The Great Bikening

I’ve mentioned it on Twitter a few times, but I purchased a used bicycle about two weeks ago. My reasoning for this decision was because I’d cancelled my boxing gym membership and I needed something to provide a measure of physical activity. I’d loved boxing, but after moving five miles in the wrong direction, suddenly a 30 minute drive just to get to the gym didn’t seem so appealing. Not to mention, I’m trying to get financially squared away and a $45 monthly gym membership just didn’t fit with that goal, especially after I’d picked up a poor attendance habit and was only going about once a week (I’d been hitting the gym three times a week when I first started).

I’d been reading on a few blogs (Mr. Money Mustache and the Art of Manliness) about how rewarding it is to commute to work via bicycle. I checked the distance between home and work on Google maps and discovered it’s just a hair under 10 miles one-way. Shit, I thought to myself. That’s doable. Yeah, I could do that.

The math worked out. Google estimated the time at 50 minutes. My normal commute right now via motorcycle is about 25 minutes. But since I was already spending two hours on fitness when I went to the gym (and only getting one hour of actual exercise out of it), this scheme would allow me to spend my time more effectively since I was turning commute time into exercise time!

So I went out and purchased a used bike. It took a few tries; I looked into BICAS first but they didn’t have anything comfortable for my height. Bookman’s Sport Exchange had a very reasonably priced, very stylish looking green bike that I fell in love with after one test ride.

I rode it home. It was about five miles. I nearly died of exhaustion.

I recall lying on the carpet, gasping like a fish and wondering two things: first, how the hell was I going to do twenty miles a day and second, how had I let myself get this out of shape?

Because I used to bike a lot as a kid. And as a kid, I was able to go on my bike forever. It isn’t until you revisit things in adulthood that you loved in childhood that you realize how much slower and heavier adult bodies are if you don’t keep them in working order.

After that humbling experience, I spent a week building up my stamina. I took a long ride to get some miles under my belt. I tested the commute itself on a day off, reasoning that if I collapsed in a heap on the road somewhere, at least I wouldn’t have to call in.

The commute itself is lovely. I’m really lucky. Around 7 miles of it are on a dedicated, bike-only path that runs the length of a dry river, because in Tucson, rivers don’t need to have water in them to be considered rivers. Even the few miles I do spend on the streets are mostly well designed with generous bike lanes. I only hit three stop lights in ten miles. It’s amazing.

Today is my second day biking to work. I make sure to give myself an hour and a half, even though the commute itself is just about an hour. I have accepted the fact that I’m basically the slowest person on the entire bike trail. Senior citizens zip by me at roughly 1 million miles per hour and politely do choose not to mock me.

But I’m getting better. I’ve improved my commute time by almost ten minutes from the first time I rode it until today. I didn’t need to stop and catch my breath at any point.

I still feel bad when I see how much faster everyone else is. But it makes me really happy to feel the improvements already. I’m getting better. I don’t think I’ll ever be as fast as the senior citizens on their carbon-fiber super bikes, but you know what? That’s okay. Because I’m doing this for me. I’m getting healthier again. I like that.

Science Is Agnostic When It Comes To Coffee

I understand that reading an article on the Daily Mail means I’m not reading a premier scholarly journal. In fact, I’m prepared to say that I’m probably not even reading facts half the time with this rag. However, I didn’t know it was going to be a Daily Mail article when I clicked the link through Fark and the headline sounded interesting, so I read it anyway. The headline in question is basically that coffee is bad for you and doesn’t really work.

Okay, fine, I understand that it might be bad. Almost everything that’s enjoyable is usually bad for us in some way; life is awesome like that. However, this is why reading an article about health is prone to driving one insane. From the coffee article:

The study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, showed that when mice were given high amounts of this compound, the equivalent of drinking five or six cups a day, their bodies struggled to control blood sugar and they developed insulin resistance. They were also less likely to lose weight.

Well, that doesn’t sound good! It sounds like I should stop drinking coffee. But wait. From the same damn article, indeed, the very next paragraph:

However, other research has shown that regular coffee and tea intake reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Indeed, one large study undertaken by Harvard researchers, and published last year in the journal Circulation, suggested that moderate coffee intake (four cups a day) reduced the risk of heart failure.

Well, shit, I don’t want to have a neurodegenerative disease, either! So now I should drink coffee? The article doesn’t tell us and instead merely notes that research is “conflicted.” Which is it? Tell me what I’m supposed to be doing, science!

I guess I’ll see for myself in forty years or so which study was correct. Can’t wait to find that out.