Archive | May, 2012

How to Not Kill a Cyclist

29 May

A Modest Proposal May 18, 2012

How to Not Kill a Cyclist


It’s National Bike to Work Day today, and maybe you noticed a lot of cyclists on your commute this morning. If you didn’t—and you’re a driver—that’s cause for concern. A plea for safety from cyclists to motorists.

My friend was driving down a suburban road, me in the passenger seat, when he came up behind a cyclist. There was no bike lane and a car was approaching from the opposite direction, so he slowed such that we remained behind the rider.

Credit: vtsr

After the other car went by, my friend began to accelerate, intent on passing. “Hang on,” I said. “There’s a sharp bend just ahead, and you don’t want to pass while we’re both going around it.”

“Why not?”

“Because—well, just watch.”

My friend tapped the brake and fell back. As the rider navigated the curve, he swung out into the road and upon reaching the straightaway returned to the shoulder. As my friend passed a few seconds later, the cyclist gave a friendly wave.

“Got it,” my friend said to me. “Thanks.”

I’m not a better driver than my friend—in fact, quite the opposite. But I am a cyclist, while he is not, and he appreciated knowing more about how we operate.

As many cyclists are aware, there are entire bookstore sections devoted to advice on co-existing with cars. We read them as if our lives depended on them, because often they do. But there are also many things bike riders would like drivers to know—like, we don’t ride on the sidewalk for a reason (it’s dangerous and in many places illegal), or that “cyclists” and “pedestrians on bicycles” are two distinct groups, or that we know we look ridiculous in bike shorts. As well as the following:

Don’t “Door”

As in, “Trevor got doored last week and has been in the hospital ever since.”

Every time drivers are parked on the curb and open their driver’s side door without first checking their side- or rear-view mirror, they run the risk of dooring a cyclist: striking them as they pass and knocking them into traffic, or abruptly placing the door unavoidably in their path such that they collide with it at full speed. Either way, it’s what we in the business refer to as a “huge bummer” for all involved.

Dooring is also one of the easiest oh-rats-I-just-killed-a-cyclist scenarios to avoid: Whenever you’re parked on the side of a road, check your mirrors to ensure no one is approaching before you open your door.

Pass Deliberately

“Pass slower vehicles” is an axiom of driving, one that motorists rarely question. And yet, as my friend who considered passing a cyclist on a curve illustrates, there are many situations in which passing merits a moment’s consideration to determine whether it truly makes sense.

If, for instance, you are behind a cyclist and approaching a stop, passing the cyclist likely will gain you nothing. In fact, you may end up passing the cyclist twice: once before the intersection, a second time after. Which, let’s face it, is going to annoy you.


You may wind up in that worst of all worlds: a quantum state of simultaneously passing and not passing.


Even worse is when you’re trying to pass a cyclist, but can’t. Such as when the cyclist is moving at roughly the same speed as traffic—as is common in urban areas, or on a downhill—in which case you may initiate a pass only to discover you have nowhere to go, because there’s insufficient room between the bike and the preceding car for you to occupy. You then wind up in that worst of all worlds: a quantum state of simultaneously passing and not passing.

Finally, if neither of the above situations applies, and you’re able to pass safely please do not then immediately execute a right-hand turn and cut off the cyclist. This happens more often than you might imagine, as drivers may simply forget that hanging back instead of passing is an option.

The goal here is not to list all the situations in which passing is inappropriate, but to remind drivers that passing is never obligatory, and should be done deliberately. And, while we’re on the subject, passing should be “deliberate” in the other sense of the term as well: slow, unhurried, and steady.

Be Cognizant of Bike Lanes

Much of the above passing advice becomes moot on a road with a bike lane, as both drivers and cyclists will have space sufficient to avoid interaction. That doesn’t mean drivers shouldn’t pay attention to the cyclist of course, and it doesn’t mean drivers shouldn’t pay attention to the bike lane itself, as it may suddenly end or become obstructed, requiring a cyclist to move into traffic (even if only for a moment). Drivers should keep an eye out for cars parked or garbage cans set in the lane, or for the abrupt dead-ending of the lane at the transition from one neighborhood to another.

Acknowledge Cyclists

In “How to Drive Around Cyclists” [pdf] Lawrence Ulrich pairs tips for drivers with “Cyclists’ Commandments,” one of which is “make eye contact.” Drivers can help us adhere to this commandment by seeking eye contact with cyclists, perhaps accompanying it with a nod or a wave to indicate we’re seen. Because lacking such reassurance, we are going to assume drivers are unaware of our presence and give them a wide berth, which may require swerving out of our path and into traffic.

Behave Predictably

Cyclists are ever vigilant for anomalous behavior on the part of motorists, as it makes us profoundly nervous. Ironically, one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us, such as at a four-way stop when a driver skips their turn and motions for the cyclist to proceed instead—it’s a kind gesture but a bad idea. When a driver strays from the rules of the road it confuses not only cyclists, but—more perilously—other drivers, as an element of uncertainty is abruptly injected into what is normally a well-ordered system.

Know the Law—or at Least Its Foundation

Every state and municipality has its own set of laws governing cyclists and those driving in close proximity to cyclists. At the core of every set of statutes, though, is the same fundamental concept: A bicycle is a vehicle. To wit:

  • Seattle: “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to a driver of a vehicle, except as to the special regulation of this chapter and except as to those provisions of the Traffic Code which by their nature can have no application.”
  • San Francisco: “Bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are subject to the same rules and regulations.”
  • New York [pdf]: “Bicyclists have all the rights and are subject to all the duties applicable to drivers of motor vehicles.”

And so forth. The specific laws of a state or city may modify some element of this concept—by mandating cyclists remain as far to the right as is safe, say, or allowing cyclist to ride two abreast—but internalizing “a bike is a vehicle” gets you 90 percent of the way to understanding cycling law.

As a practical matter, this means a cyclist owns the road every bit as much as motorists, and is allowed (for example) to “take the lane” whenever necessary. It also means cyclists must obey stop signs, stoplights, and all other rules of the road.

The “right-hand turn” law for motorists, however, deserves special mention. As mentioned above, drivers should never pass a cyclist if they intend to make a right-hand turn, as they will likely be cutting them off. In other instances, this is the usual formula:

  • An automobile should be in the right-most lane when making a right-hand turn;
  • A bike lane is a lane; therefore
  • An automobile should enter the bike lane before making a right hand turn.

Big fat caveat: The above logic is not universal, as some places (e.g., Oregon) forbid automobiles from entering the bike lane in any circumstances. In these cases the car turns from the main lane and across the turn lane, which can be cataclysmic if a cyclist is in the process of whizzing by. The critical distinction between the two right hand turns laws is illustrated here.

Read the Signals

The law also requires cyclists to know and use the official hand signals for turning, slowing, and stopping. But in practice almost no one does. Lest drivers judge, however, remember that by law they are supposed to know the hand signals too, yet often don’t. Well here they are, in case this comes up while you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!

You skipped right over that, and that’s OK, because cyclists generally make up signals on the fly. Pointing out their intended route is a common one. Pointing to the ground to their left, when they are in a bike lane, on the shoulder, or on the right side of the road, is typically a warning that they are about the “take the lane” due to an obstruction. Most are self-explanatory. It’s less important that drivers “learn the hand signals” than that they simply are aware that hand signals will be given, and keep an eye out for them.

Lay Off the Horn

IT IS A COMMON JOKE ON THE INTERNET THAT TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS THE TEXTUAL EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING. By extension, honking to a cyclist is like putting those caps in bold and 48-point type. More to the point, a cyclist is on an unstable machine, travelling at a high velocity, and chock full o’ adrenaline; introducing a loud noise into a cyclist’s immediate environment may startle them—with disastrous results. A driver may become irritated with a cyclist for some reason or another, and they may be completely justified in doing so, but honking is less an expression of annoyance and more a crapshoot that may send the cyclist careening into traffic or a curb.

And remember that, the expression notwithstanding, nobody can actually honk “at” someone; one honks, and the noise assails the just and unjust alike. If there is a cyclist nearby, don’t honk at anyone if you can help it. Try going to your happy place instead. Or just sublimating that rage and yelling at the nightly news later that evening like the rest of us.

Stop Surfing

Do I even need to tell you to not text and drive? If cycling injury statistics are to be believed, as well as the personal experiences of me and everyone I know who bikes, then yes, yes I do. In fact, here’s a litany of driving guidance that has no place in this article, because it’s stuff you should or should not be doing regardless of the presence of a cyclist, but that I nonetheless feel obligated to mention given the topic of this article: Get off your phone, don’t drive drunk, use your turn signals, don’t drive aggressively, don’t tailgate. Drivers have heard all these pleas before, but ignoring them near a cyclist ups the odds that someone’s going to die over it.

Judge Us Not by Our Jerks

Just as some percentage of drivers are jerks, so too is some percentage of cyclists—I reckon about 15 percent in both cases. And I’m sure 15 percent of Segwayists are jerks, and 15 percent of jetpackists will be jerks at some point in the future. The Jerk Constant is as immutable and universal as π. The point here is to remember that the majority (85 percent!) of cyclists are not that punk you encountered last Tuesday, so don’t let that frustration get the better of you whenever you see a cyclists up ahead.




And finally, a tip for cyclists: When riding, express your appreciation to drivers who adhere to any and all of the above whenever you can. The more you can reinforce the central truth of commuting—that motorists and cyclists are in it together—the better we will all get along. And that helps everyone, regardless of the number of wheels upon which they ride.



Captain America at the Tour of California

18 May


American Dave Zabriskie of the Garmin-Barracuda team was the fastest man against the clock on Thursday’s Stage 5 of the Tour of California, winning the race’s only time trial around Bakersfield.

Zabriskie covered the 18.4-mile (29.7-kilometer) course in 35 minutes and 59 seconds, with an average speed of 30.7 miles per hour (49.5 kilometers per hour).



Zabriskie’s Time-Trial Weaponry

Garmin-Barracuda’s Dave Zabriskie used a commanding win on Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California to vault into the overall race lead. Here’s a look at the technology that helped get him across the line first. —Joe Lindsey
zabriskie p5 

Aero Stopping Power

Magura’s RT8 hydraulic rim brake caliper features arms that follow the shape of the fork to help aerodynamics. The hydraulic fluid line runs into the back of the caliper, keeping it “clean” in the air as well. And while many TT bikes suffer from substandard braking, the powerful hydraulic calipers offer impressive stopping power.
zabriskie p5

Lever Management

Magura makes dedicated brake levers for the system, but as you’ll notice, there’s no built-in system for Shimano’s Di2 shifters. At the Giro d’Italia, Garmin mechanics cobbled a custom solution for Ryder Hesjedal, but in California mechanics haven’t had time for that retrofit yet.

Power Stash

The cover you see here sits just above the chainstays and hides an integrated cubby for a Shimano Di2 battery. There’s dedicated cable management inside the bike as well, to make it easier to set up.


Cervélo uses a clever interpretation of the International Cycling Union’s rules on tube gussets to sculpt a seat tube–top tube juncture that would normally be an illegal shape. Anything to make the bike faster.

Cooling Tactic

Garmin’s Castelli skinsuits have a special pouch in the center of the back. In WorldTour races where radio communication is allowed, it can hold the riders’ radio transmitters. But at races like the Tour of California time trial—held in 101-degree heat in Bakersfield—it’s handy for socks stuffed with crushed ice.

Captain America’s Lid

Garmin has a special non-production version of Giro’s TT helmets. This is Dave Zabriskie’s Captain America livery as he is the U.S. national time-trial champion. First used at the Tour de France team time trial last year, the helmets are far blunter than even the Advantage 2 time-trial helmets that most other Giro-sponsored teams wore. Garmin’s sports scientist, Robby Ketchell, says that the profile has better aerodynamics in windy conditions. One downside: zero ventilation.

Labor of Love of Speed

Time trial bikes require special care. Team mechanics spend hours tinkering with internal cable routing, machining custom mounts for everything from computers to batteries, and doing anything they can to make the bikes faster (like removing bottle cages used in course recon). Here, Garmin-Barracuda’s Alex Banyay goes over Zabriskie’s Cervélo P5 to ensure that everything is in perfect working order.

America’s 100 Best Adventures according to NatGeo

12 May


America’s 100 Best Adventures



Surf the Lost Coast
Bike the Death Ride
Hike Half Dome
Hike the Sierra High Route
Paddle Santa Cruz Island
Mountain Bike the Tahoe Rim Trail (& Nevada)
Bodysurf the Wedge
Raft the Forks of the Kern
Ski Mountaineer Mount Shasta



Bike From Durango to Moab (& Utah)
Climb Ouray
Ski Scar Face
Hike the Colorado Trail
Run the TransRockies
Ski Silverton Mountain
Race the Leadville Trail 100
Backcountry Ski the 10th Mountain Division Huts
Bag Fourteeners in the Weminuche Wilderness
Climb the Diamond on Longs Peak



Kiteboard the Keys
Paddle the Everglades
Swamp Tromp in Big Cypress National Preserve
Dive Freshwater Caves
Fly-Fish for the Florida Keys Slam



Canoe the Okeefenokee



Kayak the Na Pali Coast
Hike the Muliwai Trail
Kiteboard Maui’s North Shore






Hike the Salmon
Snowkite Camas Valley
Raft the Owyhee River (& Oregon & Nevada)



Climb Red River Gorge



Kayak the Maine Island Trail
Canoe the Allagash



Sail the Manitous
Wreck Dive Lake Superior



Dogsled the Boundary Waters
Race the Arrowhead 135
Canoe the Boundary Waters
Hike the Superior Trail



Paddle 340 Miles of the Mighty Missouri—Nonstop



Hike the Bob Marshall
Climb Granite Peak
Ice Climb Hyalite Canyon
Fly-Fish the Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley
Backpack Glacier National Park



Get Fit at a Navy SEAL Immersion Camp
Bike Across America
Learn to Fly a Wingsuit
Backpack the Pacific Northwest Trail
Bike the Continental Divide Trail


North Carolina

Paddle the Outer Banks
Learn Paddling at Nantahala Outdoor Center


North Dakota

Bike the Maah Daah Hey


New Hampshire

Ski Tuckerman Ravine
Hike the Traverse


New Mexico

Fly-Fish the Pecos
Horsepack the Gila Wilderness



Heli-Ski the Ruby Mountains


New York

Canoe the Adirondacks
Climb the Gunks




Four-Wheel the Steens
Kiteboard the Columbia River Gorge (& Washington)
Ski the Wallowas




Hike the Roan Highlands
Raft the Ocoee




Float the Big Bend of the Rio Grande
Boulder Hueco Tanks




Raft the Green River
Scale Red-Rock Towers
Paddle Lake Powell
Backpack the Hayduke Trail
Canyoneer Grand Staircase-Escalante
Hike the Zion Narrows




Ski Inn-to-Inn on the Catamount Trail




Transect the Olympic
Climb Mount Rainier
Hike Glacier Peak
Sea Kayak the San Juan Islands




Ski the Birkebeiner



West Virginia

Raft the Gauley River




Hike the Winds
Climb the Grand Teton
Backcountry Ski Teton Pass
Kayak Lake Yellowstone
Hike Yellowstone’s Wild Southwest

30 Reasons to Take Up Cycling

11 May

Guinness pint at Trek 100

30 reasons to take up cycling

8th May 2012 | 10:30

Improve your brainpower, relationships, health and happiness

Whether it’s to boost your fitness, health or bank balance, or as an environmental choice, taking up cycling could be one of the best decisions you ever make. Not convinced? Here are 30 major benefits of taking to two wheels.

1. You’ll get there faster

Commute by bike in the UK’s major cities and you’ll get there in half the time of cars, research by Citroen shows. In fact, if you drive for an hour in Cardiff’s rush hour, you’ll spend over 30 minutes going absolutely nowhere and average just 7mph, compared to averaging around 12-15mph while cycling.

2. Sleep more deeply

An early morning ride might knacker you out in the short term, but it’ll help you catch some quality shut-eye when you get back to your pillow. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers asked sedentary insomnia sufferers to cycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The result? The time required for the insomniacs to fall asleep was reduced by half, and sleep time increased by almost an hour.

“Exercising outside exposes you to daylight,” explains Professor Jim Horne from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre. “This helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync, and also rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.”

3. Look younger

Scientists at Stanford University have found that cycling regularly can protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduce the signs of ageing. Harley Street dermatologist Dr Christopher Rowland Payne explains: “Increased circulation through exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells more effectively, while flushing harmful toxins out. Exercise also creates an ideal environment within the body to optimise collagen production, helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles and speed up the healing process.” Don’t forget to slap on the factor 30 before you head out, though.

4. Boost your bowels

According to experts from Bristol University, the benefits of cycling extend deep into your core. “Physical activity helps decrease the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, limiting the amount of water absorbed back into your body and leaving you with softer stools, which are easier to pass,” explains Harley Street gastroenterologist Dr Ana Raimundo.

In addition, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate, which helps to stimulate the contraction of intestinal muscles. “As well as preventing you from feeling bloated, this helps protect you against bowel cancer,” Dr Raimundo says.

5. Increase your brain power

Need your grey matter to sparkle? Then get pedalling. Researchers from Illinois University found that a five percent improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 percent in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsible for memory, which deteriorates from the age of 30.

“It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s,” says the study’s author, Professor Arthur Kramer.

6. Beat illness

Forget apples, riding’s the way to keep the doctor at bay. “Moderate exercise makes immune cells more active, so they’re ready to fight off infection,” says Cath Collins, chief dietician at St George’s Hospital in London.

In fact, according to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.

Riding’s the way to keep the doctor at bay:

Riding’s the way to keep the doctor at bay

7. Live longer

King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

“Those who exercise regularly are at significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity,” says Dr Lynn Cherkas, who conducted the research. “The body becomes much more efficient at defending itself and regenerating new cells.”

8. Save the planet

Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car. It takes around five percent of the materials and energy used to make a car to build a bike, and a bike produces zero pollution.

Bikes are efficient, too – you travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy and, taking into account the ‘fuel’ you put in your ‘engine’, you do the equivalent of 2,924 miles to the gallon. You have your weight ratio to thank: you’re about six times heavier than your bike, but a car is 20 times heavier than you.

9. Improve your sex life

Being more physically active improves your vascular health, which has the knock-on effect of boosting your sex drive, according to health experts in the US. One study from Cornell University also concluded that male athletes have the sexual prowess of men two to five years younger, with physically fit females delaying the menopause by a similar amount of time.

Meanwhile, research carried out at Harvard University found that men aged over 50 who cycle for at least three hours a week have a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than those who do little exercise.

10. It’s good breeding

A ‘bun in the oven’ could benefit from your riding as much as you. According to research from Michigan University in the US, mums-to-be who regularly exercise during pregnancy have an easier, less complicated labour, recover faster and enjoy better overall mood throughout the nine months. Your pride and joy also has a 50 percent lower chance of becoming obese and enjoys better in-utero neurodevelopment.

“There’s no doubt that moderate exercise such as cycling during pregnancy helps condition the mother and protect the foetus,” says Patrick O’Brien, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

A ‘bun in the oven’ could benefit from your riding as much as you:

A ‘bun in the oven’ could benefit from your riding as much as you

11. Heal your heart

Studies from Purdue University in the US have shown that regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent. And according to the British Heart Foundation, around 10,000 fatal heart attacks could be avoided each year if people kept themselves fitter. Cycling just 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease to less than half that of those who take no exercise, it says.

12. Your boss will love you

No, we don’t mean your Lycra-clad buttocks will entice your superiors into a passionate office romance, but they’ll appreciate what cycling does for your usefulness to the company. A study of 200 people carried out by the University of Bristol found that employees who exercised before work or at lunchtime improved their time and workload management, and it boosted their motivation and their ability to deal with stress.

The study also reported that workers who exercised felt their interpersonal performance was better, they took fewer breaks and found it easier to finish work on time. Sadly, the study didn’t find a direct link between cycling and getting a promotion.

13. Cycle away from the big C

There’s plenty of evidence that any exercise is useful in warding off cancer, but some studies have shown that cycling is specifically good for keeping your cells in working order. One long-term study carried out by Finnish researchers found that men who exercised at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes a day were half as likely to develop cancer as those who didn’t. And one of the moderate forms of exercise they cited? Cycling to work. Other studies have found that women who cycle frequently reduce their risk of breast cancer by 34 percent.

14. Lose weight in the saddle

Loads of people who want to shift some heft think that heading out for a jog is the best way to start slimming down. But while running does burn a ton of fat, it’s not kind to you if you’re a little larger than you’d like to be. Think about it – two to three times your body weight goes crashing through your body when your foot strikes the ground. If you weigh 16 stone, that’s a lot of force! Instead, start out on a bike – most of your weight is taken by the saddle, so your skeleton doesn’t take a battering. Running can wait…

15. You’ll make more money

If you’re cycling to lose weight then you could be in line for a cash windfall… Well, sort of. Researcher Jay Zagorsky, from Ohio State University, analysed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – which saw 7,300 people regularly interviewed between 1985 and 2000 – to see how their obesity and wealth changed over that period. Zagorsky concluded that a one unit increase in body mass index (BMI) score corresponded to an £800 or eight percent reduction in wealth. So, shed a few BMI points on the bike and start earning.

16. Avoid pollution

You’d think a city cyclist would suck up much more pollution than the drivers and passengers in the vehicles chucking out the noxious gases. Not so, according to a study carried out by Imperial College London. Researchers found that passengers in buses, taxis and cars inhaled substantially more pollution than cyclists and pedestrians.

On average, taxi passengers were exposed to more than 100,000 ultrafine particles – which can settle in the lungs and damage cells – per cubic centimetre. Bus passengers sucked up just under 100,000 and people in cars inhaled about 40,000. Cyclists, meanwhile, were exposed to just 8,000 ultrafine particles per cubic centimetre. It’s thought that cyclists breathe in fewer fumes because we ride at the edge of the road and, unlike drivers, aren’t directly in the line of exhaust smoke.

Cyclists breathe in fewer fumes than drivers:

Cyclists breathe in fewer fumes than drivers

17. Enjoy healthy family time

Cycling is an activity the whole family can do together. The smallest tyke can clamber into a bike seat or tow-along buggy, and because it’s kind on your joints, there’s nothing to stop grandparents joining in too.

Moreover, your riding habit could be sowing the seeds for the next Bradley Wiggins. Studies have found that, unsurprisingly, kids are influenced by their parents’ exercise choices. Put simply, if your kids see you riding regularly, they think it’s normal and will want to follow your example. Don’t be surprised, though, if they become embarrassed by your tendency to mismatch fluorescent Lycra when they become teenagers.

18. It means guilt-free snacks

Upping your salt intake is seldom your doctor’s advice, but in the few days leading up to a big ride or sportive, that’s exactly what you should do. This gives you the perfect excuse to munch on crisps and other salty foods you might normally avoid. The sodium in them helps protect your body against hyponatraemia, a condition caused by drinking too much water without enough sodium that can lead to disorientation, illness and worse.

19. Get better at any sport

Whether you want to keep in prime shape or just improve your weekly tennis game, a stint in the saddle is the way to begin. A recent medical study from Norway carried the title Aerobic Endurance Training Improves Soccer Performance, which makes it pretty clear that the knock-on benefits to other sports and activities are immense.

20. Make creative breakthroughs

Writers, musicians, artists, top executives and all kinds of other professionals use exercise to solve mental blocks and make decisions – including Jeremy Paxman, Sir Alan Sugar and Spandau Ballet. A study found that just 25 minutes of aerobic exercise boosts at least one measure of creative thinking. Credit goes to the flow of oxygen to your grey matter when it matters most, sparking your neurons and giving you breathing space away from the muddle and pressures of ‘real life’.

21. You’re helping others

Many cyclists turn their health, fitness and determination into fundraising efforts for the less fortunate. The London to Brighton bike ride has raised over £40 million for the British Heart Foundation since the two became involved in 1980, with countless other rides contributing to the coffers of worthy causes.

22. You can get fit without trying too hard

Regular, everyday cycling has huge benefits that can justify you binning your wallet-crippling gym membership. According to the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation in the US, regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person who’s 10 years younger.

23. Boost your bellows

No prizes for guessing that the lungs work considerably harder than usual when you ride. An adult cycling generally uses 10 times the oxygen they’d need to sit in front of the TV for the same period. Even better, regular cycling will help strengthen your cardiovascular system over time, enabling your heart and lungs to work more efficiently and getting more oxygen where it’s needed, quicker. This means you can do more exercise for less effort. How good does that sound?

24. Burn more fat

Sports physiologists have found that the body’s metabolic rate – the efficiency with which it burns calories and fat – is not only raised during a ride, but for several hours afterwards. “Even after cycling for 30 minutes, you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop,” says sports physiologist Mark Simpson of Loughborough University.

And as you get fitter, the benefits are more profound. One recent study showed that cyclists who incorporated fast intervals into their ride burned three-and-a-half times more body fat than those who cycled constantly but at a slower pace.

Cycling can help you lose pounds – but don't take it too far!:

Cycling can help you lose pounds – but don’t take it too far!

25. You’re developing a positive addiction

Replace a harmful dependency – such as cigarettes, alcohol or eating too much chocolate – with a positive one, says William Glasser, author of Positive Addiction. The result? You’re a happier, healthier person getting the kind of fix that boosts the good things in life.

26. Get (a legal) high

Once a thing of myth, the infamous ‘runner’s high’ has been proven beyond doubt by German scientists. Yet despite the name, this high is applicable to all endurance athletes. University of Bonn neurologists visualised endorphins in the brains of 10 volunteers before and after a two-hour cardio session using a technique called positive emission tomography (PET). Comparing the pre- and post-run scans, they found evidence of more opiate binding of the happy hormone in the frontal and limbic regions of the brain – areas known to be involved in emotional processing and dealing with stress.

“There’s a direct link between feelings of wellbeing and exercise, and for the first time this study proves the physiological mechanism behind that,” explains study co-ordinator Professor Henning Boecker.

27. Make friends and stay healthy

The social side of riding could be doing you as much good as the actual exercise. University of California researchers found socialising releases the hormone oxytocin, which buffers the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Another nine-year study from Harvard Medical School found those with the most friends cut the risk of an early death by more than 60 percent, reducing blood pressure and strengthening their immune system. The results were so significant that the researchers concluded not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight. Add in the fitness element of cycling too and you’re onto a winner.

28. Be happy

Even if you’re miserable when you saddle up, cranking through the miles will lift your spirits. “Any mild-to-moderate exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy,” explains Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation. That’s probably why four times more GPs prescribe exercise therapy as their most common treatment for depression compared to three years ago. “Just three 30-minute sessions a week can be enough to give people the lift they need,” says McCulloch.

29. Feeling tired? Go for a ride

Sounds counter-intuitive but if you feel too tired for a ride, the best thing you can do is go for ride. Physical activity for even a few minutes is a surprisingly effective wake-up call. A review of 12 studies on the link between exercise and fatigue carried out between 1945 and 2005 found that exercise directly lowers fatigue levels.

30. Spend quality time with your partner

It doesn’t matter if your paces aren’t perfectly matched – just slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Many couples make one or two riding ‘dates’ every week. And it makes sense: exercise helps release feel-good hormones, so after a ride you’ll have a warm feeling towards each other even if he leaves the toilet seat up and her hair is blocking the plughole again. 

In Praise of Honest Enthusiasm for the Awesomeness of Life

10 May

Greatness. Everyone needs to read this then pass it on.


Then get out and appreciate shit.

In Praise of Honest Enthusiasm for the Awesomeness of Life

by brendan leonard semi rad on March 14, 2012 ·

One Saturday morning last October, my friend Greg and I were running down the North Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon, close to halfway through 26 miles of trail. We had run four miles and would run about four more to Phantom Ranch, where we could double-fist coffee and Lemmy lemonade at the cantina before climbing 4,400 vertical feet back up the South Rim to finish a hike/run Rim-to-Rim.

I turned around mid-stride and said,

“Hey Greg!”

“Yeah,” he said.

“We’re running in the Grand Canyon!”

Sometimes I get to do awesome things, and I kind of forget how awesome they are. Do you? I get stressed, caught up in other stuff, and I forget how fortunate I am, how incredible life has turned out to be most days, and some of the special places I’ve gotten to see. Most of the time, though, I try to keep a pretty good handle on it — try to remember to turn around and yell to my friend that yes, we are running across the most famous hole on Earth, and that’s pretty special. Or, you know, even reminding someone a few months later about something special.

Kurt Vonnegut, in a 2003 speech to students at the University of Wisconsin, said,

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

In 2012, I urge you to notice when something is awesome, as it often is, and exclaim or murmur or just make a mental note of it. Isn’t it just goddamn fantastic that you have your health, for example? Or running water, or electricity? Or that you have enough money to actually pay someone else to make you a cup of coffee? Or if you want ice cream, you are at any time in America probably only 5 or 10 minutes away from a place that sells some form of it? (Trust me on that one)

Your life, even the bad parts, is fucking amazing. And most of the small things that make up your life are amazing, too — mountain bike rides, rock climbs, ski runs, sunsets, stars, friends, people, girlfriends and boyfriends, dogs, songs, movies, jokes, smiles…hell, even that burrito you ate for lunch today was pretty phenomenal, wasn’t it?

What was your enthusiasm for these things last year? I recommend you step it up in 2012.

People can disagree with things like quality, maybe your taste in food, or whether or not a movie is good. But no one can argue with enthusiasm, especially when it is over the top.

Do you think that climb you just did is the greatest climb ever? Great! If someone tries to tell you it isn’t, who cares? “Greatest Rock Climb Ever” is not an objective title. Thusly, when you are excited about a climb (or a trail run or a summit view or a bike ride or a sunrise), don’t let anyone bring you down.

A conversation where someone puts down your favorite ski area/mountain/rock climb/trail/burrito is not a conversation about ski areas/mountains/rock climbs/trails/burritos. It is a conversation about that person being a pompous asshole. Go forth and be positive in 2012.

Enthusiasm doesn’t have to stand up to criticism. It doesn’t even have to really make sense. If you finish a ski run, MTB trail or sport climbing route, and you like love it, I encourage you to try out new superlatives when describing it to someone else. This goes for everything you’re excited about. Examples:

“I’m just going to tell you now that Outer Space is the most incredible rock climb you will ever do. You cannot not smile while climbing it. It’s like the Beatles. Even if you for some ridiculous reason don’t enjoy it, you can’t deny its inherent goodness.”
“Have you heard the new Macklemore song? It will knock you on your ass!”
“The Eggplant Parmesan sub at Pasquini’s is probably my favorite sandwich in the entire city of Denver, if not the state of Colorado. In fact, now that I’ve said that, I think we should go to Pasquini’s immediately.”

Maybe some of the stuff you like love, that you’re passionate about, isn’t cool. Hey, this is 2012. Everything is cool. Irony is either everything, or dead. Be honest: When you see someone wearing a Motley Crue t-shirt, you don’t know if they’re serious, or wearing it to be ironic, do you? Do you like Motley Crue? Then ROCK THAT SHIT. And spread happiness.

Remember it is not illegal to high-five anyone. Do you use exclamation points in the salutations of your e-mails? Well, why not?

Do you like to laugh? Most people do, don’t they? Including baristas, waitstaff, and retail personnel. Perhaps you have at some point had a real conversation with one of these people. This can sometimes begin by sincerely asking those people how they are, instead of treating them like a machine that makes you coffee or orders your salad. This opens the door to making them laugh. If you play your cards right, you may be able to high-five them at the end of a conversation.

Remember yesterday, when you saw that one thing that reminded you of that one friend of yours, and you thought about how if you sent that friend a photo of the thing that reminded you of them, they would smile? But then you didn’t send your friend that photo, and it wasn’t awesome. Don’t do that again. Here’s what you do:

Take the photo.
Send it to your friend.
Your friend smiles. The world is a better place. Thanks.

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