Sunday, January 18, 2015

It all started with a bike ride

One year ago this Monday, I rode my bicycle to work for the first time.  It was 2014, on Martin Luther King Day, a mid-January Holiday in the US, and I wanted to try something different. I’d found a route on Google Maps using the “bicycle route” feature.  The route was flat, and would be 20 miles (32 km).  Being a Holiday, I waited until the temperature was warm enough to start.  I suited up with gym shorts, some running shoes, and packed a fresh pair of clothes to change into at work.  Then, I jumped on my flat bar fitness bike (i.e. Trek FX 7.2) and I was off.

The first day, it took me 1 hour 45 minutes total time (1:30 moving time) to get to work.  Here is the activity:

The next day, I rode my bike to work to prove to everyone the first day was not a fluke.  And again, the next day.  The first week, I rode my bike to work every day for a total of 100 miles.

The next Monday, I couldn’t be the guy who rode his bike to work one week.  So, I got up and rode my bike to work.  By the end of the second week, I’d cut my moving time to 1 hour 19 minutes (with a total time of 1:29).

Since my first ride to work, I’ve ridden 4254 miles (6,847 km).  Most of them are commuting miles.

Here is my weekly distance over the past year — notice the lack of motivation in March / April 2014:

Health benefits

The first time I rode to work, I didn’t ride to get in better shape.  I rode to try something different.  But, after my first ride, I already felt physically better.  Here is my weight loss graph since my first ride:

After my first week of riding, I gained 5 lbs (2 kg).    It took me about 2 weeks to shed that initial weight gain.  The inches came off quicker than the weight came off, and I'm down a few waist sizes.

Since riding, I've:
  • run 4 olympic distance triathlons
  • run 2 half-marathon trail runs
  • played more — yesterday, I played soccer, ultimate frisbee, cricket, and went on a bike ride with the kids.  I’m amazingly sore today and looking forward to doing nothing :)
  • had more energy with the kids and family with wrestling and fun
  • had a more productive year with work.
Generally, I've felt better about life.

Health detriments

I’ve had 3 meetings with asphalt — 2 minor and 1 serious.

  1. I was turning into a driveway that had a lip on it.  I turned too thinly and the lip caught my tire, and smack.  It was a slow speed smack with resulted in scraps on right hand and right hip.
  2. A car right hooked me.  She didn’t have her blinker on, didn’t check her mirrors, and turned right.  I was off her back quarter panel where I could see her face in her mirror.  But, when she turned, I was traveling too fast to stop completely. I slammed on the brakes, then smacked against her car as she turned.  Fortunately, I was heading to the pool to try on my wet suit which was in my backpack.  I landed softly on this pad, and popped up.  The driver was more shaken than I was.
  3. The race crash.  By July, I was putting some miles down on the road.  And, I thought “Let me race.”  So, I entered a criterium.  My race ended with with 4 transverse processes snapped off my back.  That put me out for 2 weeks.  It was the worst pain I’ve felt for a while, and I was very fortunate it was not worse.  My wife was awesome at taking care of me!


  • After returning from my race crash, my back muscles were still sore, but good enough to ride.  I took the flat route to work.  With a sore back, my back muscles weren’t strong enough to hold my torso, so I leaned on my hands more.  Turns out, putting too much weight on your hands continuously while riding will cause “cycling palsy”.  It is a temporary swelling of the nerves in the hand, which makes your hand not as responsive as usual.  I couldn’t put my fingers together; the best I could do was the Star Trek greeting sign.

Now for year 2 of cycling

Since I started riding, I’ve acquired a nicer bike (Madone 5.2) and I own lycra clothes (turns out it matters for speed and comfort).  I’ve not shaved my legs — but I’m tempted because I would gain about 8% more speed.

I’m mostly riding as a commuter.  I’m planning on racing again soon, but I won’t be as aggressive–I’m going to chill in the back and learn the ropes.

My goal is to ride 6,000 miles this year.