Cycling made easy – tips for the new cyclist.

Cycling may seem like a really involved activity with all the gear you need and the skin tight outfits; but the truth is that cycling is an easy activity to embrace and it has far reaching benefits.

What I can tell you is that because my goal is to get you on a bicycle, not sell you bicycles or cycling gear – I’ll tell you the truth about what you need and what is hype (and with hype usually come a big price tag).

The most important thing you can do for your own health and well being is to decide to embrace some form of daily (or every other day if you cannot find the time) aerobic activity such as cycling, swimming, hiking, jogging, aerobics, etc… The goal is to get your heart revved up for a minimum of 10 minutes and ideally for 20 (if daily) or 40 if every other day.

This is an investment in your own future that you simply cannot put a value on. The simple fact is that without some form of daily exercise you are accepting a future with a much higher risk of several deadly diseases.

But enough of the doom and gloom stuff – let’s talk about what you really need to know about cycling!

  • What Type of Bicycle Should You Get? – There are numerous types and styles of bicycles and picking the right one depends on what type of riding you want to do and what types of riding can be done where you live (or where you plan on riding).
  • There Are No Rules! – You can ride a beach cruiser bike on the road and a road bike in the dirt (cyclocross bikes are road bikes with off road tires that allow you to go fast on dirt paths) – mountain bikes can be ridden in the city. And fitness/urban bikes are designed to ride anywhere. Find a bicycle style that you are comfortable on. Most likely it can easily be adapted to fit your riding environment.
  • Do I Need All That Lycra/Spandex Clothing? – No. Actually you can ride in any comfortable clothes. I strongly recommend that you look into a pair of cycling padded shorts. These come in many forms – for instance I have cycling shorts that look like regular cargo shorts. They’re cut slightly different than standard shorts to allow for better movement. You wear a pair of cycling underwear (with the pad built into them) under this type of shorts. As for shirts – a cycling shirt offers a few benefits such as aerodynamics (which truly is silly if you’re not competing and need all the speed advantages you can get). Other benefits include easy access rear pockets and most have some form of light reflection tech built into them so they are easy to see for drivers. But you can ride in jeans and a t-shirt if you want. I see it done every day on the bike paths I ride.
  • Do I Need Those Fancy Shoe – Pedal Clip Thingys? – No. Clipless Pedal Systems were designed for professional cyclists. They do offer some performance benefits and for me personally I find they make intense cycling more safe because your feet won’t slip off the pedals when you are really pedaling hard. But the other side of this argument is that if you are not used to them you can easily fall over when you come to a stop because you “stall” and can’t get your feet free quick enough. Again – you can opt for them but they are not at all necessary.
  • Why Do I Need A Bicycle – What’s Wrong With A Indoor Cycle? Nothing is wrong with indoor stationary cycles. Actually most professional cyclists have one or have indoor trainers that they can ride their outdoor bikes on for bad weather days. If you live in a place that has cold winters with icy roads an indoor trainer is a must. What I will say is that while indoor trainers are great for convenience and safety, they are not as efficient a workout as outdoor cycling. When you ride outdoors you have to use your entire body to balance and control the bike. You work muscle groups that you will not engage on a stationary cycle.
  • I Feel Bad When I Ride Because Other Cyclists Pass Me – Cycling as a sport is a very competitive venture. But cycling for health and fitness should not be. Don’t put pressure on yourself and certainly NEVER let someone else take your enjoyment or sense of accomplishment away. We are all different with different abilities and conditioning and strengths. The ONLY person who matters when you are riding for your health is YOU. Who cares what anyone else thinks or how fast they are or how long the ride? Your fitness goals and accomplishments should only be about you and your health needs. If I see you on any of the bike paths I ride I’m going to greet you with a smile and a friendly wave. Cycling is a unifying force and as I see it; we are all kindred spirits. Truthfully I find that I am inspired and I have enormous respect for many of the cyclists I come across on my daily rides. They are sometimes elderly – or they are obese – and they are struggling. I want to give them encouragement and support because they are doing something that is healthy and they should be proud. It takes courage to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. There is only one attitude a true lover of cycling adopts; we support our fellow cyclists and we offer encouragement and embrace everyone. 
  • When Will I See Some Results? – It depends on what sort of results you are expecting and how much work you are putting in. The simple truth about weight loss and fitness is it a matter of elementary math. If you burn more calories than you consume you will start burning into your fat stores and over time you will lose weight. I promise you that if weight loss is your goal then cycling is the RIGHT activity for you. Ride a bicycle for 20-30 minutes every day and watch what happens to your waist size in 90 days. Of course no fitness routine is complete without making sure you have healthy diet habits. Everything in moderation is a good rule if you don’t want to count calories or be limited to specific foods.
  • Do I Need To Diet If I Start Cycling? – That’s up to you. Studies have shown that diet AND exercise are key in reducing your risk for CAD. I can say that even before I had my heart attack I had greatly modified my diet to better meet my cycling needs. My general rules for food consumption are: Limited Dairy – Nothing Fried – No Red Meat (Beef, Pork, Dark Meat – I mostly eat fish and limited poultry) – No Soft Drinks Ever (Full of sugar and caffeine) – No Alcohol (that is a personal choice but it’s really not healthy and offers zero nutritional benefit) – No added salt (No MSG) – and nothing solid after 7pm (no late night runs to the kitchen for a snack). Other than that I eat what I want when I want. Everything in moderation; following these rules and cycling daily I have maintained my ideal weight, BMI, and body fat for over 15 years.
  • I Have A Bad Back and Cycling Hurts! – I hear you! I too suffer from chronic back pain due to a collapsed disc. I find that cycling actually helps me stay loose and keeps my back from hurting. Depending on where in your back your pain is a standard bicycle may not be ideal for you. That’s where this cool bicycle design called a recumbent bicycle may be just the thing for you! This bicycle design allows you to lay in a relaxed position with your legs in front of you instead of below you. I see more and more of these bikes on the paths each year. They are growing in popularity in the area where I live. And I have to admit they look like a lot of fun to ride! Look at the photo below – doesn’t that look like a great time on 3 wheels (they come in two wheel configurations as well).

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Please be sure to check back as I will be adding detailed information regarding each of the subjects above!

2017-2018 Summit4CAD Climbs Announced!

Summit4CAD Founder Jon Patrick Hyde has chosen six of the most difficult climbs in the United States for the 2017-2018 calendar.

HALEAKALA

Located in the State of Hawaii on the island of Maui, Mt. Haleakala is the World’s longest paved continuous uphill cycling course. This ride is ranked 2nd most difficult in the USA.  From the start at sea level you cycle uphill for 35.5 miles to the summit at 10,023ft for a total of 10,063ft in elevation gained.  It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 18.6*.

This ride was successfully completed on October 28th, 2017. 

Jon Patrick Hyde Summits Mt. Haleakala
Summit4CAD Founder Jon Patrick Hyde became the first Widowmaker Heart Attack survivor to cycle to the summit of Mt Haleakala, the longest continual uphill cycling course in the world on the 1 year anniversary of his heart attack.


MOUNT LEMMON

Located in Arizona, this iconic Western climb is 28.8 miles long from your starting point at 2,760ft above sea level.  The summit is at 9,132ft for a total of 7,107ft in elevation gain.  It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 9.9* and will be the first climb of 2018.  This ride is scheduled for April.
_Ride_Photos_Lemmon


HORSESHOE MEADOWS

Located in California, this climb is ranked 8th most difficult in the USA.  From the start at 3,817ft above sea level you climb to 10,038ft over 19.2 miles for a total elevation gain of 6,558ft.  It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 13.7*.  This climb is scheduled for May.
_Ride_Photos_Horseshoe


WHITE MOUNTAIN

Located in California, this climb is ranked 9th most difficult in the USA.  From the start at 3,946ft above sea level you climb to 10,114ft over 20.3 miles for a total elevation gain of 6,390ft.   It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 12.9*.  This climb is scheduled for May.
_Ride_Photos_WhiteM


PIKE’S PEAK

Located in Colorado, this climb is ranked 4th most difficult in the USA.  From the start at 6,343ft above sea level you climb to 14,102ft over 24.4 miles for a total elevation gain of 7,978ft.  It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 17.7*.  This climb is scheduled for August.
_Ride_Photos_Pikes


MAUNA KEA

Located in the State of Hawaii on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, Mauna Kea is ranked the #1 most difficult climb in the USA and the entire World.  It features 7km of unpaved/gravel roads near the summit.  From the start at ocean level you climb to 13,761ft over 42.6 miles for a total elevation gain of 13,778ft.  It has a Fiets Scale Rating of 28.9*.  This climb is scheduled for the 2nd anniversary of Jon’s heart attack in October.
_Ride_Photos_MaunaKea

*FIETS INDEX = [H^2 / D*10] + (T – 1000):1000

The climb difficulty rating drawn up by Gabriele Codifava, which also gives prominence to steep gradients.

D – Difficulty rating: outcome of the Formula
d – total difference in altitude (meters)
di – difference in altitude between two points (meters) referring to the i-th interval of the climb
P – avg. gradient expressed as Percentage (%)
pi – gradient of the i-th interval of the climb (%)
L – entire Length of the climb (Km)
li – length of the i-th interval of the climb (Km)

Whereby the principles followed working out the Formula (proceeding from the old well-known elaboration: D=(P*P*L)/10 + 4*P) are four:

1) to give as much prominence as possible to steep gradients; thus avoid to calculate only average gradients over the entire climb, which would attenuate the importance of the sharpest intervals. Each interval (defined mainly by homogeneous gradient) will be taken into consideration separetely, and the results will be added as the final step of the operation;

2) equal slopes (i.e.: eventually the same climb), even if considered as parts of different courses, should provide self-consistent results. E.g.: check the database for these italian climbs: Prada Alta and Punta Veleno. Punta Veleno should include the entire difficulty of Prada Alta, adding eventually some more difficulty points being the same climb with ADDITIONAL tracts – although easier, anyway rising;

3) the subdivision into intervals should be the least arbitrary;

4) in a theoretically homogeneous climb – in which the average gradient is equal to the partial gradient for every interval – the old and the new formulas should provide the same outcomes.

Cycling is easy, fun, and extremely good for your health: it has been shown to greatly reduce stress

The health benefits from daily exercise are well documented; a significant reduction in your exposure to a number of life altering diseases such as CAD, Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer, Arthritis, and the list goes on…

I look forward to my hour (or two) in the saddle (saddle is a fancy name for your bicycle’s seat) each day. My cycling time is “ME” time. There’s the road, me, and my bicycle. Cycling is relaxing because it gives me a chance to be outdoors while doing something that is healthy for me.

I find it stimulating because I am constantly working through problems and finding solutions such as which gear is going to be best for climbing the hill in front of me or when do I need to apply my brakes to slow down as the traffic light in front of me has started to change. You have to be in the moment and aware of your surroundings. This keeps your mind sharp and your body and mind well connected.

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Additionally the health benefits from daily exercise are well documented; a significant reduction in your exposure to a number of life altering diseases such as CAD, Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer, Arthritis, and the list goes on… What makes cycling an ideal fitness activity is that it is low impact; it doesn’t cause the issues with joints that high impact activities such as running do; only swimming is considered to be lower impact. Cycling is an ideal activity because it works all of your muscle groups. You may not realize it but when you are riding a bicycle outdoors you are constantly using your upper body muscle groups to keep yourself balanced and to control your bicycle.

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You can often cycle in the gym or home with a stationary bike. If the weather permits, you can utilize cycling to get from point A to point B without the need for a car. Whether you have an old bike or new, cycling provides health benefits that typically cannot be established with other activities.

Here are some of the benefits of cycling:

  • Cycling increases tone and builds muscle: Cycling involves the entire body, contrary to the popular belief that it’s all about the legs. Cycling effectively works your upper legs, buttocks, and lower legs, as well as your core and upper body muscles. Almost your entire body works while cycling.
  • Cycling burns calories: Depending on intensity, duration and the rider’s weight, cycling for about half an hour can burn 210-311 calories, according to Harvard
    Garmin_3Medical Research.  LEFT: This is a screen shot of my Garmin Cycling Computer (through Garmin’s “Garmin Connect” software) showing my cycling activities from August 2nd to August 29th, 2017.
    In the displayed period of time I burned through 65,311 calories. Because I use a Garmin Vector II Power Meter system – wattage expended and calories used are calculated as I ride and the results are very accurate.
  • Cycling is a stress-reliving activity: Cycling can be meditative and joyful. Getting outside and cycling brings your closer to nature, bringing peace to your work out. The more you cycle the better you’ll get at it; this increase in confidence can lift your mood and can heal a stressed mind.
  • Cycling is easy: Cycling can be one of the easiest and most relaxing means of physical activity. You can ride a bike almost anywhere and at any time. Cycling is relatively cheap and can be done by people of all ages. All you need is a bike, a helmet and a bit of time!

Key Indicators in the Development of CAD (Coronary Artery Disease)

The number 1 indicator for if you are at high risk for CAD is your family history and any genetic predisposition you may have been born with.

The number 1 indicator for if you are at high risk for CAD is your family history and any genetic predisposition you may have been born with.

“Coronary artery disease begins in childhood, so that by the teenage years, there is evidence that plaques that will stay with us for life are formed in most people. Preventive measures instituted early are thought to have greater lifetime benefits. Healthy lifestyles will delay the progression of CAD, and there is hope that CAD can be regressed before it causes heart disease.”

Edward A. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.,
Leon H. Charney Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
Marc and Ruti Bell Vascular Biology and Disease Program – NYU School of Medicine

Some of my earliest memories were of attending my grandfather’s funeral (heart attack) and my grandmother’s bypass surgery and her death shortly after. One by one my uncles passed away from CAD and heart attacks that they didn’t survive. The link between untimely death (death below age that is the national average) and heart disease in my family is undeniable.

Once you’ve established that CAD is something that runs in your family or not (in my case it’s an all caps “YES”), the following list of indicators all represent lifestyle and diet choices you can make that will greatly increase your risk of developing CAD.

Risk factors for the development of CAD:

Conventional risk factors:

  • Age: Over age 45 years in men and over age 55 years in women – plaques build up over time; the older you get the more likely that stenosis can and will develop
  • Family History: Likelihood of increased risk with positive family history is significant due to a number of genes now identified that are linked to CAD and are known to be hereditary
  • Race: Among persons with CAD, the cardiovascular death rate for African Americans is reported to be particularly high; in Asians, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), which are considered to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease, appear to be especially prevalent; South Asians appear to have a higher independent risk for cardiovascular disease as well.

Modifiable risk factors:

  • High blood cholesterol levels (specifically, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C])
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking: Cessation of cigarette smoking constitutes the single most important preventive measure for CAD
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Mental stress and depression

Nontraditional or novel risk factors: High levels of the following are considered to be risk factors for CAD:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP): High levels are related to the presence of inflammation and, according to some research results, may be associated with an increased risk of CAD development and heart attack
  • Lipoprotein(a)
  • Homocysteine: In the general population, mild to moderate elevations are due to insufficient dietary intake of folic acid, but homocysteine levels may also identify people at increased risk for heart disease
  • Small, dense LDL-C particles – In some people LDL-C particles are more dense than in the general population; these smaller particles allow for plaque build-up and stenosis
  • Fibrinogen: a blood plasma glycoprotein that is important in the formation of blood clots; higher levels of fibrinogen are associated with CAD; it is unknown if this is a reaction to stenosis or yet another variable that indicates a trigger for the clotting mechanisms that are typically associated with heart attacks (MI).

Various medical conditions that can contribute to CAD include the following:

  • End-stage renal disease (ESRD)
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases affecting connective tissues (eg, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS], highly active antiretroviral therapy [HAART])
  • Xanthelasmata (raised yellow patches around the eyelids)

The following are also considered to be risk factors:

  • Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): An imbalance of the clot dissolving enzymes (eg, tPA) and their respective inhibitors (plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 [PAI-1]) may predispose individuals to myocardial infarctions
  • Low serum testosterone levels: Have a significant negative impact on patients with CAD
  • Hysterectomy: A study suggests that this becomes a risk factor later in life in women who have the surgery at or before age 50 years
  • Lack of sleep

When looking at the exhaustive list of contributing factors above remember that just because you have family history and you are overweight it doesn’t mean that you are going to develop CAD. It simply means that you are at greater risk.

When looking at the indicators above it becomes clear that there are two types of risk factors: those that are beyond your control such as family history, age, race, sex, and any hereditary/genetic traits you may have inherited, and there are those that are in your control such as your weight, diet, exercise and fitness choices, and lifestyle choices such as smoking.

If you can identify 4 or 5 risk factors above in your lifestyle and could choose one that would have the greatest impact on improving your health; to quit smoking would be the risk factor you’d want to eliminate. Smoking puts a person at risk for a number of life-threatening, deadly diseases and conditions, the first of which is CAD. Not all smokers develop lung cancer, but lung cancer and cancer of the throat, mouth, and sinuses are certainly a major risk. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is another deadly disease that smokers are at a significantly higher risk for. Complications from smoking include high blood pressure. And since CAD is the number one cause of death in the world, the risk of CAD from smoking is probably the single largest consideration anyone concerned about developing CAD should have.

Exercise and a healthy diet in themselves can fix so many things with your health. With exercise and a healthy diet comes weight loss and more energy. Risk for Diabetes is greatly reduced. Cholesterol levels in the blood improve. People who exercise regularly report feeling less stress and anxiety. Exercise conditions your heart and circulatory system, lowering blood pressure and improving the efficiency of your lungs.

It is easy to look at your current lifestyle if it is unhealthy and feel overwhelmed. People do not suddenly go from a healthy lifestyle to a high risk lifestyle overnight. These choices are made over time. Therefore it is fair to say that changing your lifestyle and making better choices for your health doesn’t come overnight. But make a concerted effort to change the way you live for the better by changing your diet to reduce unhealthy food and increase healthy ones. Or add daily exercise (20 minutes a day). And in a short period of time, 60-90 days, you’ll see a dramatic change in how you feel and the amount of energy you have to face each new day.