I am a cyclist—I love riding my bicycle. Last year I rode 3,000 miles and I’ve ridden over 10,000 since I started riding in 2005. I began after I had ACL surgery on my knee. I knew that my days of playing basketball were over and I needed to find some way of getting exercise with bad knees. Some good friends of mine were into cycling, so I thought I would give it a try. It did not take long before I was hooked. In many ways, cycling is the perfect sport for me—it provides great exercise, requires expensive gear, and encourages data gathering.
As a result of cycling, I am probably in the best cardiovascular shape of my life. Cycling burns calories at a good rate and it is possible to do so for hours. Further, I am fairly weak in my upper body, but my legs have always been strong. That may be because of rowing crew for a year in college, but I don’t really know. On a bike, arm muscles are just extra weight to drag around. Legs are what matter. There is nothing quite like the feeling of my legs relentlessly powering me up a hill.
A couple years ago I bought a used carbon-fiber bike to replace the relatively inexpensive bike I bought when I started riding. After a wreck last fall that cracked the frame (and separated my shoulder), I had to replace it with a newer model. It rides wonderfully and is very light. (Admittedly, it would be a lot cheaper and a better idea to lose ten pounds that to spend so much on a carbon-fiber frame!)
Even better than just a high-tech bicycle, cycling gives me an amazing amount of data about my rides. I have a spreadsheet with at least some summary data about every ride I’ve taken. I currently use a Garmin Edge 500 bike computer to help gather data. The Edge 500 includes a GPS that keeps track of where I’ve been. It also communicates with other devices such as a heart rate monitor.
The data from a single ride is amazing. On Saturday, I rode 50 miles in the Trek St. Patty’s Day ride and gathered this data. Check it out at least briefly to see all the data. It includes the route, elevation, heart rate, cadence (how fast I’m pedaling), temperature, and speed. I can look at the ride and see that while my average speed was decent (18.6 mph) given the amount of hills (climbing), my average heart rate and cadence were a bit low (131 bpm and 76 rpm). That was probably because I was drafting behind other riders a decent bit. I really need to be closer to 140 bpm and over 80 rpm. Guess I need to push harder!
The exercise, gear, and gadgets, however, aren’t enough to explain why I love cycling so much. In truth, on longer rides I can’t wait to get off the bike. Especially after riding 60 or 100 miles, much of my body is sore and I am just plain exhausted. Being outdoors is nice, but I’m not really and outdoor person. (I have trouble picturing surviving in an era without air conditioning.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the solitude that draws me to cycling. When I’m riding it is just me with the wind in my face, watching the miles go by. Those miles can be through the serenity of trees and farms near where I live or the long vistas of the coast or the beauty of the mountains. I prefer riding with others in a group, but there is not really much conversation. It the best of both worlds, like being alone with friends (or at least with others who share my love of cycling). In many respects, cycling is when I feel closest to God—looking at the glory of His creation. Alone with friends. Alone with God. Amen.