Did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup. But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.
“This will light you up like a Christmas tree,” was how Tim Ferriss described a brand of mushroom coffee.
I couldn’t resist. I went online and bought some for myself.
A week later, my package arrived. It was a great coincidence, because I was about to meet a potential client to talk about some business writing. I made a cup and the strange potion, and went to the meeting.
To make a long story short, the client wanted to see what I could write in 10 minutes. I came up with a draft for one of his web pages that made him laugh out loud. He wrote me a check on the spot.
So, did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup.
But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.
Introducing Lion's Mane
For the past year or so, there’s been a lot of buzz about this mushroom, Hericium erinaceus. It’s popularly known as Lion’s Mane, and it has been used for centuries as food and medicine.
For years, Lion’s Mane was quietly touted as a “smart drug.” Then in 2009, Lion’s Mane was tested on humans. A Japanese study found that H. erinaceus helped people with mild cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Unfortunately, a cup of mushroom coffee isn’t enough. The test subjects took almost a gram of dried Lion’s Mane every day for sixteen weeks. It was four weeks before any significant benefits were recorded.
I believe in doing things over the long term, and for the past month I’ve been taking Lion’s Mane supplements. I’m not smart enough to tell if this is making me any smarter, but the more I read, the more benefits I find out about.
One of these benefits is an increase in glycogen levels.
Glycogen is quick fuel for your muscles. It’s stored directly in your muscles, and the more you’ve got, the more endurance you have. A study in 2015 showed that H. erinaceum can increase the storage of glycogen in muscle tissues. At least if you're a mouse.
That’s good enough for me. I’m setting up a space in my house to grow my own Lion’s Mane. Apparently it’s delicious when fried in butter with a little bit of salt and pepper. I’ll keep you posted.
DISCLAIMER: Hopefully you know that I am NOT a doctor, and this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness. Consult a licensed professional before you consume anything meant to be medicinal.
By the way, if you want to try Lion's Mane for yourself, I recommend two things:
Make sure you get the "fruiting body" of the mushroom. That's the part of the mushroom with all the recorded benefits. Cheaper brands might include other parts that taste nasty and have no confirmed benefits.
Some of the beneficial compounds can be dissolved in water, others need alcohol to break them down. That's why I like the "dual extraction" process used by Four Sigma. They do both. Better still would be to get the actual mushroom, as I'm planning to do.
If you enjoyed this article, you'd be crazier than a young Caligula not to sign up for the newsletter. When you do, I'll send you a free copy of my travel notes from the latest bike tour along via Appia.
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.
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.
I’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.
You know the risk. Get out there on a bike, and you could be hit by a car. You could catch a wheel in a storm sewer, crack your head against the concrete, and suffer permanent brain damage or death.
Add the risks of poisonous snake bites, death by heat exhaustion, heart attacks, being shot, and a zillion other dangers. Why would you ever go out on a bike ride? What are you thinking?
You’re thinking in a probabilistic way. All of those things could happen, but the probability of any of them happening is so tiny that you can probably ignore it.
You could bike every day for the rest of your life and probably never have to encounter any of the dangers we just mentioned.
Probabilistic thinking is one of the things that puts you on your bike in the first place, and it can serve you well in many other aspects of your life.
There are many people out there who might like to bike more, but they live in terror of the risks. They’re making an assumption. There are two possible outcomes: A) You could have a wonderful time, or B)You could die.
For the person who is afraid of a bike ride, both A and B are equally probable. They’re suffering from a big misunderstanding.
If there were equal odds of enjoying a good ride or dying a horrible death, you’d probably think twice before going on a bike ride. But the odds are not equal. Probabilistic thinking enables you to enjoy your bike ride, knowing that the chances of a fatality are somewhere in the ballpark of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery.
Now let’s apply this probabilistic thinking to some other part of your life.
There’s something you want to do, but you’re afraid to do it. But what are you really afraid of? What are the odds of that terrible thing actually happening?
I’ll give you a few examples. I used to be afraid of singing in front of people. I thought I would sound terrible and people would boo me off the stage.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but let’s assume it would be the end of the world. It’s still worth singing, because the odds of having an audience that rude and boorish is minuscule. If you ever sing in public, most of the audience will be fans, friends, and family who love you.
What are you afraid of? Talking to that good-looking person, or finally asking them out?
Okay, here the odds of success might be against you (but then again, you may be surprised). But the odds of a really terrible outcome are still small enough to ignore. Worst-case scenario, this person might politely turn you down.
Unless you have really bad judgement, your immediate future probably won’t include a drink in your face, a restraining order, or even a terribly awkward moment.
Now let’s look at even bigger things.
Have you ever thought about creating something big for the world, something that might change your life and other lives as well? Maybe you’ve got a book you want to write, an idea for a new game or an entire business. Maybe you’re thinking about a long and dangerous journey.
Here’s where you apply your probabilistic thinking skills.
Whatever you want to do, you can probably think of several bad outcomes. But how bad are these outcomes, and what are the chances that they’ll really happen?
Most of the dangers you list will fall into one of these two categories. First, they’re not so bad. You can live with them, and you’ll be able to dust yourself off and carry on. Or second, they are pretty grave and serious, but the probability that they’ll ever happen is low.
Once you understand probability, you can take on challenges that may have seemed much harder before. Buy a house. Go after a better job, or start your own business. Travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Find the love of your life, or at least test-drive a few candidates.
Since you’ve involved yourself in biking, and maybe bike touring, you already have mad skills when it comes to probabilistic thinking.
Use what you’ve got, and soon you’ll start getting all the other things that you want out of life.
In trying to publish a book about the via Appia bike tour, I'm following James Altucher's Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing.* He has a checklist of 20 items meant to get you through the whole process, from the idea to the finished product.
I'm hung up on step 2.
The first item on the checklist is, "Write every day." Over the past six months, I've been close. Now I have a calendar in front of my computer where I get to put a yellow slash each day I write, and the number of days in a row.
It's heartbreaking to get to 30 or 40 days, then skip a day and have to start over again at zero. This keeps me motivated. This might be a good training tip, come to think of it. If you're getting ready for a bike tour, and you want to exercise every day, you could use this same process to stay on track.
But that second item on the list is a killer, at least for me: "Decide what the book is about."
There's an easy answer, or at least an obvious one. It's about a bike tour of the ancient Roman road, the Appian Way. But I want the book to be about more than just this.
The book is about pursuing your dreams. Pyrrhus shows up a lot in my story, because he had a dream of becoming rich and powerful by conquering sections of Italy. He was essentially stopped by Appius Claudius, the builder of the via Appia who famously said, "Every man is the architect of his own fortune."
Appius Claudius had a dream of building aqueducts and roads that would make his name immortal. He achieved all this relatively early in his career.
Claudius and Pyrrhus were notorious for their ability to "just do it." When they had a dream, they would go for it.
I'm not a Pyrrhus or a Claudius. I first stumbled onto via Appia while trying to walk off a hangover after a night of partying in Rome. That very day I fell in love with the road and the idea of taking a bike tour along her entire length.
It was seven years before I did anything about it.
But it turns out it truly is better late than never. I did follow my dream, however belatedly, and I made that first bike tour seven years after I first got the idea.
Now the new dream is to write a book. Or rather, to publish it. I've been writing for years. A lot of the manuscript came directly out of a journal that I kept during the bike tour, a bunch of papers held together (ironically) with rubber strips taken from old inner tubes.
I think I've got a decent manuscript for the book now, but what is the book really about? I want it to be meaningful for someone who never plans to do a bike tour in Italy.
It's about following through on your dreams, no matter how late and slow you are, and no matter how foolish the dream. That must be it. Be the architect of your own fortune, better late than never.
Step 3 in Altucher's Checklist is simply this: "Write it well." Fair enough. I think the first draft is decent, and I've generally gotten good reviews along with a lot of constructive criticism from people who've read the manuscript.
But can I really write it well if I'm not clear on what the book is about?
It feels like I'm at the beginning of a steep hill at the start of a long bike tour. I'm in the lowest gear standing in the saddle, just to get past steps 2 and 3 on the checklist.
There are 20 items I need to check off in total. Maybe in another seven years I'll be able to tick them off and be a self-published author.
Here's the good news. Becoming the architect of your own fortune is just like pushing yourself forward on a difficult ride. You'll get there.
I can almost guarantee you'll get there faster than I will.
This was a rant about my new book on biking down 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.
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.
When 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?
Is 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.
Carlos asked me how long it took me to ride my bike from Temple City to downtown Los Angeles, and he laughed when I told him I spent 2 hours on the ride.
I have tremendous respect and admiration for the kind of bike riding Carlos does. He has a carbon frame racing machine, with aero bars and wheels as thin as capellini. He could make the trip in a quarter of the time, maybe less.
But that's not my way, and it doesn't have to be your way either. Not always.
I've met a lot of would-be bicyclists who are put off by bright multi-colored lycra shorts and intimidated by speedy racers. If this is you, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with riding slow, wearing anything you want.
Your bike can be an amazing tool of discovery. It will take you places you'd probably never go by foot, and probably never notice by car. It makes you a part of the landscape, puts you in contact with the weather, scenery, maybe even the people. Slow down, and you might get a gift from the universe.
I can ride pretty fast when I need to, but it's usually not my choice. Early in the morning, seeing the moon reflected in the water of the Rio Honda, it seems a waste of the morning if I go too fast. I get up extra early just so I won't have to race.
Slow down, and you might get a gift from the universe. A lot of people are doing it.
"It's a party on wheels," someone once told me on Midnite Ridazz. Nobody left behind, half the bikers riding one-handed with drinks in the other. Once I pulled out of the group to use the restroom, and when I came back out the bicycle parade was still sauntering past me, flickering lights ablaze, no hurry.
One of my dreams is to join the Wolfpack ride. I don't know at this point if I could keep up. Maybe some day I'll try out a triathlon, just to say that I did it. But when it comes to the pure enjoyment that makes riding a bike worthwhile for me, I'm more in favor of the people who strap a radio on their rear rack, and saunter along at their own pace.
This got me thinking about lifestyle, adventure, freedom, bike touring, and how it all ties together.
Today is Easter, which I don't celebrate, but it's a holiday about rebirth and renewal. I spent most of the day staring at a computer screen, working on a new business scheme and preparing for a challenging job I've come to both love and hate.
It's good to know there are still people out there who are willing to let the job coast for a while, get out the bike and ride to some far-flung destination. That this action is always rewarding is a given--what people forget is that it sometimes takes a tremendous amount of courage to stop doing all the things we're told we have to do.
Over the past year or so, I've been posting a lot less, also riding my bike a lot less, and I really should know better. (You should, too, in fact! If you're reading this, why aren't you out doing something adventurous instead?)
I'm feeling wistful for southern Italy. I want to cycle over steep green hills, my fingers stained with the oil of black olives, and quench my thirst with spring water gushing from stone fountains.
After today I know I will.
We all make New Year's resolutions, but I'm going to make an Easter resolution. More bike rides, more touring, more time listening to the heart instead of the brain.
One last thumbs up for whoever is reading this. If you have a blog of your own, remember that you never know who's going to be inspired by your creativity and courage. I got a badly needed pep talk from a farsighted teacher who decided one day to take her family on a bike tour. Good stuff!
If you live anywhere in or near Los Angeles, I hope you made it to the Tour de Fat yesterday. Not just because we raised $13,000 for local bike groups, not even for the music. Not even for the beer.
I don't usually post these things. I'm going to get woo-woo and ethereal about bikes here, so be forewarned.
When I moved to L.A. I wasn't expecting to find such a vibrant bike culture. If we had a few thousand bikers who were trying to make it work as a viable form of transportation in a hostile car-dominated environment, that would have been enough. But Los Angeles bikers have gone far beyond this.
Never in any time or place have I seen so much creative energy, such a perfect synthesis of organized cooperation and individual expression. L.A. bikers are evolved beings, at the pinnacle of human greatness.
At the Tour de Fat you kept hearing people say, "take care of your vehicle." And the vehicle is you. This is cosmic, no matter what you believe in.
If you believe in evolution, you're here because a million different lives were lived and destroyed, each one building upon the others. A billion experiments of trial and error, a million things that could have gone wrong but didn't, a thousand possible seeds and eggs that could have united, a hundred generations and the final pinnacle of all this, the only outcome that made it, was you.
If you believe instead in some sort of divine being that brought you into existence, the meaning is the same: You are a miracle. You're here because of extraordinary circumstances, and you're capable of accomplishing unimaginable things.
But most people live their lives in silent desperation, mediocrity, and never break out of their own self-imposed prisons. Not you. Not the bikers.
What I saw yesterday was a thousand people who chose to get around on their own power. A number of brave souls renounced their cars and dared themselves to use their bikes for transportation for a year.
Rarely do you see such a powerful group of energetic, creative, self-reliant souls all together. When you ride a bike, you're taking back your cosmic birthright and affirming your own personal power.
Our planet is in trouble in so many ways, but people are waking up, and in the coming years I think a lot of you are going to discover your own form of greatness.
This is why I'm still optimistic. This is why I choose to take care of my vehicle. This is why I ride.
This morning I got stuck behind a bus during my bike commute. It felt like I was sucking air right out of the exhaust pipe. But this usually doesn't happen, because I have tactics I use to keep my lungs safe most of the time. If you ride your bike in a polluted urban environment like Los Angeles, there's really a lot you can do to minimize the smog you breathe in.
First, if you have the option, you can cut your exposure to pollution by 10-30% just by riding in off-peak hours. The best time is early in the morning, before rush hour. Next best would be midday, or late at night.
If you're not commuting by bike, and you just like to ride for the fun of it, be a weekend warrior. Ride your bike on the days when there are fewer cars on the road.
If you commute to work, and have to ride your bike during rush hour, you can save your lungs by taking alternate routes.
Almost every busy street has other streets running parallel to it, and the traffic on these other streets can be a lot lower. If you can get just 50 feet away from the heaviest traffic, you can make a dramatic cut in the amount of pollution you breathe in.
In fact, a Danish study found that when you bike on streets with low traffic volume, you can reduce your exposure to pollution by 50% to 60% or even more.
And when you think about it, you'll have a safer, more quiet ride. Also more scenic. You're more likely to pass parks and gardens. You won't have to worry as much about being hit.
If you commute by bike, there might be stretches where you have to be on the busiest roads, but probably not for the entire route. Anything you can do to reduce the time you spend riding in traffic will pay off.
There will be more stop signs, and you might add an extra 10 minutes onto your journey. But you could also add years to your life.