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Getting ready for a long Saturday bike ride. And it gets me wondering why I do this. There are actually a lot of important, pressing things I could take care of tomorrow. Instead I'm leaving checks uncashed, bills unpaid, dishes unwashed and groceries unbought so I can zip around the outskirts of LA without any important destination in mind.

But I already know what's going to happen. I'll find a new street that I've never been down before. Maybe find a new park or garden, or a great hill to test my will or my courage, depending on whether I start at the bottom or the top.

I'll get food and coffee at places I've never been before, and strike up a good conversation with the owner or the patrons.

BikeLA pix 005I always like to check out old historical routes and sites, so I'll eventually get to the San Gabriel Mission, but that's a tiny piece of the whole experience. I could drive there in half an hour or less, but that would leave the hills untested, food and coffee untasted, back streets undiscovered, conversations unstarted.

I guess that's why I do this, why my irrational wanderlust always wins out over the guilt about chores I've neglected. the bike is my only proof that there's still some adventure and excitement in the world. It's the biggest thing that lets me keep a sense of wonder about things.

Why do you ride?

You've no doubt heard the frightening news these past two weeks about the outbreak of swine flu.

Luckily the danger seems to be subsiding, even while the World Health Organization is still debating whether or not we have a pandemic on our hands.

Still, there are a few things you should know about riding a bike and the way it affects your resistance to disease.

First the good news. Obviously, if you spend time on a crowded bus or subway, crammed up close to people who are coughing and sneezing, touching the rail that hundreds of other people have touched...well, you get the picture.

If you commute on a bike instead, you've got your own personal space, and you won't have a lot of sick people breathing their germs in your face. It that's not a good enough reason to ride your bike to work, then here's some more.

There's mounting evidence that regular, moderate exercise boosts your immune system. While you're biking to work, or anywhere else, you're setting off a lot of changes inside your body that make it harder for germs to get a foothold.

I'll spare you all the technical stuff, but if you want to know more, here's the link to an article about the health benefits of bike exercise.

But that doesn't mean you should go out and do a double century every day. The other thing the research has shown is that overtraining can actually have the opposite effect, and weaken your immune system.

In other words, take it easy, but don't be idle.

The broad use of antibiotics, overcrowding as more people move to cities around the globe, the transportation of food and animals from continent to continent, and general environmental degradation are having an impact. We're breeding superbugs that are more infectious and harder to fight.

Riding a bike is one way to help restore some sanity and balance to the world. It's a big first step in creating a sustainable future for humanity.

At the very least, it will keep you much better equipped to deal with the hazards of an uncertain future.

Ride on, and keep your spirits up!