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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.

The energy in a slice of pizza is enough to move an automobile 100 feet. That same pizza slice will take you 3 1/2 miles if you're walking, or 10 miles if you're riding a bike. Special thanks to Transportation Alternatives.

Also, according to the late Ken Kifer of www.KenKifer.com, the total cost to you and to society of traveling one mile by car or by bike comes out to 93.8 cents for a driver, but only 12.8 cents for biking.

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I made a small discovery this week. And it ties in with my plans to bike the Appian Way in southern Italy. I'll tell you more about it in a minute, but first you need some background.Italy bike tour wine shop Matera

With all the air pollution, even in rural Italy, you need your antioxidants. An Italian study compared the antioxidant effects of eating fish, garlic, vegetables, red wine, and dark chocolate.

The good news: the wine and chocolate tied for first place.

Other things being equal, the researchers made the conclusion that if you drink a glass of red wine with dinner you might be lowering your cholesterol even more than the guy eating five helpings of broccoli.

By the way, when I told an Italian about the health benefits of drinking a glass a day of red wine, he disagreed. He said a glass a day of red wine was definitely bad for you because "you need to have two or three glasses."

Secrets of the Aglianico in southern Italy

The real adventure began when I reached Benevento on my first bike tour in southern Italy. This was roughly the halfway point of the via Appia. It was also the first place off the map--from this point on I didn't really know where I was going except in a very general way. It was the beginning of serendipity, lots of unexpected adventures, wrong turns and bad weather, as well as friends in the most unlikely places.

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Benevento is also the origin of a little-known wine called Beneventano, made from the aglianico grape.

This strong-flavored beverage (the experts would call it "full-bodied," I think) might be neutralizing ozone in my lungs on every bike ride. What I know for sure is that it has a lot of sentimental value because it reminds me of that first bike tour.

So imagine my excitement, back here in Los Angeles, when I found 3 bottles of Beneventano at a local store.

I served some to a friend who is an expert on food and wine. He said it was good quality, of complex flavor, and added a lot of other jargon about the "nose" and the "finish" with words like "legs" and "bouquet" thrown in for good measure.

"Where did you get this?" he asked me. I was too embarrassed to tell him, but I'll tell you.

It came from Trader Joe's. They still carry it every now and then, but the quality seems to vary. The last few batches were only slightly better than the citrus degreaser I use on my chain. But the bottle I opened last week was decent.

Southern Italy's "most impressive grape"

This week I looked up the lore of the aglianico grape in The Wine Bible. There's not much to say about it, but it was introduced by the Greeks and is among "the south's most impressive grape varieties." The Italians grow it in the volcanic soil left over from the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, and its flavor carries the long and complex history of the Mediterranean.

The reason I'm bringing all of this up is that if you join me on the bike tour of southern Italy, you'll get to taste some great wines that are unknown outside the regions of Campania, Basilicata, and Puglia.

Southern Italy lacks the well-known and large-scale wine industry of the north. Most wine is produced and sold to the locals, and people outside the region rarely get to try it.

This is another good reason for a bike tour. You can find out more about it here.

By the way, I don't know the source for the food/wine antioxidant study. I saw it on a cooking program on TV at the airport while I was waiting for a flight to Italy in 2005. Bike every day, be safe, and eat your chocolate and your vegetables.

WARNING: This information is not to be construed as nutritional advice. Whatever beneficial compounds may go with it, alcohol is still a poison. Drink responsibly. Don't drink and bike, because you will probably suffer serious injury or death, and you will most certainly look like an idiot. Save that bottle for the hot tub or the campfire, where you can share it with your friends.