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Category Archives: Life On Two Wheels

Cycling in the Upper Midwest (Illinois and Wisconsin)

Repainting A Well Used Bike

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

If you think this past winter was hard on you, just think about what it did to your bike! I rode all winter long, mainly on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike, and all the road salt I rode through took its toll. Compared to my other bikes the Necromancer is barely used—it has less than 3,000 miles on it! However, out of 3,000 miles it probably only has 200 miles of use in good weather. I’ve ridden this bike on sandy beaches and in Lake Michigan (in water up past my hubs). It also has a lot of miles through the mud and the swampy water of the Des Plaines River, but the majority of miles were in freezing weather as I traveled through snow and ice (that was my main purpose for buying this bike in the first place).

While I dearly love the Surly Necromancer, I was never happy with the original paint job. Straight out of the box you could see it had an inferior paint job (as compared to most other bikes). The original paint scratched easily and even with a good coat of paste wax it never did shine! I enjoy getting my bikes filthy in the mud, sand and snow, but when they are sitting in my garage I want them to look like brand new (I know that psychological counseling could probably cure this affliction, but cleaning supplies are cheaper than therapy). Even though this bike is only three years old I decided to have it stripped down and repainted.

Two weeks ago I took the Necromancer down to the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery, and they took everything off the bike and handed me the frame and front fork—which I then took to J & J Powder Coating in Zion, Illinois. The guys at J & J Powder Coating ran my bike frame through a chemical bath to remove the old paint and surface grime (and some rust). They then closed up the openings on the bike (mainly the braze-ons) and applied a thick coat of black powder to the frame and baked it at over 300 degrees. Powder coating is much thicker, and far more durable, than liquid based paints. After the initial powder coating they applied a thick layer of clear coat which not only makes the paint sparkle, but also adds another durable layer of protection to the frame. The guys at J & J Powder Coating only charged $120 for their work, and I think that is a very fair price! Unfortunately, you can only powder coat steel or aluminum bike frames. If you have a carbon fiber bike you’ll have to take it to an auto body shop (or motorcycle shop) to have it painted. By the way, painting your bike could possibly void the warranty on your bike’s frame (but not always), so check with your local bike shop first.

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

Once I picked up my repainted frame and fork I took it back to Zion Cyclery where Kurt, mechanic extraordinaire, rebuilt the bike. Because of the rust on the original parts, he replaced nearly every bolt and piece of hardware on the bike (with stainless steel parts when possible). He also had to replace the bottom bracket (even a sealed bottom bracket can only take so much time under water). I debated whether to replace the decals on the bike. The decals on the top tube had rubbed off because I frequently use a top tube bag in the winter to carry some of my gear and the straps on the bag cut through the decals. I finally decided to just replace the decals on the front fork of the bike (and Kurt did an excellent job of aligning them perfectly). The total cost at the bike shop was a little over $300 (more than half of that was for new parts).

The bottom line is that for under $450 I once again have a beautiful Fat Bike with a lot of shiny new parts! The bike has now been in my garage for over 24 hours, so I guess it is time to look for some muddy trails so I can start the process all over again!

 

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Snow, Snow and More Snow

Welcome to my gym

This Winter Has Been Great For Fat Bike Owners!

Over the past few days I’ve received several notes from fellow bloggers who were wondering about my absence since I’ve not posted a new product review in over three weeks. First, thanks to all of you who asked! Second, I am in great health—my absence has been due to a couple of things, but mainly snow! We’ve had over 64″ (162 cm) of snow so far this winter and, even by Chicago standards, the weather has been brutal.

It seems like the only thing I’ve accomplished in the past few weeks has been keeping my driveway clean and clearing the snow off my wife’s car. I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee so I don’t worry about how deep the snow is, but my lovely wife drives a tiny import that has about 6″ of ground clearance—so nearly every morning I have to clean the driveway and her car before she goes to work (as an old man told me when I got married, “Treat your wife like a thoroughbred and she won’t turn out to be a nag”).

During January I was only able to ride 140 miles on my Fat Bike—all of it in the snow and the temperature was rarely above 10 degrees Fahrenheit (and most of the time it was well below zero). For those who have never ridden a Fat Bike in the winter, let me put it this way: If you can average anything over 8 MPH on the snow you are doing great! Since we don’t have any groomed trails in my area I usually have to cut a trail through fresh snow (unless I can follow some other Fat Bike). In addition, two hours of riding in the snow wears me out more than a Century ride in the summer.

There is one other thing that has kept me from writing in the past few weeks: I am in the process of taking my office into the “paperless” world. Until last year my personal library had over 5,000 books, but I have been scanning and converting them into searchable PDF files (and then disposing of the books). I bought two high-speed document scanners last year and have already cleaned out three entire file cabinets and emptied six bookcases (only 18 to go). Once I got started with this project I found it hard to stop—but now that the weather is supposed to be improving next week (we might even get above freezing!), I will probably slow down the scanning and increase the mileage on my bikes. I should be back with new product reviews next week!

 
 

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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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350,000 Views In 2013

My sincerest thanks to every visitor to this blog! By reading the comments you leave here and by visiting your blogs it seems like I’ve gotten to know some of you fairly well. Most of the visitors to this site are interested in cycling in one form or another, while others just have a general interest in fitness. Regardless of why you read this blog I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 350,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you scroll to the bottom of the report you will see one very sad note. The report has the names of the five “most active commenters” on this blog. The most frequent commenter was Irish Katie, a lovely woman who passed away from cancer back in October. The Chatter Blog had two wonderful articles about Katie. In the first article she simply noted how Irish Katie had not been commenting on any of the blogs recently, and in the second article it was revealed that Katie had passed on. I never had the privilege of meeting Katie, but her cheerful comments brightened up every blog she visited. She will truly be missed.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Only 4,949 Miles On The Bike This Year

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year did not turn out like I had planned—I ended up cycling only 4,949 miles this year and that makes it the worst mileage year I’ve had in a while. It also drops my yearly average down to just 6,075 miles per year.

We had fairly mild weather in January so I was able to get a good head start on my miles for the year. However, during the second week of February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not just a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly.

On March 28 I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps around freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word hurting doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I thought it was asthma, but after numerous medical tests and consulting with six different doctors I ended up having surgery on my esophagus during the first week of June. This little episode took me off the bike for a total of eight weeks and the first month back on the bike was slow and painful. On the day of surgery I was already over 2,000 miles behind where I normally would be for that time of the year.

A few days ago I was feeling sorry for myself for having such a miserable year and I told my friend Eric (a Naval officer, scientist, and all-round nice guy) how depressing it was. Eric sent me an encouraging letter to remind me that even for a dedicated cyclist mileage isn’t everything. He reminded me that since I switched to the Paleo Diet for Athletes I’ve dropped a good bit of weight and improved both my endurance and recovery times. In addition, I’ve set at least a dozen personal speed records, both on the road and on off-road trails, since I had the surgery. And even though I wasn’t able to ride a lot in the spring, this past fall I did more Century rides than I ever had before. I am thankful for good friends!

For the record, I am 54 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so long rides in the morning mean I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games no longer interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman. Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is usually 50 BPM and my average morning blood pressure is 104/62.

Some cyclists ignore their families just to rack up the miles. If you are one of those people let me kindly inform you that you are an idiot. Your children are only young once—so spend as much time with them as you can. It doesn’t take any extra time to eat healthy food, nor does it take all that many miles on a bike to keep your circulatory system in great shape. When your children are big enough you can have them join you for a ride.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but are already on medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by changes in diet and exercise? I’ve had friends die in their 50′s and I know the death certificate listed their cause of death as heart disease, but I have to wonder if it shouldn’t have read “suicide by lack of exercise.”

And, as I’ve said several times before, I want to thank God for my good health, Trek for making awesome bikes, and my wife for not looking at the American Express statements. I hope you all have a wonderful 2014!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Top Five Cycling Products Of 2013

This year I’ve penned over 100 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my top five favorite cycling products of 2013. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. This list is for cycling products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. In addition, I limited myself to one winning product per manufacturer. If you click on the links below they will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). Most of the products are just samples of products you’ve probably have never heard of before. BikeLoot has several great advantages. First, you don’t have to buy a whole box of a product and the hope that you will like it once it arrives—you can try the sample from the BikeLoot box and if you like it you can order more, and if you don’t like you haven’t wasted any money. Second, you will be sampling products that most cyclists aren’t even going to hear about for another year or so! And third, the BikeLoot box also offers substantial discount codes for some of the products in the box.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I’ve spent a lot of money buying tires for my Fat Bike, but the best investment I’ve ever made in a set of tires was the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike! The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails. These tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

Lezyne makes some of the best bicycle hand pumps in the world, but the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump is in a class all by itself. I bought this pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps. The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine and the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Out of the dozens of bicycle multi-tools I own, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool has to be my favorite! Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g). The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool.

 
 

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Christmas Gift Ideas For Cyclists (2013)

I write over 100 product reviews a year for the benefit of fellow cyclists. However, once a year I write an article for those folks who are lucky enough to have a cyclist as their spouse or significant other. If you are trying to find a great Christmas present for a cyclist I would like to make a few suggestions. In case you are wondering, I receive absolutely no monetary compensation for this website. This site does not have any advertising or sponsors. I do not receive any compensation when you buy any of the products reviewed on this site, nor do I participate in affiliate marketing. The items on this list are here because I own them myself and think they would make a great gift for just about any cyclist!

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

Sometimes it takes me while to decide what to put on this list of gift ideas. However, the moment I saw BikeLoot back in July I knew it was going straight to the top of this list! BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). For example, one box of loot included samples of the following products: Body Glove Surge (all natural energy shot), EBOOST (an all natural energy supplement), AeroShot™ Energy (an air-based shot of energy), Elete Citrilyte Electrolyte, a Progold Prolink Towel (an 8″x12″ textured towel), and a Wired Waffle (an individually packaged caffeinated waffle).

You can have a box of loot delivered to right to your favorite cyclist’s mailbox every month by getting a subscription to BikeLoot. A monthly subscription is only $10 per month (plus $3.95 S&H), or a 3-month recurring subscription is only $9 per month (plus $3.95 S&H; billed quarterly).

Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL Polarized Sunglasses

Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL Polarized Sunglasses

Cycling sunglasses are a very important piece of gear for every cyclist. This past year I reviewed a pair of Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL polarized sunglasses and I’ve never worn a pair of sunglasses that provided a clearer or sharper image than these Oakleys! In addition to giving a beautiful view of the world, these glasses have special components in the rims that increase grip when you sweat—something every athlete will appreciate! These Oakley frames have a “Three-Point Fit” that keeps the lenses in precise alignment. These glasses filter out 100% of UVA / UVB / UVC light and meet all ANSI Z87.1 standards for impact resistance. The curvature of the lens protects you from the sun, wind and impact, and the wide peripheral view stays sharp no matter where you are looking! This pair of Oakleys retails for $180 and I got mine from ADS Sports Eyewear, an authorized web-dealer for Oakley sunglasses. You need to be aware of the fact that many of the “cheap Oakleys” you see advertised online are just knock-offs. Since you probably don’t know exactly which pair of Oakleys your cyclist would prefer, I would suggest you buy a gift certificate from ADS Sports Eyewear so your cyclist can pick their favorite color (and other options) for themselves.

Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore

Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore

This year was the 100th running of the Tour de France. My wife will tell you that the only reason we have a wide-screen high-def TV in our house is so I can watch the Tour (and she is absolutely correct). If your favorite cyclist is also a fan of the Tour de France (and if they are you will know it), you need to get them a copy of Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of the World’s Greatest Race. This is the most beautiful book about cycling you will ever see! The photos are simply stunning. I own several thousand eBooks (an occupational hazard), but this is one book that you really need to have in your hands to appreciate. This hardcover book measures 11″x12.5″ and has 224 pages with over 250 color and black and white photos.

My wife hasn’t been on a bicycle since the day she got her driver’s license, but she watches every stage of the Tour de France with me. Even non-cyclists can appreciate the beauty of the French countryside, the excitement of the crowds that line the routes and the incredible endurance of the world’s greatest athletes (plus I’ve noticed that my wife pays special attention to the race when Fabian Cancellara in on the screen). Tour de France 100 retails for $35, but is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com for under $25.

Christmas gifts - Road Bike Business Card Holder

Road Bike Business Card Holder

Since my wife didn’t think of buying one of these business card holders I had to buy them myself. I have a large desk and both of these business card holders sit on it to greet any visitors to my office (I have two different business cards so I need both holders). I purchased the Road Bike Business Card Holder (photo above) from bikegifts.net. This business card holder is 8.5″ wide, 7″ tall, and 2″ across. This holder is made of hand cut recycled steel, so no two of them are exactly alike. It is also welded and painted by hand. This item is large enough to hold about 50 business cards. I paid $40 for this holder and that is still the price listed on the bikegifts.net Website. I noticed this same item is also available on Amazon.com, but at a higher price.

Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Business Card Holder

Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Name Card Holder

If you want a smaller holder for business cards, you might like the Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Name Card Holder. I have this little holder on my desk sitting right in front of the larger holder mentioned above. This holder is made of cast metal and has a high quality pewter color plating, covered with a clear lacquer finish. This holder is approximately 2″ wide, 2.5″ tall, 3/4″ deep and holds about 50 business cards. The only place I have been able to find this item is from an Amazon.com retailer. The cost is about $17 including postage.

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Even though I am not a trained mechanic, I do a lot of work on my bikes and the Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand makes the work a lot easier to do. If your favorite cyclists does any work at all on their bike they would love to have this repair stand—even if they only use it to clean and lube their chain (something cyclists do about every 100 miles).

The height of the Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand can be adjusted from 39″ to 57″ (99cm to 145cm) and the screw clamp will adjust to fit tubes from 7/8″ to 3″ (24mm to 76mm). Park Tool claims that this model can hold up to 100 pounds (45 kg), providing the weight is centered over the legs. The PCS-10 can be folded down for easy storage, but once I set mine up in the garage I have only moved it a couple of times just to clean the area under it. The Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand retails for around $200. If the local bike shop does not have one available you can always find it on Amazon.com. If you purchase this repair stand I would strongly suggest you also buy a Park Tool Work Tray (shown in the photo above). This is an accessory rack that fits on the repair stand and it retails for around $34. This work tray has a storage bin on one side that will hold several cans of lube and a towel rack on the other side.

Gift Certificate

Buy A Gift Certificate For Your Favorite Cyclist

If you still can’t figure out what the love of your life would like you can never go wrong with a gift certificate! If your favorite cyclist speaks in glowing terms about their local bike shop, then that is where you should go first. Most bike shops will either have an actual gift certificate available or give you a receipt showing how much “in store credit” you purchased. However, if your beloved tends to buy most of their cycling clothing online, I’d get them a gift certificate from eCyclingstore.com. This company offers decent quality merchandise and their prices are hard to beat. Their gift certificates are available in amounts from $25 to $500.

If you are a cyclist you can do one of the following: First, you can print out this article, circle the items you want and give it to your beloved (this is a lot easier than dropping hints). Second, if you are so inclined, you can list a few other gift ideas in the comment section below to help someone find the perfect gift for another cyclist.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Paleo Diet: The Proof Is In The Blood Tests

Time For My Annual Physical

Time For My Annual Physical

Because I love my wife and want to spend many more years with her I go to my doctor every November for my annual physical. About a week before the physical I go to a lab to get blood drawn (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel, and Hemogram). The health care group I use is fairly sophisticated so I can see the results of the blood work less than 24 hours after the blood was drawn. If you ever wondered how a Paleo Diet would impact your health I can sum it up in one word: fantastic!

You’ve probably read articles or blog posts from people who claimed that the Paleo Diet caused them to lose weight, gain energy and give them a general feeling of awesomeness—but this is just anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t do much for me. I live in a world of facts. Many diet programs lead to weight loss, but often at the expense of overall health. The placebo effect easily explains the “increased energy” that many people claim comes for their new diet plan. I’ve been on the Paleo Diet for a little over three months and, yes, I have experienced weight loss, increased energy and a significant decrease in recovery time after strenuous exercise—but what impresses me the most are the results of my blood tests!

Before I explain the results I need to set the stage first. Thirteen years ago I was a morbidly obese workaholic and was experiencing more health problems than time would allow me explain here. The doctor I had at the time was a nice guy, but he was content to load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. Somehow I came across of copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and it changed my life! I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking—and in just a few months I dropped most of my excess weight (and also dropped most of the prescriptions). As I became an endurance athlete I started eating healthier foods and have basically followed the Atkins’ Diet until three months ago.

Switching from the Atkins’ Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was easy.

In the past few months on the Paleo Diet I’ve eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, sausage and bacon (mmm…bacon). In fact, about one-third of my calories now come from fats and protein. So, you have to wonder, what did eating all that meat do to my blood work? Drum roll please… not only did my cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, but so did my fasting blood sugar level! None of these things were a problem with me before, but the point is that the numbers got even better on the Paleo Diet!

In the spirit of full disclosure I believe that the testing of cholesterol levels is probably the most worthless thing your doctor does (well, except for hanging up that stupid “Food Pyramid” chart in the waiting room). As a group physicians are among the brightest people in the country—but, in general, what they don’t know about nutrition could fill volumes! If your doctor wants to measure something that really impacts your health have them check your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid—high homocysteine levels lead to vascular inflammation and is associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folate (more about this in a future article).

 
 

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Cycling In The Fall: Short, Windy Days

Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Seven months ago every bike shop in the Upper Midwest was as busy as a Chicago “slip and fall” attorney the day after an ice storm. Back in the spring the bike trails were full of new cyclists with shiny bikes, gaudy jerseys, and fresh saddle sores. By the middle of summer some of those bikes were abandoned and some the of new cyclists became former cyclists. However, a lot of those newbies persevered, lost weight, gained muscle and were in great shape—until Labor Day. Unfortunately, at the first sign of cool weather most of these folks hung their bikes up till next spring and will gain back all the weight they lost before Christmas. However, on New Year’s Eve they will resolve to “hang in there longer next year.” Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way! There is absolutely no reason you can’t ride your bike outside all year long! As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during an average winter the temperature rarely drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (the record is -27F). When people ask how I can possibly enjoy riding in such temperatures I tell them two things: First, the crazy (or dedicated) folks up in Minnesota ride in temperatures below -50 degrees (or worse), so -10 or -20 degrees in Chicago is actually not all that bad. Second, as I tell people all the time, the hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet after you leave your house.

Riding in the fall and winter does require an extra layer of clothing (or two), and because the days are shorter you will probably need a headlight and taillight as well. However, the advantages of cycling year-round far outweigh the disadvantages. First, you won’t gain back the weight you lost during the summer. Second, spending time outdoors will definitely improve your mood. Third, next spring you won’t have to reintroduce your butt to your bike saddle—they will already be old friends and get along well. Fourth, you will impress all your wimpy friends who spend winter in their basement on their training wheels, I mean, on their trainers. And last, you will never have to worry about overcrowding on the off-road trails.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Congratulations Randy On Your First Century Ride!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Randy, asked if I would like to join with him for his first Century bike ride (100 miles; 161km) and of course I said “yes.” Today (Labor Day in the United States) seemed like a good time to go so we headed out early into a rather strong headwind (gusting at 20 MPH). Randy has only been riding for a little over a year, but he has already more miles on his bike this year than many experienced cyclists will get before Christmas.

Randy Celebrating His First Century Bike Ride

Randy Celebrating His First Century Bike Ride

If you haven’t gone on your first Century ride yet, here are a few suggestions to help you along the way.

Work Your Way Up To It. In my opinion, anyone who can ride their bike 20 miles can be ready to do a Century within eight weeks—you just need to add 10 or 15 miles to your longest ride every week. Once you can comfortably ride 70 miles you are probably ready for a Century. If possible, plan it for a day when the wind is not too high. I don’t like riding Centuries in hot weather, so most of mine are either in the spring or fall of the year.

Get Some Rest. Everyone is different, but I prefer to not ride on the day before I do a Century. I also like to get a full night’s rest before a big ride (if you start a Century when you are tired it will feel like the Bataan Death March before the ride is over).

Fuel Up Before You Start. Most of the cyclists I know start their long rides within an hour or so of when they get out of bed—which means their body’s fuel supply is running on empty. On the morning of a long ride I try to consume about 80 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein.

Keep Consuming Carbs. On a normal Century ride I burn at least 6,000 calories and try to consume about 2,000 calories during the ride. This morning I left home with about 1,500 calories worth of carbohydrate gels and planned to buy a few bananas or fig bars at a convenience store to supplement what I brought. Unfortunately, the one store that usually carries bananas was sold out! However, at the 75 mile mark I found a convenience store that had a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread (300 calories with 28 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein).

Recovery Properly. The first thing I do when I get home from a long ride is to drink a can or two of pineapple juice, followed by a quart of low-fat chocolate milk (or some other recovery drink with protein). My goal is to consume 100 grams of carbs within 30 minutes of the time I get off the bike.

Take A Few Photos. On your first Century ride you really need to take a few photos—at least have someone take a photo of you and your bike when you get home! Let’s face, you can finally tell people that you are a real cyclist!

If you’ve gone on a Century ride or two before, what tips would you offer to someone before they make their first attempt?

 
42 Comments

Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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