February 10, 2008

Rides : Round two

It's not easy getting back on a bike.

I have lots of good reasons.

• The weather in London sucks.

• We only have a few hours of daylight most of the year and the roads are crowded then.

• I walk a lot anyway. At least 30 minutes every day, often an hour or more.

• I'm convinced by something I read that physical exercise doesn't actually contribute to weight loss and may, by increasing appetite, actually promote weight gain.

• I have 200 things on my to-do list, so who has time for bike riding.

• My bike had been put (not by me) to the back of our dusty, damp shed. It was dirty and the tires were flat.

But today -- like yesterday -- is a stunningly beautiful London day.

And as I told friends yesterday, there's just no excuse on a day like today to not cycle.

On Friday, also a beautiful day, I purchased a mini bike pump and a reflective jacket for night riding. (Too bad I forgot to bring my London Cycling Campaign membership card; I'd have saved 10%.)

So after 18 months, I've finally added air to the tires (couldn't figure out how to do this, then went here), taken the bike out of the shed, dusted it off and gone for a spin.

Not much of spin -- not even a full mile, really. But just enough to get the feel of what it's like to be on a bike again.

I think I'll go out again now -- take my lock, my wallet, maybe actually go somewhere. More later.

UPDATE: Just did a two-mile spin nearly to East Finchley through some back roads, and back. Tired! But delighted that today equalled 1/10th of all the riding I've done so far on this bike.

Odometer at start: 32.8 miles
Odometer at end: 35.7
Ride: 2.9 miles (4.7 km)

August 18, 2006

Rides : Biking across the Atlantic

Forest ParkIf I haven't blogged in a few days (or more) I have a really good excuse: I've just completed my first-ever trans-Atlantic crossing by ship.

Not much opportunity to ride a bike, except a stationary bike in the gym.

But I have just biked through a beautiful neighborhood in Queens, New York with one of my oldest friends, who took me on his favourite route -- including a vigorous spin through Forest Park (see photo to the left).

It was around 75 minutes of solid cycling, far more than I usually do at home. I thought holidays were supposed to be restful! Anyway, it means that I can eat donuts now without feeling guilt.

Or a lot of guilt.

August 06, 2006

Rides : Longest ride so far

I've run out of excuses. And I was already up at 5:45 on a Sunday morning (don't ask). With empty streets, a partly cloudy sky and temperatures of around 18 degrees, it was time to dust off the old bike and hit the road.

The more I biked, the further back I pushed my target. First, it was to get to Muswell Hill and back. Then it was to get the odometer up to a nice round number (30 miles). Then, to have completed 6 miles today (that would have added 25% to the 24.71 miles I'd done in the last month) -- and finally, to complete 8 miles. Why 8 miles? So that I could say that I'd increased the total number of miles I've ridden by one-third -- from 24.71 up to over 32.71. Which I did.

From the numbers above, you can tell I'm not taking the bike out nearly as often as I should. But I have to say that today was more pleasant than usual and I'm more comfortable. I'm limited a bit by the fact that my neighborhood is on top of a hill, and I spent the last 3 miles or so spinning around side streets here. I'd actually prefer to be going from point A to point B, but point B is always at the bottom of some hill ...

Anyway, that was almost 55 minutes of riding, which according to my trusty Palm translates as 689 calories burned -- which is the equivalent of burning off nearly 100 g of weight, or eating one of these:


July 23, 2006

Websites : We're famous!

The Barnet group of the London Cycling Campaign has written about this blog in their newsletter, which is available online here.

Rides : Excuse number 61: The heat

If anyone tells you that starting to ride bikes again is a piece of cake (forgive the metaphor), they're being a bit over-optimistic. There are always great reasons not to go out on one's bike. This week, the record-breaking heat in London was reason enough for me. But this morning, with temperatures dropping to 20 or below (Celsius), that excuse was gone.

So I repeated my classic ride to Muswell Hill and back, a total of 5 miles in 30 minutes. According to my trusty odometer, until now I'd only biked 19.78 miles -- in other words, it seems as if I've spent more time writing this blog than actually riding the bike. (Not true, but it does look that way.) But now with cooler weather coming (British summers are not usually this bad) it will be more tempting to go out. Especially on a cool and pleasant Sunday morning, with no traffic on the road.

July 17, 2006

Health and Fitness : The mathematics of weight loss on a bike

There is really no mystery here. When riding a bike, one burns calories. The amount of calories one burns depends on one's weight. And if you burn off 7,000 more calories than you consume, you will lose a kilogram. Or so they say.


For a person of my weight, riding a bike between 12-13.9 miles per hour, I should burn off 755 calories. Pedalling faster, between 14 to 15.9 miles per hour, I would burn off 944 calories. Those are the numbers from my Palm-based Diet and Exercise Assistant software. They make for pleasant reading and really encourage me to get on my bike.

But these numbers vary wildly depending on the source. For example, according to the Nutristrategy site, biking 10 - 12 mph making a "light effort" would burn off only 531 calories an hour for a person of my weight.

Faqs.org tells me that a 190 lb person pedalling 12 mph will burn off even less -- 472 calories per hour.

And according to Diet and Fitness Resources, a UK site, biking at 5 mph (perhaps a more realistic pace) would burn off only 240 calories in a hour (they don't say for what weight). This sounds like even less than what one burns walking, which might be the case if you are only gently gliding around on a flat surface and hardly pedalling at all.

Obviously there are other factors -- such as the difficulty of the ride (riding uphill will burn off more calories), water loss (perspiring a lot will lead to temporary weigh loss), and one's own fitness level.

And there are countervailing forces at play as well -- the more and harder one bikes, the more muscle mass gets built up in one's body. For this reason, many top athletes (and I think all players in America's National Football League) are technically considered to be obese, as their muscle weight gives them a body mass index in excess of 30.

Back to normal, middle-aged, overweight blokes like myself. Let's say I want to lose 16.6 kilos (which is a great deal, I know). That would require me to burn off 116,200 calories above my normal calorie expenditure. Biking half an hour a day at a 5 mph clip would expend 120 calories, so it would take 968 days to reach my goal. Knock off a day a week for resting, and basically we're talking about three years. Yikes.

The key here is not so much the intensity of the effort (biking half an hour a day at a moderate clip will not kill anyone) but persistence.

July 14, 2006

Kit : Sir Clive Sinclair invents a bicycle

This kind of thing always happens five minutes after you buy something -- Sir Clive Sinclair announces a better version.

Have a look:

Maybe. First reviews say it's not comfortable enough to ride for very long. But it does look cool.

Rides : New direction, riding through woods, backpack and hills

I'm retracing some of the routes I've taken as a walker, and you really notice the difference on a bike.

I just got back from riding through East Finchley, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Big Wood, over to Temple Fortune to the Marks and Spencer supermarket, and back. The ride through Big Wood was less pleasant than I thought on account of the shoddy condition of the path -- a mountain bike would have been better for this. But the Wood was quite empty, the weather perfect -- I can't complain.

This was my first "shopping ride", and I didn't remember or realize how much harder it is to bike with a full backpack. But you get used to it.

I was a little scared of the ride back up the hill to East Finchley, having remembered that this nearly broke me 6 or 7 years ago when I last attempted it on a bike -- but it was less difficult than I remembered. Practice will make it a breeze. It was the first time I used the lowest gears on my bike -- and, of couse, I managed to get the chain to fall off in the process. A learning experience all around.

Thank goodness there was no audience ...

P.S. The whole ride, both ways, took 33 minutes, or as I like to think of it, 411 calories, which is the equivalent of one of these:


July 09, 2006

Websites : On Yer Bike in Finchley and MoveThat.co.uk's London Cycling Forum

Not only are more people riding bikes these days, but more and more of them will be using the web (and blogs in particular) to tell others about it. One great potential use of blogs is to encourage people to join up on group rides. This may not make much sense if one is living in a quiet village in the English countryside, but believe me -- once you've ridden in London traffic, you understand the importance of pedalling as a group ...

On Yer Bike in Finchley

Waitrose, North Finchley: Starting point for group rides

I've just come across this very new blog, written by someone in my neighborhood: On Yer Bike in Finchley. Until I saw it, while I realized that there were group rides organized by the London Cycling Campaign, I wasn't aware of spontaneous, self-organized community rides as well.

MoveThat.co.uk's London Cycling Forum


Many of those can be found on MoveThat's London cycling forum, a place alive with people asking others to ride together. This is where I first read about the group rides being offered on On Yer Bike in Finchley.

After I attempt my first group ride, I'll write something up here.

July 05, 2006

Rides : London as a 'world class cycling city'

Groups like the London Cycling Campaign and others have long campaigned to make London a "world class cycling city". I have news for them -- London is already such a city. Streets are largely empty of cars and cyclists can zip around freely without having to deal with traffic.

I am speaking, of course, of London at 5:30 A.M.

I took my bike out this morning for a 37 minute spin from my neighborhood (Finchley Church End) through East Finchley over to Muswell Hill and back for a total of 5.8 miles.

The streets were not entirely empty. I did pass one other cyclist, two pedestrians, a couple of Express Dairy eco-friendly vehicles delivering the morning milk, one early morning bus, and about three cars.

The sun rises at 4:51 on a summer morning like this one in London, meaning that cyclists can get a head start of an hour or two before drivers get out on the roads with their cars. On weekends, this should be even better. Sunday mornings in north London, the roads seem completely empty.

This will not be the case in winter. When the sun rises after 8:00 AM and sets before 4:00 PM, there will be nothing like this. So during the next few weeks, for cyclists who can awaken with the sun (or have no choice, like myself), the cycle-friendly city we dream of is there for the taking.