aerobic" range, feeling the sweat begin to form on my face, breathing getting faster and my lungs filling up, and my legs beginning to burn - - FEELS RELAXING AND RESTFUL! So after a few minutes of riding, I felt like I wanted to ride all day. The tired feeling from work was gone.

This is, honestly, a lesson I've learned over and over before. When my family and I lived in the Denver area, I commuted to work on my bike extensively, many days 25 or 30 miles. I grew to appreciate the long ride home after a busy day at work, because it was so refreshing and relaxing. And now, as I have begun my journey through my sixties, I'm rediscovering the same thing: Exercise is not tiring, in the sense that the human race is tired. It doesn't make a person irritable, or unsocial, or unkind. It doesn't fill us with stress, and doesn't make us wish everything would just go away. To feel the air on your face and the burn in your quads is, somehow, so restful after a long day. With the spirits lifted, the stress is gone.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

PuddleSplashing Ver. 1.3

8/2/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
30 minute amazing spin in the rain

Riding a bicycle in rainy weather is one of the most enjoyable things in life, however getting up enough courage is the barrier. Once I get out on the bike, it feels great - splishing and splashing through the puddles at a blazing 12 miles per hour. Rain always cools things off, and makes things calm. But starting out is always a trial. I look at the clouds and the rain from my cozy easy chair and say "Nah . . ."

But then, having ridden in the rain dozens and dozens of times in my 40-odd years of cycling, I remember that it is always memorable and always refreshing. And then I always quote this saying: "Fitness isn't something that happens to you. It is something you do." I drag myself out of the chair, put on the gloves and the skid lid, light up the front and rear flashers, stare at the clouds and groan, then
Not actually me lol . . . 
mount the machine and start the spin. Only for the first 20 seconds is a bike ride in the rain bothersome; after the first puddle is ridden through, and the fresh air is filling the lungs, then it becomes amazing. The streets seem so much more peaceful, and the strength in the legs seems more authentic. People on front porches and from under umbrellas stare with a strange longing. They know it's supposed to be uncomfortable, but can tell from the expression on my face that riding on the wet streets is astonishing. They wish they could do it too - but are, nevertheless, glad they are not.

Today's ride started during a break in the storm, though, and there was no actual rain falling. For about 25 minutes of the 30 I was out on the Black Knight, there was a refreshingly soft rain, with very little wind.

I was the only cyclist out on the streets in my neighborhood today. 1. The rain: Many riders looked at the clouds, said "Ugh", and the Ugh won. 2. A local bike shop, Crazy Cat, was having a grand opening for a new shop on the west side of town, and I imagine a lot of cyclists were visiting.

Look at this poor guy! I found this pair of telling images on Google:

Guess it helps to watch where you're going and be extra careful when riding in the rain . . .

See you on the bike!




Friday, August 1, 2014

I Almost Rode Today, but Prolly Would'a Drowned

8/1/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Almost a Ride Today

I got home from work today and the weather was purr-fect for a ride. The clouds were thick and grey, the temperature was in the low 80s, and there was no wind. The streets in my neighborhood were dry, even though thunderstorm cells have been attacking and devouring entire neighborhoods. So I decided that I should get my ride in before the storms got here - Cuz I knew they were a'comin'!!
This is what New Balance 890s look  like

So I immediately changed into my bike riding outfit (plaid shorts and T-shirt. No "Lie-Kra" on me!!), got on my New Balance 890s, and checked tire pressure on the Black Knight.

I put on my cycling gloves, put on my Skid Lid, started both the front and rear flashing lights, and filled up my water bottle. Then as I was actually rolling the bike out of the garage - - THE RAIN STARTED POURING DOWN!! I thought Noah had come back from the dead and built another ark. Buckets and buckets of water fell from the skies, and all I could do was sit inside the garage door and frown at the storm.

But it's not that bad. I love the sound and smell of the rain, especially here in El Paso where precip is so rare. I'll get through this - - somehow - -

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

People Walk Straighter, Close Mouths, Lift Heads

7/29/2014 - 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Muggy, muggy, muggy ride

People have a lot of pride, especially when exercising. Tonight, I rode through a very muggy, humid night and had quite an enjoyable time. Close to the end of my ride, I sat on a park bench to relax (and
wipe sweat lol) and started watching other exercisers as they went by on the path.

Tonight there were a few joggers, and a lot of walkers. However, I saw no other cyclists - the second ride in a row! Strange. As I was watching the foot traffic go by, I began to notice something I probably should have before - people change in intensity, breathing patterns, posture and speed as they passed me sitting on the bench. A few folks were slumped, breathing hard, going slow - and then as they passed by they straightened up, closed their mouths and breathed through their nose as they sped up. Attempts to impress me? A stranger, sitting on a bench, next to a leaning city bike?

Then after they pass, they slump back over, slow down, and resume panting. I think they they remind me of myself, because I do the same thing when I pass people on my bike. We are hilarious, us exercisers. But don't get me wrong - I'm proud of all of us walking, running, and cycling up and down these paths. We're just a little quirky, I guess.

See you on the bike!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'm Really Angry Tonight

But I don't know who to be angry with. This blog entry is more of a rant than an article, more of a temper tantrum than a meaningful script. I'm mad because of the health of my family members: both immediate family and extended. But I'm not mad at them, as much as I'm just generally upset at the circumstances.

We, as a family, are experiencing deteriorating health. Yet every single person that is having health problems is an expert in his or her own right. They know their disease or issue, they know what causes it, they know the drugs they take or want to take, they know what diet they should be on, they know they should exercise, and they can defend against any verbal attack against the treatments and regimens they are receiving. I don't want to argue with them, because a lot of times they have more "facts" than I do loaded up in their six-shooter. But (pardon the expression) it just pisses me off that even with the knowledge they seem to possess, they never get any better.

I take it personally, because I don't want to be attending the funerals of these beloved family members. But some of them are almost a decade younger than I and are, in all relevant ways, elderly before their time.

So what should I do? Start lecturing them every time I see them about aerobics and healthier eating? It won't work. They're already experts. And that's not sarcasm there, it's really true - they are experts.

On the diseases that are killing them.

On the surface this rant may seem arrogant, and it may look like I'm "looking down my nose" at them, but that's not the case. I'm worried, and don't know what to do.

I think I'll just go take a bike ride.

The (Female) Self Image

Editor's Note: I found a blog written by a young lady who had, with her husband, toured the West Coast of the US on her bicycle. In this blog I found the following gem where she commits to herself to never be critical of the appearance of her body again. Her blog (called Live Inspired) can be found here. We (both guys and gals) can learn a lot from Liz Mandell's experience:

before i started the pacific coast bike tour, i considered committing to never complaining about my body again after we completed the journey. (the operative word here is considered.) well that idea flew out of my head, instead being occupied with finding lunch, eating snacks, avoiding glass, camping, and oh yeah...cycling. it was like my conscious mind avoided this idea because i wasn't sure i had the determination to make such a huge commitment. thankfully it wasn't lost, just undercover germinating.

about halfway through the tour, i hesitantly tried the commitment on for size. i said to myself, "i commit to never complaining about my body again." i remember i was cycling and had to say this over and over until i could feel some semblance of naturalness, yet i still felt discomfort in my body. i was grateful for the space to explore what it would feel like to make this commitment, and grateful to drop it. it was clear i wasn't fully ready.

it wasn't until the last few miles before hitting mexico, as i filled up with a soup of emotions, that it became crystal clear i deeply desired to make this commitment. so i did. it was simply a whisper of a commitment i hope would change my life, one choice at a time.

i couldn't see anymore how i could complain about an exquisite machine that carried me from one country to another on a bicycle and (i hope) will one day create, carry, and deliver a new life into this world. but it wasn't just that my body (and yours) can do absolutely amazing things...more than anything, it had become clear that i didn't want to spend anymore time and energy on trying to change my body, on nitpicking my flesh, on rejecting myself. it wasn't worth it. cool thing about this decision? momastery just wrote a piece about how our lives are our masterpieces, not our bodies. i love that she called out this truth because women (and men!) need to believe it SO badly.

anyway, to start my journey, i started by saying: i loved my body, it does really amazing things, it's beautiful and i was grateful for it. and now when i feel tempted to complain, i just say a quiet, "thank you" or "you're cute" and move on from fixating on nothing. 

i commit to never complaining about my body again.
This pic is from her blog . . . .

See you on the bike! --Mark 07/26/14

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nightriding - Is Bicycling Safer at Night?

7/25/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Night Spin last night

Last night was 100% ideal for a night ride. Temperature dipped into the low 90s (sounds funny, but low 90s without the sun beating down can be an awesome temperature for exercise) and the wind was very light. I wasn't the only person that thought the weather was ideal, though. The streets were full of cyclists and the park I rode by, and sat in for a while, was packed with runners and walkers.

As far as collision-risk, bicycling is safer at night. Or at least I think so. The name of the game when riding on these city streets is to see and be seen, and night riding, if done correctly, is better than daytime riding on both fronts.

Face it - Riding a bike as much as many of us do is really a game of "Dodge Car". Have you ever heard of "Dodge Ball"? You get the idea. There's texters and phone-talkers not concentrating on where they're going, people that hold the odd belief that bicycles don't belong on the streets that buzz us, etc. Riding safely means being incredibly sensitive and observant. We rate every car we see on a danger-meter. Riding at night gives us an advantage, because cars with lights on at night are more visible to us that cars in the daytime. Cars with lights on can be seen around blind corners, because of the beam of the headlight. With greater awareness of where the cars are, it's easier to plan safe moves on the bike.

For example, if I want to make a legal left turn from a 4-lane road, at night using my mirror I can glance and know where the cars, if any, are that are coming up from behind, and move into the left lane for the turn with confidence. During the daytime, what's going on behind is less clear.

Then there's the most important thing: Lighting on the bike. Ask Bonnie, and ask those people that encounter me while I'm riding: My lights, both front and rear, are bright. I am definitely not one of those "ninja" style of cyclists that ride without lighting; it is very, very clear when I ride that I can see (the road is very lit up in front of the Black Knight!) and I am seen by motorists and other cyclists.

I can tell it's safer for me at night by how motorists respond. When coming up on me from behind, they swing waaaay out into the street to avoid me, or follow from a safe distance. During the day, I don't get that type of respect. Cars in front of me never impede me. They never back out from driveways, and the always hide behind stop signs. Recently (about a month ago?) I pulled up to a stop sign on two separate occasions and opposing drivers stopped, even though they had the right-of-way, to let me go through the intersection.

Last night, as I was ending my ride, I sat on "my" park bench at Edgemere Park, and watched some other cyclists ride by. Some were lit up pretty good, while others were playing the "Bike Ninja" game. Why ride after dark on dark city streets without reflectors and lighting? I don't understand the logic, I guess.

Oh well. See you on the bike!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thanks Google for Restoring the Pictures -

All my images here at the Bicycle/Health blog, and the Mud Blog, had disappeared. I got discouraged and decided to stop using Blogspot. However, I sent a cordial email to Google, through their "Send Feedback" link, and now a couple of days later the pictures have been restored! That's good news - I'll continue using Blogspot now, because of the great service - even though I'm not a paying customer.

See you on the bike!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I talked with Bonnie . . .

. . .and we decided it would be best for me to continue using the car for commuting to work for a number of reasons. I will deal with anger issues and my inability to focus while facing driving rather than running away from these demons.

Family needs and schedules dictate the use of my car. Additionally, I need it occasionally at work, too.

I'm Turning Into an Angry Driver

7/13/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

I don't know if it has to do with age or what, but I'm discovering that my anger level is starting to increase while I drive. Today, when on the way home from Church of all places, I responded in anger to a driver and almost got her and I in a crash. Details of the situation are not important: She did something wrong and I responded in a manner that almost hurt both of us.

Also, as my wife Bonnie can attest, I'm not a very good driver any more. My mind wanders, and I lack attention to detail. I drive slower than all the other cars and am scared to drive faster than I do now. Last night, we went up to White Sands National Monument, and on the trip home I kept scaring her, even though I didn't do it intentionally.

For some time now, I have been going back and forth in my decision whether to go car-light or not, by starting to use bicycling and/or the bus as my main forms of transportation, and leaving the car at home. I remember in the late Summer through the end of 2011, when I was car light, the personal stress I was experiencing was a lot less. Not worrying about traffic was the most relaxing feeling. And now, we live in a different home in what has to be described as the most ideal of locations for a car-light lifestyle.

The two primary attractions are the closeness of local businesses and the proximity of the Eastside Bus terminal. Only a 10 minute walk away, the #59 Eastside Express runs every 14 minutes between this terminal and downtown with no stops. I walk 10 minutes to the #59, then two blocks from where it stops downtown to my work. The cost would be a mere $12 per week instead of my $40 per week I'm paying in gas. Door-to-Door time (from when I walk out my front door to when I arrive at work) is less than 30 minutes. These #59 buses run from about 4:45am all the way to 8:15pm. Think of it - Little to no stress, save a bundle of money, it just seems like a no-brainer.

Plus, there is every imaginable business within safe bike riding distance from my home. Two great bike shops (Crazy Cat and another new one whose name slips my mind now) are less than ten minutes away by bike. There are three malls (Cielo Vista, Basset Place and The Fountains at Farah) within cycling distance, and two of those are actually an easy walk away. Not to mention 10 or 12 little strip shopping centers that have all kinds of shops. Plus a bunch of stand-alone storefront businesses (like a pair of Walgreens) and there's also a K-Mart and WalMart nearby. All accessible with two wheels. A library is close by, too, that has a very active chess club.

And restaurants? I'll try to list what I remember, all in my neighborhood and all within easy cycling distance:

  1. All the restaurants in the food courts at the three malls mentioned above.
  2. Pizza Hut
  3. Village Inn
  4. Jack in the Box
  5. a Mexican restaurant on Montana that I can't remember the name of now
  6. Weinerschnitzel
  7. Tastee Freeze
  8. Chili's
  9. KFC
  10. McDonald's
  11. Denny's
  12. Sonic
  13. a gourmet Burger place (I can't remember the name)
  14. Two Wendy's
  15. Two Burger Kings (one in the Airport, about 12 minute away by bike)
  16. Dunkin Donuts
  17. Two Arby's restaurants
  18. Long John Silver's
  19. Elmer's, a greasy-spoon coffee place
  20. The restaurants in a Marriott Hotel nearby
  21. Applebee's
  22. Cattle Baron (a high-end steakhouse)
  23. La Chocolat'
  24. Carlos and Mickey's
  25. Another Carlos and Mickey's in the airport
  26. At least four Subway restaurants
  27. Souper Salads
  28. Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors
  29. a cool Yogurt place
  30. Luby's Cafeteria
  31. Panda Express (opening soon!)
  32. 5 Guys Burgers
  33. Papa Burgers (bestest burgers in El Paso)
And I've probably forgotten a dozen more.

With my past, specifically my history of commuting by bicycle and using public transportation, along with my deterioration in driving skills and my growing anger issues, along with the supremely convenient area of town I live in, is it not silly to try to continue to drive my car all the time?

I think my anger incident today has pushed me over the edge. I think it's time to go car-light. There's at least two trips per week that I can't - that would be to music practice and church, because I carry my guitar(s) and gear and need a car. But other than that, I am starting to not see the point of driving the car any more.

We start tomorrow morning. We'll see where it leads.

Friday, July 11, 2014

So Many Other Cyclists

7/11/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
37 Minutes in the Heat

My smartphone said it was 95 degrees, but it felt much hotter to me. It felt like a few weeks ago when it was 106, 107 - So I rode a little slower than usual, but I rode a little longer in time.

Trivia: I rode 8 miles today in 37 minutes, and arrived back at my house pretty tired. We (me and Bonnie) watched the Tour de France on NBC and when they got to the point where there was 8 miles left in the race, I timed them. They finished in 12-1/2 minutes - the same distance that I rode in 37. Yes, they were three times faster than I!

At the end of the "meat" of the ride today I sat on a park bench and relaxed. Several cyclists passed by on Edgemere Blvd. while I was there, and it was cool to see how different they were from each other. The first one was a road cyclist, on a nice road bike, going quite fast. He was in Kit. (Being "in Kit" means you're wearing your cycling jersey, shorts, helmet, and cycling shoes.) Guys like this ride nearly as fast as the cars. It takes a lot of work (and a lot of money for the equipment) to get as fit as he was, and I've always deeply admired the commitment.

The second cyclist fascinated me - he was (in appearance) as fit as the first guy, and was riding nearly as fast. He was in blue jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers. He was on a City bike, nearly identical to mine, except he had fatter tires. He had flat bars with bullhorns, and a luggage rack on the rear with a milk
This is my "Black Knight" bike, set up as a City bike, similar to the
second cyclist I saw today. A
milk crate on a bike may not look too cool, but
it is a wonderful convenience. 
crate zip-tied to it. The crate was full of gear. He has a chain draped over his shoulder for locking his machine. He looked to be in his twenties, and when he passed I wanted to hop on the Black Knight bike and chase him down to talk to him. A fellow Urban/Utilitarian cyclist is a rare bird here in El Paso, and he made me smile.

The next guy made me smile, too. He was on a road bike like the first, but was overweight and a bit out of condition. But he made me smile because I felt proud of him. He was actively doing something about his health rather than sitting at home watching the tube and wishing he was fit. I hope he keeps it up. If I see him again, I'll flip him a thumbs-up to encourage him a bit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

7/10/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Will Ride Later

The benefits of Aerobic Exercise are so well documented that I will not attempt to list the studies and most of the physiology here. At my website markstone.org, I have listed links to studies and documentation in regards to Mitochondria (there's a link to it at the top of the page here), and I may put together a similar page of documentation for the Aerobic Benefit shortly. Just know that there are hundreds of longevity and health studies completed through the past several decades that support the following statements. Additionally, thousands of personal testimonies and documentation attest to the reality of the Aerobic Benefit. The physiological changes that take place in the human body when subjected to even a relatively small amount of aerobic work are staggering. And the changes are systemic, too!

First, as we discussed in the last blog, you have time to exercise aerobically. Even if you think you don't, you do. Steal 30 minutes from TV, or 30 minutes from Facebook/Twitter time, or get up a half-hour earlier (or go to sleep a half-hour later), or commute to work on your bike instead of in your car,  or use your bike to make that trip to Walgreens or to the Library. The time is available. The dedication to enter into a program and make it a lifestyle, or at least a habit, is what is in question. I do not know of anyone who cannot find the time, and folks I know a lot of people.

Aerobic exercise is defined as any light to moderate activity that maintains a heart rate of around 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Good examples are brisk walking, jogging or running, bicycling, rowing, and swimming (not just bouncing around in the water; I mean laps). When your activity keeps your heart rate in its "target zone" (the 60% to 70% of max mentioned above) then you've had a day. Do an average of 4 days or more per week of this, and you will eventually have a changed life. Period. And you will have changed your life without supplements and drugs.

If you read all the aerobic websites and books, you will discover a lot of difference of opinion in how
many times per week, how long you should exercise, and what the correct heart-rate "zone" is. Covert Bailey (one of my exercise heroes) claims only 12 minutes per day is enough. Others say 30. That's not the point. The point is: Get out there on your bike or in your walking/running shoes and start. Do 20 minutes. Do 30. But do something.

Personal Observation: I am 61 years old at the time of this writing. Who knows what's going to happen to me in the future – I may keel over dead from something or other any minute, just like any of you could. But at 61, I know of very few people that are my age that don't have to take prescriptions, or can't get in and out of chairs, or have a chronic disease of some type, or have had a bypass, or don't have to shoot up insulin, or are not tethered permanently to their doctor. I'm not perfect by any means, and have had times of being overweight and immobile, but I don't see a lot of people that are as healthy as I. Usually, the only difference is the exercise lifestyle. I have bicycled since 1972 or so – a lifetime of aerobic activity – and life, for me, bears more promise, less pills, less doctors, and more mobility. I'm going through my 60s able to do things. And I feel really, really good.

Here's what Aerobic Exercise does:

1. Better Cardio Function. Aerobic Exercise improves, cleans and maintains the entire circulatory system. Your heart grows in size and strength, able to pump more blood with each stroke. Because of this, resting heart rate lowers substantially. New blood vessels are constantly forming to carry blood to the muscles and extremities. The interior of blood vessels is "scraped" clean (removing blockages) by the increased flow and activity. Walls become supple. Because of the increase in mitochondria in the muscles, fatty acids are stripped from the blood so red blood cells no longer clump together, which
increases the blood's ability to carry nutrients because of the increased surface area of the blood cells. Also, the thinner (non-clumping) blood can reach extremities easier, so healing takes place faster.

2. Fat Loss. When muscles are working during aerobic activity, their need for fuel (obviously) increases. With this increased need comes an increase in the quality and numbers of mitochondria in the muscle cells. Mitochondria (as we've discussed before in these blogs) are the energy source for all muscular activity. When mitochondria are increased through exercise, they use an increased amount of fatty acids and glucose to create ATP, which is the fuel used by muscles. Here's the bonus: When you are at rest (for example, sleeping), the increased amount of mitochondria is still present. They are still actively converting fatty acids to ATP. Therefore, even at rest, the exercised body burns fat all the time, not just during the actual exercise.

3. Endorphins. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins in the brain, creating a sense of well-being and happiness that in my experience lasts all day. Aerobic exercise is a wonderful treatment for depression.

4. Stronger Immune System. Studies show that people who exercise aerobically have less incidences of viral diseases like the common cold, or the flu. Additionally, in the exercised body these diseases, when they do occur, are less severe and do not last as long. My own personal experience supports this entirely – I rarely get colds (I'm still waiting for my first 2014 cold, and it's July!) and when I do get them they are usually mild and gone within 24 hours.

5. Chronic Disease Reduction. This, to me, is exciting. Studies show that Aerobic Exercise substantially decreases the incidence of chronic disease of all types. Heart disease? Read point 1 above. Blood pressure is lowered, cholesterol is kept in check, the heart is a mammoth blood-pumping machine. Additionally, with endorphins introduced into the equation, stress levels are lowered. Blood vessels have supple, clean walls with no blockages. Diabetes? The tie between mitochondria production and type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) is undeniable and is extremely well established in science. The reason we don't hear about it is because the drug companies cannot make money off of prescription sales if we alter diets and/or increase aerobic activity and heal ourselves. See my Mitochondria T2DM blog for details. Cancer? It is difficult to find the reason, primarily because no one knows the root cause for cancer itself, but study after study confirms lower incidences of cancer in people that have a lifestyle of aerobic exercise.

Do people have heart attacks, die of cancer, and contract T2DM when they are aerobic exercisers? Of course. Everyone can think of examples of people they have known or heard of that are exceptions. Jim Fixx, runner extraordinaire, died from a heart attack. Lance Armstrong, before he won the 7 Tours de France, had serious testicular cancer. (A point can be made that these guys exercised too much, but I don't want to go down that road right now.) But the point here is that these chronic diseases are severely reduced in populations that exercise aerobically, and when you exercise aerobically you make your chances of contracting much, much smaller.

6. Oxygen Consumption. When you exercise, you breathe. The body's need for oxygen increases as the muscles use ATP to produce movement and energy, and by exercising the system of oxygen delivery we increase its efficiency. Stated simply: If you are bicycling and working your lungs on a daily basis, you discover that you are able to get to the top of the stairs without huffing and puffing. You can actually go for walks and breathe through your nose comfortably. I remember watching Dikembe Mutumbo, when he played for the Denver Nuggets of the NBA. He ran full speed up and down the basketball court but always with his mouth closed. His lungs were so developed, he didn't need to gasp for air. We can be the same.

7. Increased Energy. When we are exercising aerobically, we put our body on a new level of fitness. Tasks at work start becoming easier, even though we may be "tired" from our morning run or bike ride. I find that my energy level even when doing mundane tasks at home, like doing dishes, is increased. I don't say "Ugh, I guess I better get up and do the dishes" and then sit there for another ten minutes. I bounce out of the chair and attack the dishes. Instead of walking up stairs, I run. And I don't do it on purpose, it's just what my body wants to do. After a loooooong day, I still can keep up with grandkids.

One year, probably about a decade ago when I was entering my 50s, my wife was a counselor at a weekend Girl Scout camp and I got to go! We did all kinds of camping stuff in addition to all the crafts and Girl Scout learnin'. One afternoon we all went on a hike that ended at the top of a small mountain. We were all going to meet up there and sing songs or something. The first people to arrive at the top of the hill were myself and all the skinny Girl Scouts. A few minutes later more Girl Scouts appeared, then finally after about 10 or 15 minutes the adults, breathing and laboring, made it to the top. They plopped down on benches, panting, trying to recover from the climb. At 50, I was the oldest person there – and yet I was the only adult that was still fresh and felt rested at the end of the climb. Why? A lifestyle of Aerobic Exercise, an investment in my future I was willing to make.

There are many more benefits to a lifestyle of Aerobic Exercise, but I've hit the most important. I could also mention a reduction in Sleep Apnea, and improved sleep patterns, and better appetite (That's right: People that exercise aerobically usually eat less). But we're getting the point here. Lives change with aerobic exercise in so many ways. Following is a cool video about the effects of exercise from Dr. Mike Evans which brings home the point:


Actual picture of me jogging

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

They Want your Money - - They Want your Soul

7/9/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

There is a media war on our souls being waged by those that are after our hard-earned cash. As a population, we fall for and believe media hype and advertising. If an important sounding person says it on TV, after all, isn't it true? Admit it.

We have a real tendency to believe what we are told by people that appear to be experts without actually doing the research ourselves. It's always been the case. If a new wonder drug or weight-loss supplement comes delivered in an Advertising Company's packaging on TV, we buy it, baby.

Madison Avenue and the Drug/Weight Loss/Health companies know they cannot make money off of us if we exercise, even though exercise is by far and away the most effective weight-loss and health-improvement engine there is. My next article here at the Bicycle Blog will feature the proven benefits of aerobic exercise. Suffice it to say that exercise does much more in all areas of life than the supplements and/or pills even claim.

With that in mind, watch the ads for supplements and prescriptions. You will notice that they emphasize that we are busy, busy people. They build the impression, oft believed by us, that we are far too busy for exercise. We have to go places, do things, be social, take care of kids, hold down 6 jobs, and take care of aging parents. Therefore when we cannot fit exercise into our busy lifestyle, we need to try the newest Supplement, take the newest prescription! It's easy and fits in to our busy lifestyle!

But what are our lifestyles like, really? Think about it. We, and our children, sit and stare at screens. We are watching TV, we are playing video games, and we are on Facebook. I know a lot of people,
and I do not know one who is not addicted to some kind of screen. Twitter. Grey's Anatomy. Dancing With the Stars. Candy Crush Saga. Studies show that the average American adult is in front of some kind of screen an average of 5 to 6 hours per day.

I'm not saying these things are evil in and of themselves, but my friends that I referred to all claim that they do not have time to exercise. They cannot take 30 minutes out of their precious Facebook time to walk or ride a bicycle or go for a jog.

And when they don't feel like they have time, a position completely supported (and even suggested) by the money-hungry advertising, drug and supplement industries, then they have no recourse but to begin to depend on the almighty pill for their salvation.

That's the way it is.

Do the pills and supplements work? I think on an individual basis, from time to time, probably. But even when they do work, they do not address all the issues that a regular exercise program addresses. A Blood Pressure medication does not strengthen a person's heart, or increase mitochondria for better sugar metabolism. A weight-loss drink does not thin blood, increase the volume of blood, and create new blood vessels. No drug or supplement affects the human body with the scope of improvements offered by a simple, aerobic exercise program. But they do earn a large profit from unsuspecting and gullible individuals.

Look at society as a whole. We have higher rates of obesity and diabetes than ever in history. We are dying of heart disease and strokes. Yet, we have more "miracle" drugs out on the market than ever before! Advertising on TV is largely peddling products that supposedly will make us look and feel better. But, taken as a whole, do we look or feel better? Nope. With all the drugs and supplements available, if they worked wouldn't the situation be getting better? It's not. We're letting money-hungry corporations steal our money and our health.

When Jesus said that the love of money is the root of all evil, He knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Riding Away the Blues

7/8/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Last two days? Two rides totaling about an hour

Last night and then again this afternoon were rides that felt very good. Although my goals in regards to cycling are pretty modest, especially compared to the past, I can feel myself getting stronger. There's a small increase in endurance, too, albeit very small.

Not me . . .
Today I passed 550 miles for the year, and am on course to go over 1000 for 2014. The last time I went over 1000 miles in a year was 2003, eleven years ago, the year that Ken Kifer was killed by a drunk driver near his home in Alabama. I switched to walking after that (and gained a lot of weight). My 2003 total mileage was 1223.18, and if I pick up the pace a bit I may be able to beat that this year.

The most bike mileage I've had in a year was 2,401, in the year 2000. But that figure, although the most actual mileage, is deceptive. When Bonnie and I lived in Denver during the early 1990s I had 4 years where I rode around 2200 to 2300 miles each year, but the Denver miles were over mountain passes
Also not me . . .
and up front range canyons with speeds of 8 or 9 mph. During the steep parts of my favorite steep climb, Mt. Vernon Canyon, my road speed was only 5 or 6 mph - AND I WAS PASSING PEOPLE! So my 2200 to 2300 miles in the Colorado mountains probably translates to 3 or 4 thousand miles at the rate I was riding (flat El Paso, Texas, averaging about 17mph) in 2000. Note: At 61 years of age I am averaging about 13mph road speed on the same routes I used to do the 17 - aging happens!

As we age, I feel very blessed to be able to be active and ride my bike. I know many other people, some family members and some not, that hover around my age but are unable to be active, and it makes me sad. Riding away the blues, that's how it's done. That's how I roll. I wish my friends rolled with me -


Sunday, July 6, 2014

No Ride Today, but it Irked the Corner Store Guy

7/6/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
No Ride Today

This morning it was announced at Church that we would not be having music practice tomorrow (Monday) night, so it opened up Monday evening for a bicycle ride.
That means that I am able to take today off, and let my poor 61 year old body recover from the rides this past week - get a day of rest - and attack the ride tomorrow and get a head start on next week. That's pretty cool.

But I did need to put some gas in my little 1997 GMC Jimmy, which we lovingly refer to as "Apa's Little Red Truck". So, I drove it over to the local Corner Store to put a few bucks in it and pick up a pair of soft drinks for me and the lovely Missus. When I walked inside the store, the clerk looked at me with surprise and shock in his eyes - "Where's your bike today??!?" I told him that I was taking the day off from cycling today, and would he kindly ring up my items and my gasoline purchase. "Wow, man, I never thought I'd see you driving a car. What was it, the weather?"

After I finally convinced him that the world wasn't going to end because I didn't ride today, I left with the sodas and the push-o-line.

Neighborhood people are getting used to seeing me on the Black Knight bike tooling around here and there. It's a dynamic I hadn't really thought of, but is quite large. I guess we're all on a stage to a certain
level, being watched by others. But if your activity is a bit unusual, like cycling, then it is true even more so. And I have a double effect. Not only am I "some guy on a bicycle", but I'm an "old guy on a bicycle". That really is a blessing. We learn, many times, by watching others and following their example. My neighborhood is full of elderly people, and I wonder if seeing me (an elderly person myself) might encourage a few of them to start becoming active? It's pretty well established scientifically that exercise, just being active, probably adds years (by increasing mitochondria, which is very important to the aging process; in addition to aerobic improvements) and increases the quality of those years. I'm wondering if an old fart like myself may be helping others in the neighborhood lean towards a more active lifestyle?

It's something to think about, and gives me even greater motivation to keep riding.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tubes Tubes Tubes

7/5/2014 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
31 minutes, to local shops

Today I was able to ride in a fashion I love - Utilitarian. It's great to be able just to go out and sightsee, or to do some distance for training or aerobics. But there's something particularly satisfying to me to go out and do errands on the bike, to go to shops and make purchases, drop off mail, etc. Today I didn't get to drop off mail, but I almost got to! Bonnie put some bills in the mailbox, but we weren't sure whether the mailman was going to come by. If he didn't, I was going to toss the letters in my backpack and ride over to the post office to drop them off. But the mailman came to our home and picked them up, so I didn't get to drop off mail.

Darn.

But I did need a couple of tubes for my tires, and I wanted to buy some sodas for myself and Bonnie. So I did get to ride "utilitarian" today, and thumb my nose at cagers because I was  - er - "Green".

I rode over to Crazy Cat Cyclery, the one on Montana by Airway, which is a little challenging to get to if you are scared of traffic. I'm not interested in breaking any speed records, so it is easy for me to pick my way through traffic (by stopping and waiting for gaps), jump up on sidewalks, etc to get to my location. Crazy Cat has convenient bike racks right in front of the store, which is cool - I wish more bike shops did that, it seems to make sense (are you reading, guys from Atom??!?). I like CC because that's where I got the Black Knight bike, plus they have a top-notch group of bike mechanics. But if you go into the place wanting to make a purchase, they have a bit of a tendency to talk down at you.

Today I went in for tubes. So, after a couple of seconds of waiting, an employee approached - "May I help you sir?"

I told her "I need 3 tubes, 700 by 32, with Schrader valves." I figured that by being as direct as possible I would be able to avoid their tendency towards lecturing. Usually the salesperson will say "Are you sure you need Schrader? You understand that Schrader valves are the same kind they put on cars. Are you sure you don't need Presta? Here, let me show you the difference."

At this time, I always have to fight back the urge to say something like "Hey - I have been riding for over 40 years, and have 60,000 miles under my belt. I know what a Dad Burned Schrader valve is!"

But I don't. Usually, I graciously allow the employee to show me the difference and I go ahead and play the role of the innocent beginner cyclist, nodding and appreciative.

Today, however, I didn't play the game - and neither did she. She graciously just went back and got them, and all was well. I wonder if it wasn't because I rode my bike to the shop and was still wearing my Skid Lid, so I almost "looked like" an actual cyclist. Or not. But it was a non-lecture visit, and was therefore pleasant.

After I got the tubes, I fought the traffic to get back into my own neighborhood, visited the convenience store to buy the sodas, and rolled home, satisfied. I love that Utilitarian cycling!

First Flat since 2008 - But it Doesn't Count

7/5/14, 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/14

The tires on my bike are top-of-the-line. These days, a few tire companies (notably Continental and Schwalbe) sell tires for commuting and urban cycling that are outstanding and offer great flat protection. I discussed these tires and provided links to the sites in a June 7 blog entry here.

Not a pleasant experience . . .
These tires are quite a bit more expensive than "generic" tires. Schwalbes run around $40 to $50 each, and Continentals are only slightly less expensive. However, this is a classic case of "you get what you pay for" and "you save money in the long run". If you get the $15 specials then you can expect several goathead/nail/broken glass attacks to strand you by the side of the road almost daily, especially when riding through a city like El Paso where the streets are vicious to bike tires. Just ask my niece Diane - A wonderful cyclist who purchased a high-end road bike but insists on installing inexpensive "Kenda" level tires. Her narratives about all of her flat tires is legendary in our family. I've told cyclists like her and others that if you make the investment in the higher quality tires you can stop worrying about punctures and just ride.

My last tires, which I replaced about a month ago, were Continental SportCONTACT tires and had no flats for the entire two years they were installed on the Black Knight bike. As a matter of fact, it had been 4 years at that time since my last flat - but that was before I started paying the extra $$$ for the better tires.

So there remains a choice: Spend $30 for a pair of cheap tires and replace them twice during the year ($90) for a period of two years ($180) and spend a substantial amount of time on the side of the road disassembling your bike and repairing flat tires; or get a pair of Continental Touring Plus (my current
tires) or something similar and just ride, occasionally checking tire pressure, for two years before you replace. Total investment $60 - Your choice.
Not really me . . .

But, as the title suggests, I had a flat tire yesterday on the Black Knight bike. However, it was the failure of a valve on a tube and not a puncture or tire failure, so it doesn't "count" (lol). It also was discovered in the garage before a ride, so there was none of that sitting and cussing on a curb business.

So, there was a ten minute delay while I replaced the tube in my front tire, then I had a 30 minute neighborhood tour. It was a very enjoyable ride. As I am continuing riding my bike through my 60s it continues to wake up a part of me that wants to depend on cycling and public transportation rather than an automobile for basic transportation. As I've mentioned in past blogs, it is not a lifestyle that is foreign to me. My current location (both home and work) makes a commuting lifestyle ideal. I keep deciding to do it, and then deciding to not do it, over and over - I have been very "double minded" in that regard. But the part of me that's "waking up" is getting stronger and stronger. So I imagine I'll make that change, and leave the car at home, eventually.

One thing to think about is the fact that I am turning into a poor driver. I lack attention to detail, my mind wanders, and I drive slower than everyone else - classic old guy syndrome I guess. It's a consideration, for sure.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Slower than Heck!!

7-2-14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
25 minute Windy Grind

Tonight's "spin" through the neighborhood was pretty enjoyable, but it showed me a lot about aging and bicycling - especially for me personally! I started out just rolling through the neighborhood, impressing girls (chuckle) and after a few minutes ended up on Edgemere Parkway to ride up and down. Edgemere Parkway is a nice long park, bordered on both sides by relatively quiet Edgemere Street. In the center of the parkway was a bicycle path, but a few years ago they put "No Bicycles Allowed" signs on it, so it disintegrated into a baby-stroller walking/jogging path. It was probably my fault that bikes were banned from the path. Back in "The Day" (late 1970s, early 1980s) I would bomb up and down the path at breakneck speed frightening everybody. It was not a pretty sight.
Not really me . . .

So now we have to ride on the actual street with the cagers. It's still not a bad ride, though. One thing about it is the wind. It's a big tailwind one direction, and a big headwind the other. Occasionally, it's a big headwind both directions, which I can't figure out.

Anyway, tonight I was doing the ride Eastbound and I was having severe difficulty with the headwind. I was going about 9mph, suffering, breathing heavily, sweating like a pig, and suddenly a herd of road cyclists passed me. Which is OK, except that they did it quite effortlessly. Chatting, laughing, not perspiring, not panting. It was pathetic. Or, rather, I was pathetic.

So I immediately became depressed. That was, of course, the only possible response.

This is why I ride bikes by myself. I'm old and slow. Since when is 61 old?!?

When I got home, I dug out bike logs from 20 years ago - 1994 - during my Colorado Mountain bicycling "heyday" and compared notes.

  • 1994 average road speed (flat surface, no wind) 18mph. 2014? 13mph if I'm lucky.
  • 1994 favorite rides - Mountain passes, especially steep challenging Battle Mountain. 2014? A slow, steady cross-town route to my daughter's house, with several rest stops.
  • 1994 average TIS (Time In Saddle) 2 hours per day. 2014? 25 minutes.
  • 1994 Mileage - 2500 or so. 2014? I just passed 520 half way through the year.
  • 1994 reaction from observers? "Wow, what dedication to make that entire climb!" 2014: "Wow, look, an old guy on a bike! How cute!"
Old guy on a bike. Hrmph.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Eleven and a Half Minutes

Tonight I had one of the shortest bike rides ever - it lasted 11-1/2 minutes! And then relatives made fun of me!

Huge thunderstorms are rolling through the El Paso area, but I figured (after looking outside) that I could probably fit in a good 30 minute spin before the storms got to my house. Wow, was I wrong. They must have been riding on a magic carpet, or something. I rode down a side street and came back around the block, and hit a wall of wind that was amazing. I rode back towards the house as fast as I could against the wind (approximately slow walking speed) while my clothing, especially my shirt and socks, filled with runaway rain drops and dust. I got to the house, got inside safely, and let our dogs in the house and sat.
Not actually me . . .

Then my smartphone lit up.
Viv in her house

You see, my Sister-in-Law, Viv,  lives right across the street. She and her kidlets were at their window watching the storm roll in, and were filled with delight to see me riding through the 400mph wind to get
home. The laughter I can handle - but the cell phone abuse? Text messages started rolling in - "Awfully short ride, ey Uncle Mark?"
Also not actually me . . .