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I noticed something interesting about my mom. When I was growing up she always had arthritis, tendonitis, and all kinds of aches and pains in her arms and shoulders.

That's probably what you'd expect for a single mom with a job that involved hours of sitting and typing. At one point it got so bad that she had to install voice-activated software on her computer. But when she retired a couple of years ago she stumbled upon a cure for chronic pain.

Don't worry, you don't need to buy anything or click on a special link or change your religion. I'll tell you exactly what happened, and how it relates to riding a bike.

Bike pics 002About a million years ago when I did my first bike tour up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, I tried to be Superman and I rode up the steep and rolling hills around San Luis Obispo in the highest gear I could handle. By the end of the day all the cartilage in my knees had turned to liquid. My bones ached and my kneecaps were floating in wet, floppy sacks the size of grapefruits.

Oh, to be young again! The next morning a part of me was thinking, "I sh0uld probably take it easy today" but mostly I just wanted to get on the road and keep moving. It hurt, but I was excited about being on the road.

A few miles up past the Hearst castle, I stopped on the beach and saw what looked like a big stack of driftwood-but it was moving. I got closer and realized it was a bunch of sea lions, all piled together and resting in the sand.

This was so exciting I laughed out loud--and then something happened that I can't explain. It was like someone hit the deflate button in my knee joints. The swelling went away, as if the fluid was leaving through an invisible drain, and ten seconds later the soggy grapefruits had turned into tight, healthy knees.

For years after that, I had this theory that when you're really happy and excited about something, then pain and injury become irrelevant--and vanish on their own.

This seems like my mom's situation. Years of sitting in uncomfortable chairs, working her fingers on the keyboard, led to pain and suffering. But then something happened. She started knitting blankets and toys for her grandchildren.

Then when the economy tanked and took her retirement account with it, she went back to work like so many people are doing. She got a job in a shop that sells handmade gifts, and she started knitting hats and stuffed animals to sell in the shop as well.

My mom gets really creative with her knitting, and her stuff moved quickly. She got requests for more, and now she takes orders, sells at craft fairs, and basically--if you didn't get this already--she's spending most of her time sitting in a chair, working her fingers.

But she never complains about arthritis.

So how does this relate to biking? Well first of all, passion and joy and excitement are natural sources of vitality, energy and healing power.

This is why I suspect that riding on a bike trail, and best of all bike touring (or even just exploring your county for a day) will get you in much better shape than riding on a stationary bike in a gym. If bike commuting puts some fun and adventure into your day, going to work will be far less stressful.

In this blog, I'm always talking about getting around on your own power. But this goes a little bit deeper. By tapping into your emotional power, you can improve every aspect of your life.

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here, but many of the people who've answered my survey have asked about advice on buying bikes and equipment.

Anything I could tell you has already been said, so here are a few non-commercial, unbiased sites that will help you get started. I've added these to the blogroll, below, but I made a post out of this so you would see it.

Good luck! The only advice I'm going to give you about selecting a bike is just do it. Don't waste your life analyzing everything down to perfection when you could be out there riding. A bike that's 75% perfect will be fine for most riders, msot of the time. Go for it!

A few weeks ago I started learning Enbukan battojutsu, a school of Japanese sword fighting. After biking to Griffith park to practice, and pondering the connection between biking and martial arts (which I've mentioned before), I wanted to share this with you.

Italy biker Lorenzo Viaggi writes:

"The cyclist should practice his skills and regard them with the same discipline and reverence as the Japanese of old mastered their fighting arts. When you conquer a hill or a great mountain pass, when you complete a long journey, your bicycle becomes a tool of honor, and instrument as sacred as a finely-crafted steel sword."

--Lorenzo Viaggi, La Via della Bici (Which could be translated as "The Way of the Bike")

I'm still at the stage where I can barely draw a wooden sword out of the sheath without hurting my wrist. If I had a real sword I'd be all stitched up by now, probably with a few missing fingers. I tell you this only to point out that my Italian translation skills are somewhat better than my swordsmanship, but any mistakes in Lorenzo's quote are mine.


Almost everyone knows the benefits of bike riding. But I've been thinking about the similarities between biking and various martial arts.

Both are essentially practical survival skills that benefit your health and physical fitness as a "side effect," (Although for many people this side effect is the main reason to take up the art.)

If you get into it at all, it can become a lifestyle with social, mental, philosophical and spiritual dimensions. The experts incorporate daily rituals that include stretching and breathing, possibly visualization, and eventually dedication to the care and maintenance of your equipment. (For the bike Samurai, your bike is your sword).

Could this evolve into the richness of a martial art? Are there certain qualifications to be considered a master? What do you have to do to become a bike blackbelt? Who are the different, rival schools? (Think Karate vs. Kung Fu, Mountain Bikers vs. Roadies or Commuters vs. Messengers.)

At what point does a "sport" become an art, or a way of life? Are we there yet?


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You have to eat. When you're at the end of a hard bike ride (or sometime in the middle of a long one), you'll recover faster if you give your muscles some protein and glycogen to work with. A boost of antioxidants can't hurt, either.

A lot of nutrition companies have gotten rich selling sweet and milky "recovery drinks" that are designed to give you exactly these things. The trouble is they all taste like malted baby formula. Luckily, you've got alternatives.

The real quick fix is a bowl of cereal with skim milk. This gives you the right balance of amino acids and carbs, and the cereal is probably vitamin fortified.

Better still (and my personal favorite when I'm really at the end), eat a big fat burrito with a pint of beer. Just as long as it's good beer. None of that watery Coors shit.

Buon appetito!


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The LA Bike Coalition jokes that the moisture is good for your skin. Maybe. The spray of road muck is bad for your clothes. But either way, if you get around on your bike as serious transportation, you'll feel like a hero when you ride in the rain.

All of the obvious tips are valid. Be careful, be visible, get a lid for your coffee. But everyone has a few specific things they do to get where they're going safe and mostly dry. What about you?

I pretend I'm in a Disney parade, and wear lots of bright shiny stuff with reflectors and blinking lights. Going along with the parade theme, I usually stop traffic, or at least slow it down. If they're honking and yelling at me, I know they can see me.

I got my trusty Cat's Eye OptiCube and whatever the blinking red equivalent is, and a change of dry clothes rolled up in a plastic bag inside my waterproof panniers. I got to this morning's appointment looking like a disgruntled CalTrans worker, but after a quick change in the restroom I morphed into a confident professional.

The entire effort added about 8 minutes to my travel time.

What do you do to make the most of a rainy bike ride?

It's easy to go for a bike ride when you're bright-eyed and frisky, the weather's perfect and it's the beginning of a long weekend with no urgent chores or immediate plans.

For the rest of the time, try this.

Just ride for ten minutes. Anywhere. This will get you warmed up, and it makes it easy to get in the habit of riding your bicycle a few times a week. No matter how tired you are, or how cold it is, even if it's raining, you can handle ten minutes.

And the benefits of bike exercise, even for just ten minutes, are incredible. Research shows that a 10-minute bike ride can lift your mood. It's long enough to flood your system with endorphins that relieve pain and can give you a natural high that has been documented.


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If you happen to be really busy, you can still take a 10-minute bike break. Come on. I guarantee the rest of your day or evening will be a lot happier and more productive.

Over time this ten-minute ride can really tone you up. If you're biking to lose weight or lower your blood pressure, these baby steps will help you right away, and they'll psyche you up for longer rides. Pretty soon you'll be ready to ride you bike to work, do a long distance bike tour, or even tour southern Italy on a bike.

If you have time to read this, you've got time to go on a 10-minute bike ride. Seriously. Go for it.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and any health claims about the benefits of biking, bicycle fitness, or the amount of calories burned while biking have not been evaluated by a competent medical authority. You should consult with a physician before going on bike rides. Also be sure to obey all local traffic laws, unless you're really feeling ballsy, you're riding a fixed gear, or you work as a bike messenger. Don't drink and bike. Always wear a SNELL-approved helmet. You're probably going to die anyway, so don't sue me. I warned you.