Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Biking Basics

As people get older and have trouble with their feet, knees, hips, back -- it’s actually more comfortable for them to move around on a bicycle than it is even to walk. But it’s difficult to convince people of that -- because that’s a lot like responding, “If you can’t walk, you should run.” Biking is easier than walking -- and why it should be preferable even to walking as a basic movement activity.

The ideally fitted bike distributes the weight equally on the hands, feet and seat -- and these days, the standard state-of-the-art bike, has shock absorbers for the hands and the seat. That’s using modern technology to enhance the design of the human body. Just standing, alone, is punishing for many people -- and a major relief is obtained by breaking the straight line of the body by moving the knees toward the torso, as one does in pedaling.

Leonardo da Vinci had drawings of bicycles as the basic propulsion for his flying machines. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Wright Brothers, credited with developing the airplane, were similarly bicycle mechanics. So rather than being a primitive device, the bicycle is really the state-of-the-art in human movement efficiency rather than merely a toy for children.

Most people who bike regularly, don’t do so primarily for fitness considerations; they’re usually just fit and so don’t have to give it further thought. Contrary to a lot of popular myths on effective exercise, frequency is more important than duration of activity. That observation seems to hold true of virtually any activity that conveys benefit -- frequency is more significant than duration.

That is to say, if one just gets started, you don’t have to worry about the rest of the journey; that creates its own momentum and eventually a life of its own. It is often the case, that one of anything is all one needs, and one is not better off with a hundred more.

If one could get themselves to exercise five minutes each day, it would be far more beneficial than 35 minutes once a week. In that five minutes, a lot can be accomplished. Some people could run a mile in that time. And if one could run a mile in five minutes, very few exercise experts would argue that such a person was not fit enough because he still needed to run 30 more minutes. He could probably do whatever he wanted to do -- if he really wanted to do it, or more.

One does not have to "prove" their fitness daily to be fit. In fact, most experienced bike riders recognize that riding fast requires less skill than riding slowly -- and those who seem to have a particularly slow pace, have developed it riding across the continent.

In achieving that feat, the last thing they’d want to do is raise their heart beat and energy expenditure as high as possible -- arbitrarily. The challenges of the terrain and traffic would provide enough such challenges. And always, they’d want to hold back a little in reserve for the extraordinary that surely lay ahead -- and if it doesn’t arise, so much the better.


At October 07, 2005 12:35 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

How Much to Pay?

For the last twenty years, the sweet spot in the standard of state-of-the-art bike offerings, has been in the $200-300 range. Undoubtedly, one can pay more, but I doubt that above $300, for most people, they can get more out of a bike than $300 worth. On the other end, those bikes under $200, may not be the most comfortable to spend long amounts of time on. In considering the purchase of a bike, the most important thing is fit and comfort -- after they meet one’s aestethic sensibilities. The proper selection process once one has identified the proper price range of bikes (even the cheapest do work as advertised), is to find those that meet approvingly with one’s aestethic sensibilities; it must be something that looks right, like attractive and functional clothing, or one will feel self-consciously inappropriate on it. People who are really into biking, marvel at the engineering and design of their personalized transportation device.

Once the right model has been selected, one needs to take a test ride to see if the bike fits properly -- that is, that it is the most comfortable thing one has ever been on, and feels as though it is part of one’s body, and not an alien thing. Cross-country bike riders often spend 8-10 hours a day on a bike -- but only if their bike feels like home. If it doesn’t, it will be left in some out of the way place to rust unused. Bikes are like the right pair of shoes; they fit perfectly the first time one puts them on -- and one doesn’t get used to torture chambers no matter how much time has gone by.

A lot of people are misinformed by so-called experts that that which feels wrong is right because the expert knows better. The real experts feel right in their prescriptions from the beginning to the end -- rather than undermining one’s own judgment in favor of their own. A lot of people are not used to being treated in that way -- because they are used to being mistreated, deceived, exploited and abused by those claiming to be acting in their best interests "because they know better.” People of integrity come to know and assess people of integrity -- before relying on their judgment in their expertise. Those who don’t know better, look and ask for phony credentials and are impressed by them. They are phonies themselves and everybody in their sphere of contacts is phony too. -- and so they think the whole world is like that, and if not, they project their vision of humanity onto the world. They frequently write letters to the editor of the newspapers -- tirelessly complaining about perceived injustices and slights expereienced with every encounter they have. A few will undoubtedly be the letters editor.

A good bike salesperson will never try to sell you a bike. He will only offer to let you test-ride the bike. You then, must sell yourself -- and if not, continue to shop around until one finds that perfect fit.

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