cool bike

A number of people have told me that the reason they don’t commute more by bike is because of safety concerns associated with riding in traffic. Having had more than a few encounters with agressive or oblivious drivers, I can definitely relate to that. In places where massive numbers of people use bikes on a daily basis such as Denmark and The Netherlands, cycling infrastructure tends to be very good and often separates cyclists from fast moving traffic. The US has a long way to go in this regard.

That said, I think this quote from Dr. Harry Rutter, lead author of a report by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK, is worth keeping in mind:

All activities carry a risk. For some reason there seems to be strong focus on the risk of injury associated with cycling. Clearly, when deaths do takes place that’s tragic, and we need to do all we can to avoid them. But I think there is a perception that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is. This focus on the dangers of cycling is something to do with the visibility of them, and the attention it’s given. What we don’t notice is that if you were to spend an hour a day riding a bike rather than being sedentary and driving a car there’s a cost to that sedentary time. It’s silent, it doesn’t get noticed. What we’re talking about here is shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still towards the positive health benefits of cycling.

The far more serious danger, from a public health perspective, is clearly inactivity. Dr. Rutter’s report describes the ‘invisible burden’ of inactivity and obesity as harmful as smoking. Story in The Guardian here.

We appear to have a political system that is incapable of confronting looming crises that stretch beyond the current news or election cycle. But it’s worth noting that compared to the money we as a nation will be spending on diabetes and obesity over the next generation, an investment in better cycling infrastructure would pay for itself many times over.

Worth watching if you are a runner or long-distance cyclist:

A few critical reactions here and here.

I’m not an ultra endurance athlete, though my brief foray into double centuries helped to illustrate for me some of the differences between fitness and health. While I probably also bike way more than Dr. O’Keefe is advocating, I don’t pretend much of it is necessary for health. To me, much of it is about getting out in nature and the joy of movement on two wheels.

That said, with some of the research coming out about nature therapy, I really like O’Keefe’s point about slowing down a bit to take in a view, ponder a flower, and just chill for a bit in the middle of a ride/run. It seems like half the bikers I know are always “training” for some event that never seems to come. We could all take a few riding tips from Pondero.

I’m guessing that cycling that becomes as much about meditation and appreciating nature as any training or fitness goals would be the most healthy cycling of all. But does this mean I need to give up my ipod and strava? :)

As seen from the Bootleg Canyon trails in Boulder City:


It seems like everytime something is supposed to be healthy, someone else comes along and points out just how little we really know about how complex systems actually work. And the interaction between our bodies, food, and the environment certainly counts as a “complex system”!

Here’s a snippet from a really interesting post by Josh Mittledorf on anti-oxidents:

Oxidative damage was the prevailing theory of aging in the 1990s, and anti-oxidants became the preferred prescription for youthfulness. But in lab animals and in human studies, the cure didn’t pan out – anti-oxidants never did fulfill their potential, and this left the theorists scratching their heads. Then, in recent years the situation became curiouser and curiouser, with hints that oxidative damage might be essential for a kind of stress signal that tells the body to “stay young”.

It strikes me that most of us would be better off junking supplements and vitamins and just eating the highest quality real food we can afford.

The coffee and real food part way down was one of the highlights for me:

INTO THIN AIR | engl. Subtitles from infinite trails on Vimeo.

If you don’t have one, surely you need one.  They make for some pretty sweet riding from the front door.


But this rig, which is featured in the latest issue of Adventure Cyclist Magazine, sure has got my bike lust going.


Ditch the panniers, replace them with bikepacking gear, and that would be a pretty hot ticket for mixed surface touring.

We woke in Shelter Cove before most of the sport fishermen in the RV camp and tried to steel ourselves for the day ahead.  We knew it would be the toughest of the tour. In anticipation of wheels rolling before any breakfast options were open, we had bought some corn tortillas and canned chicken the night before for breakfast.  It was dry and awful, but sometimes fuel is fuel.

Climbing out of Shelter Cove is no joke, and everyone we had talked to the day before seemed impressed to see someone there on a bike, knowing that there is only one road in and out of the place. On my light brevet bike, it might be fun to climb 2000 feet in four miles.  On a loaded touring bike, even my granny did not suffice when grades hit 13% and I had to do a bit of standing climbing to avoid torquing my knees too much.  Despite this, it really didn’t end up being as bad as either of us expected, and as luck would have it, the Shelter Cove General Store about 1000 feet into the climb opened just before we arrived, making for a good coffee and chocolate break.


Soon after cresting the summit, we turned onto Chemise Mountain Road, a lovely meandering paved road with a few relatively gentle climbs. There are two campgrounds on this road, and I’d probably stay in one of them if I were to do the trip over again.

Climbing out of Shelter Cove

School on Chemise Mtn Road

The really daunting section of the day comes as you hit the dirt of Usal Road.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here


(The sign below reads, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”)

Usal road really is a fantastic ride. It’s remote and very scenic. At the same time, the near constant undulations up and down mean there is an awful lot of climbing to do. You can’t really carry enough momentum down any of the downhills to mean anything on the uphills. As a result, the feeling you get is that of spending the entire day in the granny gear. Despite not taking that much time to smell the roses, we struggled mightily to maintain an overall pace of 5mph on this section, and others have reported similar speeds!  It’s also worth noting that we saw no cars prior to Usal beach, so it’s pretty important to be self sufficient for this stretch.

Usal Road 3

Usal Road 11

Luckily, the occasional hike a bike is balanced out with some amazing scenery.

Usal Road 1

Once you reach Usal beach camp, some 6 miles from the end of the road, the payoff for the day’s work is really quite extraordinary, even if some fairly brutal climbing is still required to reach highway 1.

Usal Road 6

Usal Road 9

Usal Road 10

Usal Road 15

Usal Road 17

Usal Road 19

The final 20 miles on highway 1 were relatively easy–they almost felt too civilized and annoyingly trafficky after our two days on the lost coast. That said, we were pretty happy to make it to MacKerricher State Park just north of Fort Bragg after some 9 hours of effort.

Copious amounts of Mexican food and a little whiskey helped to round out what had been a terrifically challenging, but rewarding day in the saddle. All in all, we climbed almost 9000 feet in just over 60 miles.

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