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I want to help you experience the magic. Especially if you’re the kind of person who dreams about a journey like this, but you’re frightened to try.

overcome_obstaclesIt won’t be easy. It may take longer than you thought.

If you can do the one thing that you think isn’t possible, if you can cross that mountain range, it will change you forever. You will be able to do anything, and you will know it.

Some of the obstacles you think are holding you back will melt away as soon as you push back against them. Many of the things you fear and worry about will never materialize.

I'm going to help you overcome those obstacles. Let me explain.

If you’re a seasoned, confident bike tourist then I would love to have you along next spring. But if you think there’s some insurmountable obstacle that would make the journey impossible, no matter how badly you want to go, then this post is for you.

This post is for you if you’re interested in biking via Appia but you aren’t doing it because you think:

  • You can’t afford it
  • You’re too young
  • You're too old
  • You’re not in shape
  • You’re afraid of being in the wilderness in a foreign country
  • There is some other reason holding you back

You can do it. And I’m going to help you. Here’s why:

10 years ago, at the Leo Carrillo State Beach hike and bike campground, I met a man who took a group of developmentally disabled teenagers on a bike tour. They rode north from LA to San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, fighting the wind all the way.

Below Golden Gate Bridge

I met them on their way back home. The kids were confident and street-smart. I got the feeling they could go anywhere they wanted. And they knew it.

“The ride up was brutal,” the guy told me. “The only thing that kept these kids going was the idea of riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. You should have seen their faces when they finally did it.”

Ever since then, I’ve hoped to meet another person like that. Maybe it’s time to become someone like that, at least in my own small way.

So here’s the deal.

I’m going to do another bike tour of via Appia in May, 2017. I'm looking for people who have a burning desire to come along, but something is stopping you.

I will help you.

I can’t buy your plane ticket for you, but I can show you a number of ways to raise the money you’ll need.

I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, but I can direct you to resources for strengthening your mind and body. In fact, if you think you’re not in shape for a trip like this, that makes two of us! We’ll hold each other accountable as we get in shape (and to tell you the truth, this tour isn’t superhard as far as bike tours go).

If you have a specific physical challenge that you think is going to stop you, I’ll look for someone who can build a bike that’s adapted to your needs.

I will personally coach you on getting into shape, making money, even learning Italian if that will make you more confident. We’re gonna make this happen!

Maybe you’re not especially interested in a bike tour of Italy. There’s still something in this for you.

Over the next several months, you’re going to hear stories of people overcoming their fears, their doubts, and their limits. Hopefully these stories will inspire you to do that one thing that you dream of, the one thing you think is impossible.

If you are interested in biking via Appia with me next spring, here are just a few of the things you’ll get to do as a result of this journey:

  • Tap into hidden physical and mental powers you didn’t know you had
  • Build lasting friendships with extraordinary people
  • Bring back stories and experiences that will change the way you look at the world
  • Grow stronger and healthier than you dreamed possible
  • Give yourself the classical education you always wanted

This journey will change you forever. I challenge you to join me. I dare you.

In fact, I beg you.

You see, by coming along on this trip, you’ll give me a chance to face down one of my own big fears.

Gravina in Puglia bridgeI’ve biked the entire Appian way from Rome to Brindisi already. I know enough about Italy and Italian to fix most problems that I can’t avoid in the first place. I’ve done bike tours that are longer than this.

But now I want to help you experience the magic. Especially if you’re the kind of person who dreams about a journey like this, but you’re frightened to try.

If I commit to helping you do it, then I have to face my own fear of failure, that maybe I won’t succeed in getting you to Italy and across the finish line.

But I accept the challenge. I will teach you to overcome any obstacle, and you’ll ride triumphantly into Brindisi like an ancient Roman noble.

Let me be clear about this offer, and especially what I am not offering to do.

This is not a free ride. I can’t pay for your airplane ticket or your AirBnB. (I would like to buy you a coffee, or maybe something stronger, while we’re in Italy.)

I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, or psychologist.

But what I do bring to the table is experience, creativity, a lot of good ideas and the will to help you carry them out.

Are you in? Fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch.

If you're over 40 or will be someday, you need to fight back against the slow erosion of time. There are guys 20 years older than me who can beat me without breaking a sweat. But now I know their secrets.

My last bike tour crippled me.

I was fighting a strong headwind for most of the first day, and when the weather improved I didn’t. My left knee was swollen and sounded like a blender full of ice cubes. I turned back less than halfway through the tour, and I took a bus the last ten miles back home because it hurt too much to ride.

I’m better now, but this trip was my first sign of middle age. Although it’s not just about the years (or even the mileage).

I know a lot of people 20 years older than I am, who could ride circles around me all day and wake up ready to do it again tomorrow. I want to be like them, and now I've learned their secrets.

I’m writing this because you might be in the same situation. If not today, then someday…

For my birthbike tour california mountainday, my wife bought me Roy Wallack’s book, Bike For Life: How to ride to 100--and beyond. If I had read this book a year ago, I wouldn’t have been defeated on my tour. The chapter on knee pain taught me how to fix my problem in less than a month.

I’m not going to give away all of Roy’s secrets. There are some tools, techniques and exercises in this book that haven’t been discussed anywhere else that I’m aware of. But there are some very useful concepts I think you should know about.

The biggest take-away was the importance of maintaining your fast-twitch muscles as you get older. These muscles are the first to go, and that’s a big part of the reason old people lose their balance, coordination, and reflexes.

(For a quick primer on fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles, check out this BBC article.)

You build fast-twitch muscle fibers by lifting very heavy weights. There’s a science to this, and a specific way to do it,* which he explains in detail in the book. I had never done this kind of exercise before. It’s been a game-changer for me after just a few weeks.

Roy Wallack also reminds you that you have a life off the bike as well as on it. Bike for Life teaches you a handful of critical exercises that reverse the damage caused by cycling. (Yes, riding a bike can be bad for you, just like too much of anything) Your posture and your back muscles need extra attention.

The flip side is that everyday life tears down your body in ways that make you weaker and slower on the bike. Bike for Life has 10 longevity stretches and another set of exercises that make you stronger and faster.

This book is packed with a ton of other great tips that I can’t get into here: Yoga routines that help your biking, detailed workout plans designed to put you at your peak for a ride or race on a specific date months in the future, tips on attacking hills and a lot more.

Roy also implies that you shouldn’t take his advice as absolute truth. Throughout the book he interviews “mature” cyclists who sometimes win races by doing the exact opposite of what he suggests. He’s also candid about his own embarrassing mistakes.

Early on, the book recommends that nobody over 40 should ever go on a bike tour. I’ve already broken that rule many times, and I intend to do so for decades to come.

Thanks to this book, I’ll be able to.

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease. The activities described are potentially dangerous. Consult a physician before engaging in any kind of exercise regimen.

On a bike trip in Colorado, I got my butt handed to me on a Frisbee by guys who were 15 years older than me.

I blamed it on the altitude. And it's true that after a few days I could almost keep up with them. At least close enough that they mostly stopped making fun of me.

This was my introduction to middle age. I thought I was in great shape, but really I've been turning into a bike potato.

For years I scorned people who deliberately trained. "Just get on your bike and ride," I thought.

I also avoided any talk about racing. I'm all about bike touring, not racing.

Now I've done a bit of reading, and I learned the shocking truth: Bike touring can be an emasculating, power-sapping habit.  It can turn your strong, youthful body into a flaccid meat suit.

A physical therapist told me I should never do another bike tour again after the age of 40. I will not be following his advice.

If you're a stubborn fanatic like me, and you insist on bike touring, here are the dangers and how to reverse them.

Danger #1: Repetitive Stress Syndrome

If you take a short bike ride that lasts a few hours, you're going to gain a lot of physical benefits. Bike touring is different.

On a bike tour, you're in the saddle for hours on end. Probably six hours or more. Maybe 10 or 12 if you're a fanatic. I've done this on bike tours of Italy.

During that time, your back and shoulder muscles are straining to hold up your head. Your arms are locked on to the handlebars. Your knees are grinding along, over and over, with continuous pressure on the exact same spot.

In a more natural activity, you would be moving around a lot, using different muscles in different ways, shifting your weight around onto different joints, and generally stimulating and using most of your body.

On a bike tour, you're concentrating all the effort and all the strain. Many muscles are cramped far inside their normal range of motion. Other muscles aren't used at all.

Danger #2: Depletion of Your Reserves

bike tour california mountainYou have a limited amount of glycogen stored in your muscles and your liver. On an extended bike tour, you may not have time for your muscles to recover. Your glycogen may be used up without sufficient time to replace it.

When this happens, you might start burning protein instead. Keep this up for too long, and you can end up with a loss of muscle mass.

You may have noticed the skinny leg syndrome that some people have on a bike tour. Over time, you'll lose power and stamina because of the loss of muscle.

Danger #3: Inertia

If you're on a bike tour, you're probably trying to cover a lot of ground each day, and you'll likely have an interest in conserving your energy.

You're probably also thinking of the bike tour as a vacation, which means you'll be more relaxed.

These two factors have a tendency to make you ride more slowly. The problem is, you're essentially training yourself to ride slowly. A slow rider tends to get slower.

The Solutions

One of the most useful and practical bits of advice I've found is from Roy M. Wallack in his book, Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100--and Beyond. (see below) He suggests taking shorter tours.

This is great advice for many reasons. First, it minimizes the damage of the three dangers. If you're only touring for 3 days, a lot of the problems with bike touring simply won't have time to develop. It's also useful against the mental and psychological damage that bike touring can inflict.

Short tours are also more practical. You can fit them into a busy life. Do a weekend bike tour, and you won't have to miss work.

Better yet, you can turn a long tour into several short ones. For example, when I bike the via Appia next time, my plan is to ride for a day or two, then stop in one place and take a few days to really explore, talk to the locals, and have a learning/cultural experience while my body recovers.

One of my dreams is to tour around the entire Mediterranean sea. Realistically, my wallet and the geopolitical situation won't allow it. But maybe I'll reach my goal over several years, one country at a time. Turns out this will be good for my health, too.

Another way to defend yourself from the ravages of bike touring is to tour the way you train. Alternate long tours with short tours. Have days when you ride as fact as you can, or at least include sprints into part of your journey. Make a conscious decision whether to attack a hill all-out or to merely endure it.

Finally, add some cross training into the tour. Stop for a day and go hiking. If you're strapped for time, just do a bunch of push-ups in the morning, or take a 20-minute yoga break when you find a good spot along the route.

A bit of thoughtfulness will let you reap all the benefits of bike touring while avoiding the dangers. You may even finish the tour feeling fresh and invigorated.

Mentioned in this post:

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You can upgrade yourself and your situation by simply deciding on a new "normal." There are probably things you're not happy about, but you've been silently accepting them for a long time. They've become normal. What happens if you chose a new "normal?" Right away, you start thinking about how to make improvements. Things you took for granted are no longer acceptable. All kinds of clever ideas pop into your mind. And you feel a surge of energy to start implementing some of those ideas.

If you've done much bike touring, you're probably able to travel great distances on your own power. Very few people would consider this normal. You've changed the rules, and you're in good company. This is the secret to many great accomplishments.

Gravina in Puglia bridgeWhen Appius Claudius built the Appian Way, he had to take power by redefining normal. He broke so many rules that Roman historians complained about him, and his co-consul resigned in frustration.

But we still know his name today. And he set the stage for game-changers like Julius Caesar.

In fact, all of the extravagant debauchery of the later Roman emperors was made possible because each emperor went beyond what was considered "normal."

How to Change Your Life in 5 Seconds

You can upgrade yourself and your situation by simply deciding on a new "normal." Your brain is an incredibly powerful problem-solving machine.

There are probably things you're not happy about, but you've been silently accepting them for a long time. They've become normal. What happens if you choose a new "normal?"

Right away, you start thinking about how to make improvements. Things you took for granted are no longer acceptable. All kinds of clever ideas pop into your mind. And you feel a surge of energy to start implementing some of those ideas.

Here are three steps to help you get started:

Step 1: Define your new Normal

About a year ago, I asked myself, "Is it normal to sleep less than 6 hours a night and try to keep functioning by constant caffeine infusions?"

I had been reading about the bad effects that sleep deprivation can have on your brain, your memory, reflexes, the immune system, muscle growth, speed, and even hormone levels.

At the time, sleep deprivation was my Normal, and a good-night's sleep was the exception. I had to reverse this.

Step 2: Enforce the new Normal

For a month I made sure I slept for 7-8 hours every night. Some chores went unfinished. Some friends and family members may have felt neglected. But I was creating a new Normal.

When you enforce the new normal, you won't have to be a fanatic about it forever. Just get it established at the beginning.

Step 3: Don't stress the exceptions

Now I can go without sleep once in a while if I need to get things done. It's the exception, not the rule. The next day I'll feel tired and weak, irritable and confused, sometimes even nauseated. But then I remind myself that I used to feel that way all the time. It was normal. Now it's just weird.

Let's say you decide to bike a century twice a week, or study Spanish for 2 hours every evening. Once it becomes part of your routine, you don't have to worry if you miss out every once in a while. It will be easy to get back into the swing of things, because you've made it the 'normal' thing to do.

Challenge the Normal

What do you consider normal that you should re-examine?

Roman monument on via AppiaIs it "normal" to have a job that keeps you from spending time with people and activities you care about? Shouldn't it be normal to give yourself a full month every now and then to go on an extended long bike tour? Is it normal to have back pain, to eat junk food, to watch TV shows that don't really entertain you?

Are you hurting yourself by what you think is normal? Is your Normal holding you back? Who told you this was normal? Are you required to spend your life according to someone else's Normal?

I challenge you to redefine your Normal. It's a beautiful and terrifying power, and it's yours. You can do anything.
I'm almost finished with a book about bike touring on the Appian Way. If you would like to read the entire book, or even join me on a future bike tour of via Appia, subscribe below and I'll keep you up-to-date. Your email will not be published, and I will never share it with anyone.



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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.

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Every time you use your own power, you expand that power. And here you are. We are extraordinary human beings, and we don't do ourselves justice if we stay inside our comfort zones all the time. You can do something extraordinary today. Right now.

It was pouring rain in Los Angeles today, and I was skidding all over the place as I weaved my bike around drivers who aren't used to driving in the rain.

But in this case, the destination was more important than the journey. I was heading for Griffith Park with two goal in mind:

1. To stop procrastinating and begin doing hill sprints--as I had told myself I would do six months ago.

2. To practice taijutsu--another promise I made to myself.

Maybe there was a little bit of the macho thing going on, riding out in the rain to do strenuous exercise and crazy martial arts stuff in the mud. But even if it had been sunny, I would have done it.

We're not in this world to sit like rocks, and slowly erode in the weather. We're here to rise and grow and always seek greater heights.

As the drizzle streamed down my face, I launched myself at the top of the first hill, sprinting full on, trying to get up there as fast as humanly possible. Finding the limits, and pushing beyond them. Flinging past gravity, mud, exhaustion--any obstacle that dares to say, "This is all you are. You can go no further."

Riding a bike is the same battle, in slow motion. Every time you use your own power, you expand that power. And here you are. We are extraordinary human beings, and we don't do ourselves justice if we stay inside our comfort zones all the time. You can do something extraordinary today. Right now.

That's why I ride.

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.

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Even just a 10 minute bike ride a few days a week will have you looking and feeling better by the end of the month. But if you're a beginner, you might feel daunted.

Fear not! I can show you a safe bike ride in your home town. I've been networking with bikers all over the United States, as part of a research project into safe and scenic bike rides. If one of them is near you, we can find you a ride. Just leave a comment if you're interested in trying this out, and I'll get back to you soon.

Better yet,  sign up for free biking tips--just leave your name and email below:

I read all those recommended training routines in Bicycle Magazine, but even when I have the time to try and follow them (which is rare and inconsistent) I'm usually not up to snuff.

But I've found a way to really benefit from the saddle time I have.

Nearly all of my bike riding time is commuting in the city. I get a short stretch of biking in between traffic lights and stop signs. Normally I would take the whole route at an easy pace, the kind meant for bike touring, and get restless and frustrated whenever the usual urban obstacles forced me to stop.

Now I look at my daily bike route as a series of sprints through an obstacle course. Now when I hit a red light I'm breathing hard, my thighs are burning, and I'm grateful for the 45 seconds of rest. The results:

  • More fun on the way to work, and less frustration
  • I might end up in better shape after a few months of this
  • I'm learning how to handle sharp turns, potholes, and bumps at faster speeds
  • I get to workearlier

This connects with a very popular philosophy of bike touring. Use what you've got. On a tour this means fixing a bike with duct tape, broken pens, or anything you can find because the only other alternatives are walking or hitchhiking.

In an urban bike commute, you practice this philosophy through better training. The "duct tape" is the time and circumstances you have available. Use what you've got.
Try this. Seek more challenges, fun, and rewards without changing where, when, or how long you ride. The secret is to change how you ride the bike.

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Want to get in shape fast? I'll kick your butt until your legs turn into sleek pistons of steel! Get a training plan from a professional coach!  Click Here!

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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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Want to get in shape fast? I'll kick your butt until your legs turn into sleek pistons of steel! Get a training plan from a professional coach! Click Here!

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