Published On: Sun, Oct 1st, 2017

New Hobby: Cycling

When my dad was stationed in Germany, it was common for all the kids to have bikes.  Driving wasn’t really an option for high schoolers, and everything was relatively close enough where a bike was sufficient.  And we rode everywhere, all across Bremerhaven, where we lived.  Just about everyone had a bike.

Then one day, to make a long story short, I had a bit of an accident.  As in, going as fast as I could, out of the saddle, looking over my shoulder, my head slammed into a light pole.  I don’t remember that actual incident, only waking up on the sidewalk with a half dozen concerned faces staring back at me.

I rode again afterwards, but we moved back the U.S. a few months later, and everyone back in the States drove cars.  Fayetteville is just spread out enough where a bike was only good for running to the closest store, but not really as a primary mode of transportation.

Since then, I haven’t really ridden a bike.

But after crossing the 40 year old milestone, my weight rebelled.  My weight stayed at 165 from my early 20s to my 40s, regardless of what I ate, how little sleep I’d get, zero exercise, and a handful of other bad habits not conducive for weight management or good health.  When my weight ballooned to 180, I finally realized that I was approaching the point of no return.

So, I started exercising.  Of course, it helped having a wife that exercises every single day of the week.  Twice a day actually.

As I read more books about staying fit, what is common knowledge for most became a revelation for me.  The concept of a calorie deficit for instance.  If my body used more than I was feeding it, weight goes down.  Considering I was drinking 100 ounces or more of Mountain Dew a day, at 290 calories for each 20 oz bottle, that was nearly 1500 calories alone.  With a daily caloric intake that should be around 2000 to 2500, I was consuming nearly 60% of calorie budget without a single bite of actual food!

Anyway, long story short, I stumbled upon cycling.  We have a spin bike at home, but that wasn’t doing it for me.  I needed to return back to the bicycle days and went out and got a bike.  Nothing fancy.  More accurately, the cheapest bike I could find at the sporting goods store that wasn’t for kids.  A Schwinn GT3 hybrid bike.  Seriously, the lowest end you can find outside of Goodwill, which I did go to but they didn’t have any bikes.

Late night ride to the National Mall and back.

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I’ve been riding for a couple of weeks, and to my surprise, I find it rewarding.  Unlike lifting, I look forward to cycling.  I find myself having to force myself to get in a weightlifting session, but when it comes to cycling, I can’t get out the house fast enough.

My first ride was maybe three miles.  My quads were killing me and I almost got stuck on a hill.  When I say hill, I mean maybe a 3% grade.  Obviously, no one forgets how to ride a bike, but it doesn’t mean they’ll remain fit enough to conquer any roads in front of them.

Since then, though, I feel like I’ve made great strides.  And, the calories have been being burned.  My most recent ride was 16.6 miles, traveling down the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Georgetown, across the National Mall to Union Station then getting on the Metropolitan Branch Trail to get back home.  Literally when I got my bike, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle more than a 5 mile ride.  Today, I’m planning 20+ mile rides.

Anyway, we’ll see how this goes.  I’m finding out that cycling is expensive.  When traveling along flat surfaces, let alone downhill stretches, I can feel myself max out the speed the bike’s gears will let me go.  I know this especially when I get passed by someone who’s legs barely seem to be spinning, and they fly by.   Obviously I need a few more gears.

It’s the first day of October.  The app I use, Strava, has challenges and ways to set goals.  My monthly goal is 160 miles in October.  It’s getting chilly already outside, and riding at 20 miles an hour can make it feel chillier, but I’ve already seen the impact of cycling.  After a 13 and 16 mile ride, my weight dropped 3 pounds to 161.  Not bad considering I’m still a slow rider.

Now, if I can only see the results in a shrinking belly.

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About the Author

David Gaines

- David Gaines is a Washington, DC, resident transplanted from North Carolina whose dream career was a newspaper writer but settled for the recruiting industry and simply blogging about whatever thoughts crosses his mind.

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