Newsletter Shorts

NOTE: These stories and articles have been placed here for the free

use of cycling newsletters with three restrictions:

1) Use only these stories and articles, none from anywhere else on my


2) Reprint each article or story exactly, including everything between

the horizontal lines.  Don't make any changes to the content of the

article (you can change the spacing and paragraph breaks), and don't

leave out the acknowledgement.  If you think you see an error, ask me

to change it; don't make the change yourself.  Finding an error helps

me out anyway; however, it is OK to substitute British spellings, if

you wish to do so.  

3) Don't reprint this article on the web or anywhere else except in

a cycling newsletter.

I will be adding to this page as I think of more short items.


                      Bicycle Dreams

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2003 Ken Kifer

You know that you're truly in love with something if it fills

your dreams.

For years, I have tried to recall my dreams as soon as I awake.

Some people say they can never remember their dreams, and I can

understand why, as mine are getting harder and harder to recall.

They flee the memory and disappear even if carefully recaptured,

leaving behind just an impression or an incident or two. Even

when fully recalled, most dreams seem to involve unrelated

incidents strung together.  Often they deal with events that had

a strong emotional impact, thus I dream about jobs where tension

was great rather than jobs where I was happy.

Most dreams have nothing to do with transportation, of course,

but I have had a number of dreams recently in which I was

traveling, even if only briefly.  Most of them have me on a

bicycle.  In the first, I was traveling through the streets of

Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I went to school. That's all I

remember.  I know I was there because I recognized the

buildings after I woke up.  In the second dream I was on a

touring trip, and I stopped at some people's house. The rest of

the dream involved events happening in the house. Here's an odd

thing: while I am writing this, I cannot remember the third

dream at all, but the other day, I could remember the third

dream but not the first. At any rate, I know I was bicycling.

In the fourth dream, I am riding down a city street, an

imaginary place. As I ride by the shops, I can see what the

people are doing in the windows.  Then the street ends at a

railing above some steps going down into a basement, and I stop,

get off the bike, bend over it until my stomach is resting on

the seat, and then balance in that position, don't ask me why.

In the fifth dream, I am driving a car, but I don't know how to

drive it.  I pass a traffic island on the wrong side, putting me

on the wrong side of the road, and when I see some cars coming,

I hit the brakes so hard that the car spins around in reverse.

I explain that I am not use to driving cars because I ride a

bicycle all the time.  In the sixth dream, I am briefly riding a

bike, and then the rest is about a job where I worked. However,

my employeer gives me a bicycling jersey/flour sack, someone's

idea of how to recycle.  In the seventh dream, I am taking care

of my elderly parents, and I park the car for my dad, but I

overshoot the end of the parking lot and end up on the grass (or

I parked the car with the parking brake off and it rolled

forward -- dreams are often unclear about minor details, such as

if anyone was in the car when it rolled forward).

Last night, I had another bike dream.  In that dream, I had four

bicycles, my current two touring bikes and one mountain bike,

but also a recumbent bike.  Very recently, I dreamed I was

traveling south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and met a couple

traveling north on a tandem bicycle, so I gave them one of my

bike cards (has info about my website on it).  I dream about the

website too; in the most interesting dream, I was trying to

borrow money from the bank to open a new web section.


          Are You Car Dependent or Bike Dependent?

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2002 Ken Kifer

When I mentioned the topic of automobile dependency in a recent

discussion, one person denied that such a thing was possible

and threatened to call me "bike-dependent."  I guess he thought

that threat would terrorize me into quiescency! :) It's kinda

like accusing a rabbit of enjoying veggies! 

It would be unfair to claim that everyone who owns a car or

bicycle is dependent on it, so it might be easy to devise a

simple test.  With the following questions, the following

choices are C (car dependent), B (bike dependent), or N

(neither dependency). Just answer the following questions,

marking your answers on the computer screen (or perhaps on a

separate piece of paper), and you will know.

At night, do you ever dream about driving your car C___, or

riding your bike B___, or do you dream about neither N___?

2) In your house, do you have photos of cars, books or

magazines about cars, and car-related items scattered around

C____, or do you you have photos of bikes, books or

magazines about bikes, and bike-related items scattered

around B___, or do you have neither N____?

3) You need to get something from outside your house, and

time is not a problem.  Do you take the car, even though the

distance is very short C___, or do you take the bike, even

though the distance is long and the weather is bad B___, or

do you use distance and weather to decide N____?

4) Do you find yourself all the time purchasing supplies or

equipment for your car C___ or for your bike B___ that you

really don't need or do you avoid unnecessary expenses N___?

5) Do you own several cars C___, several bikes B____, or one

of each N___? (Note: If you don't own a car, why are you

bothering to take this test?)

6) Does the value of your car or cars exceed the value of

your home or does the monthly payment or payments exceed the

monthly rent on the place where you live C____? Or does the

value of your bike or bikes exceed the value of your car 

B____?  Or is neither true N____?

7) You're feeling antsy and need to get out and stir around a

little. Do you jump in the car C____, jump on the bike B____,

or go for a walk N____?

8) Do you drive the car at least six days a week C___, or

ride the bike at least six days a week ____, or neither N___?

9) Would you never take a vacation without the car C____ or

without the bike B____? Or you can leave both behind N____?

I could go on, but this ought to be sufficient.  If you have

a score of five or more for cars or bikes, you are car-

dependent or bike-dependent.  A really car-dependent person 

will gradually rearrange his or her life to make it impossible

not to drive a large number of miles every day; a bike-

dependent person will arrange the life around bicycling.

Are both problems equally serious?  No, they have different

consequences.  A bike-dependent person is more likely to have

a smaller salary and to be less social (can't carry people on

a bike or attend meetings across town at the drop of a hat,

and doesn't relate to sedentary activities anyway).  A car-

dependent person is more likely to have health problems due

to being sedentary and to being exposed to more pollution.

The car-dependent person will also have greater expenses and

will create more problems for others and for the environment.


        Cyclist Fatality in Cambridge, Massachusetts

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2002 Ken Kifer

On July 3, 2002, a 36-year old cyclist was killed while cycling

on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. Cyclists get killed every

month; last month a motor vehicle plowed into a group of 20

cyclists in Louisiana, killing two and injuring several more.

However, in this case, the fault for the accident is not a

reckless motorist or careless cyclist; instead, the fault lies

with the bike lane she was traveling in.

City planners nowadays often have the notion that if they can

squeeze traffic AND add bike lanes that traffic will slow down

and more people will travel by bicycle. Unfortunately, while

the planners can get the city to adopt narrow traffic lanes and

even narrower bike lanes, the city is not willing to remove the

on-street parking at the same time.  The result is that

cyclists are expected to travel to work within the space into

which car doors will open.  Can you travel for miles past cars

and remember to check each one to see if someone is about to

open the door?

At any rate, Dana Laird did not, perhaps because she was anxious

to meet a friend to go to a Red Sox game, perhaps because she

did not recognize the danger.  Whatever the cause, the door was

suddenly flung open in her path.  She tried to avoid hitting it,

and the impact threw her under the wheels of a passing bus.

Some accidents could not be predicted ahead of time, but this

one was.  John S. Allen has been warning about the dangers of

these too narrow bike lanes for some time. See his photos and

article at for clear evidence that the design of

the bike lane was faulty.


                      Am I Anti-Car?

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2002 Ken Kifer

For some unknown reason, this thought was the first that popped

up into my head this morning. Certainly, when I was a wreck bike

regular (the rec.bicycles.* newsgroups) and was engaged in flame

wars with the car guys, I was accused of being anti-car almost

daily.  At one time, one of the car guys asked me, "In all

honesty, can you say anything good about automobiles?"  I

replied, "Sure, they're good at cleaning the nails and pieces of

glass off of the roadway."

But I think it's a little harsh to call me anti-car.  Those

vehicles are essential to the old and physically handicapped, at

least in our current society.

If a few minor bad characteristics of automobiles were removed,

I wouldn't object to them at all.  First, I would like them to

produce zero pollution.  Doing so would require more than

simply adding better catalytic converters, as I consider carbon

dioxide a pollutant.  Second, I would like to see less metal and

other materials in their construction.  SOV's (Single Occupant

[Motor] Vehicles) generally weigh from ten to over thirty times

as much as the occupant. I would like to see a vehicle that

weighs less than one third as much.  Third, automobiles are

currently too wide and long, making accident avoidance difficult.

Fourth, automobiles are now being designed to drive at well over

100 miles an hour, when such speeds are not legal anywhere.  In

addition, I find that when one is moving faster than 25 mph,

that it is difficult to look around.  If the vehicle's maximum

speed was reduced to under 25 mph, there would be few fatalities.

Fifth, the automobile does not give the user sufficient exercise,

so I would equip it with pedals and a chain drive.  This would

solve the problem of the polluting engine as well.  Sixth, with

four wheels, an automobile is just not fun to drive.  That's why,

I think, motorists endanger their lives on the winding mountain

road where I live.  Much better would be two wheels, which give

an instant feeling of adventure.  Seventh, I don't like

traveling around in a turtle's shell.  While protecting me from

rain, the shell blocks the feel of the wind against my face, the

view of clouds or stars overhead, the song of birds in the trees,

and the smell of flowers in the fields. Put this together, and

my perfect automobile would have two wheels, weigh 25 to 35

pounds, be say six feet long and a foot and a half wide, travel

at speeds under 25 mph, be powered by a human engine employing a

chain drive, and lack a metal covering.  Come to think of it, I

already have such an "automobile."  :) 


              How Can One be Safe on a Bicycle?

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

At present there seem to be three safety theories that dominate

discussion of how and where to ride a bicycle.  The first theory

is that one should operate a bicycle just like any other vehicle,

that is, using the roadway and following all traffic laws just

as if you were driving a car.  The second is that cyclists are

safe only away from motor vehicles, and the solution is the

construction of bikeways everywhere. Where bikeways don't exist,

the solution seems to be to ride on the sidewalk. The third is

guerilla cycling: assume that everyone is trying to kill you and

depend on your wits to escape, ignoring all the traffic laws.

We also have the Critical Mass theory which is that cycling on

the road is safe only after reaching a certain critical mass,

but I'm not sure how the members ride when no such large body of

cyclists is present (after reading these remarks, one cyclist

reported that Critical Mass encouraged him to ride in a vehicular


I generally ascribe to the first theory, vehicular cycling.  I

believe that when we are visible and use predictable behavior

that we have a smaller chance of getting injured. After over

100,000 miles on the road, I can point out that motorists are

not trying to kill me, that the overwhelming majority respect

my right to use the roadway, and that I am safer by using

vehicular methods. However, I don't adopt the extreme views of

some advocates. First, I don't consider bikeways to always be

more dangerous than the roadway.  Dangerous bikeways crowd

fast-moving cyclists with unpredictable pedestrians, parallel

the roadway sidewalk fashion, or have frequent road crossings,

but safe bikeways can be designed without these features.

Second, I also don't consider the roadways to be always safe

even for those with enough training. Some roadways have too

much traffic, insufficient space, or other hazards, and some

motorists drive too fast, aggressively, or recklessly. Some

regions are more dangerous to ride in than other regions, due

to cultural attitudes. And third, I don't consider riding down

the roadway three feet away from the edge of the road and

ignoring the surrounding traffic to be safe at all times. Pay

attention to the vehicles around you and be prepared to act

whenever someone else makes a fool mistake.  

While I deplore guerilla cycling, I admit that it has one

strong safety point: the rider is actively involved in his

own safety and does not passively accept that others will

always behave correctly.

In a way, you could say that my safety method is a combination

of the three: I follow the traffic laws at all time while

riding on the road, as with theory #1. I avoid dangerous

situations, even if that means I take a longer route or walk

for a considerable distance, as with theory #2 (however, I

refuse to ride a bike on a sidewalk).  And I actively pay

attention to traffic around me, as in theory #3: anytime

someone does the wrong thing, I am prepared to jump.  An

underlying principle is that I have lots of time, but I have

only one life. "Safety first" to me means that my safety --

and the safety of the motorists around me -- comes before any

other consideration.

To me, we cyclists don't have to make a choice between

traveling like a motor vehicle or depending on our wits to

escape harm.  We can do both: travel safely, predictably, but

suspiciously and warily.

For those interested in further reading, I have written a

number of articles on this subject in my touring directory.

In particular, see the articles on riding in traffic,

avoiding accidents, and coping with fear from the rear.

I also have written an article about bikeways:


             What Gears Are Needed for Touring?

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

These remarks are an abbreviated explanation of my page on gearing,

We need a variety of gears on a bike in order to travel at the

appropriate speed and cadence.

While a consideration of speed must include the highest speed

attained when traveling downhill and downwind, a more important

consideration is the low speed necessary for climbing a major hill.  I

have a chart on the above web page for making such a choice, but for

loaded touring in the mountains, all but a few will want the lowest gear

possible, which is either a 20 or 24 small chainwheel on the front

and 32 or 34 large cog on the rear, thus resulting in a low gear of about 

16 or 20, which would be equivalent to four or five miles per hour at a

cadence of 80 rpm.

We maintain an appropriate cadence in order to maximize our power and

endurance while traveling by bike.  That cadence will vary according to

the conditions.  For instance, when beginning a sprint or hill-climb, it

makes sense to gear down and to increase the cadence, as that provides

more immediate power.  But for riding long distances, a steady, natural

rhythm is best, which is an average of the best power and best economy. 

I find my natural cadence to be a little below 80 rpm.  Climbing a long

mountain at a cadence of 40, as has been recommended by some, leads to

very tired legs, muscle strain, and possibly even damage.  It makes much

better sense to adopt low gears and to spin uphill.

Now, if one is traveling at a cadence of 80, and the gears on the

bicycle are spaced too far apart, the rider finds a strain in shifting

up and down.  On the old three-speed, the gears were so far apart that

they determined how fast I was going and not my cadence.  Having gears

too close together, on the other hand, causes either unnecessary

shifting or jumping over gears.  So, some years ago, I tried to

determine what was a natural shifting range for me, and I decided that a

ten or twelve percent change felt very good, while an eight percent

change felt too small and a sixteen percent change felt too large.

It seems to me then that having all my gears spaced ten or twelve

percent apart will lead to the most comfortable shifting.  How can I

achieve this pattern?  If purchasing an eight-speed cassette hub, I

would get one with the following teeth for a twelve percent change:

32 28 25 22 19 17 15 13

With a nine-speed cassette, I would seek a ten percent change:

32 29 26 23 21 19 17 15 13

You may ask, what chainrings should be chosen?  Well, with this setup,

it really doesn't matter.  The small ring will be your 20 or 24 tooth

sprocket, or perhaps the next largest size, and your large ring can be

whatever you want, provided that your rear derailleur will wrap that

much chain (I ride with a slack chain in my lowest gears to increase my

range).  With a 13 cog, a 44 chainring supplies a 91 gear, and a 48

chainring supplies a 100 gear, so there isn't much reason for a bigger

large chainring than that, at least for a touring cyclist.  Please note

that a 100 gear equals 24 mph at 80 rpm, so it's strictly a downhill or

downwind gear anyway, although I like to pedal downhill to remove toxins

from my legs.  

I might add that it is not necessary to figure out the exact values of

any of the other gears, but you might want to do so to compute cadence

or to satisfy your curiosity.

For those with the older five, six, and seven-speed cogsets, it is also

possible to have a desirable set of evenly spaced gearing.  On my

15-speed touring bike, I have 14 useful gears (although I normally just

use 13 of them).  The pattern is 52-47-24 chainrings, and 14-17-21-26-32

cogs. Due to the pattern, the lowest gears are twice as far apart, but

the wider spacing is not as objectionable there.


                       Get a Horse!

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

When it takes an 8,000 pound vehicle to move a 150 pound

person, when that vehicle burns 650 gallons of fuel a year, when

burning that fuel produces 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a

year, when the pollution from that vehicle is still the #1 cause

of pollution in the US,, and when that person is having health

problems due to lack of exercise (most people deny they have any

health problems, but ask them how many pills they take or ask

them to go for a five-mile walk) and when that person is also

putting a sizable amount of income into simple transportation,

then I think we are misusing technology.  It would be most

appropriate to say, "Get a horse." 


                  Stairway Industry News

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

In 1999, 17,000 Americans suffered fatal falls.  The vast majority of

these accidents did not happened while mountain climbing, cleaning

windows on skyscrapers, climbing high trees in the backyard, or even

while on step ladders.  The majority happened while climbing ordinary

household stairs.

The overwhelming majority of these deaths were caused by head injuries. 

We in the industry make a a point to design stairways that are as safe

as they can possibly be.  We would hate to see elevators mandated by law

for all private residents, and we have argued against them by pointing

out the health benefits of stair climbing.

However, we have been forced to choose between two alternatives,

immediately replacing stairs with elevators or mandating the use of

helmets each time that stairways are used. Therefore, all industry

stairways must from now on be sold with stickers attesting that it is

not safe to climb stairs without a helmet.  New laws are being brought

before the legislatures in every state to ensure that all homeowners

purchase helmets and keep them at the top and bottom of every stairway.

We are greatly worried about the impact this will have on our industry. 

Already, radio spin doctors have began a campaign of fear against us. 

Parents will be imprisoned for allowing their toddlers to climb or

descend stairs without helmets.  Plans are underway to install baby

lifts to ensure that no infant is every carried up or down a flight of

steps again.  People will begin to be afraid of climbing steps and will

install elevators in their homes. Police will make frequent inspections

of homes to see if the helmets are available and being used.

You may think that we should fight, but fighting against fear tactics

has not helped the bicycle industry at all.  In every book and magazine

you pick up and on all the talk shows, statements are made that indicate

that riding a bike is the most dangerous activity one can do.  Parents

are afraid to let their kids bicycle outside of the yard, and children

are becoming sedentary as a result.  The fact that 90% of all Americans

are sedentary has not had an effect either. Even teaching safe cycling

has been abandoned.  The only thing that keeps a few people bicycling is

a belief that less than a pound of foam is magical and can prevent 88%

of injuries (or even accidents) or more.  But studies of statistics

comparing cycling and pedestrian fatalities show that helmet use has had

zero effect; they have both declined at the same rate.  Ironically,

bicycle use has been responsible for less than 1% of all head injury,

and one would have to ride a bike every day for 8,400 years to have a

50-50 chance of a head injury death, even using helmet industry

statistics.  The fact that the health benefits greatly outweigh the

risks are ignored, as are the traffic laws, as is the fact that

bicycling is safer than riding in an automobile.  It certainly is safer

than climbing stairs, as we have twenty times as many head injury deaths

as bicycling!

No, with the much greater risks and the lesser benefits of stair

climbing, the only thing our industry can do is to go along with the

current irrational mood -- and to invest in household elevators!

For more information on this topic, see


           Humor: Would You Rather be Rich or Right?

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

I received a call from John Smith, who was going to be on Who Wants to

be a Millionaire.  He said that since he considered me to be a "major

expert on the topic of bicycling" that he wanted to use me as a

lifeline if they should happen to ask him a bicycling question.  Of

course, I had to get him to explain to me what the show was and what a

"lifeline" was.  Then I agreed.

Well, the unlikely happened.  Not only was he selected to play but he

also was asked a bicycling question.  The question he received, worth

one million dollars, was "When was the bicycle invented? A. 1870, B.

1866, C. 1885, or D. 1802."  My answer to him was that the bicycle was

invented in 1498 by Leonardo da Vinci, and the proof is the drawing

that Leonardo made of his invention, which is found in his notebook.

In a strained voice, he told me that there were only a few seconds

left and that he had to pick one of the four options or lose a

million dollars.  "Then," I told him, "the best thing to do is to

answer 1498, because the truth is worth much more than a million

dollars."  Well, he answered "1802" and lost.  You just can't help

some people!


                   Seven Miles for a Coke

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

One of the best rides my son and I ever had was one of the most

unlikely.  It wasn't a beautiful day or a pleasant view.  It wasn't a

new or thrilling ride.  It was a cold, wet night on a ultra-muddy road

with one accident and several close calls.  We were camping for the

night in an area half-farm, half-country, and mainly desolate, seven

miles from the nearest store, after having done some cycling on drier

roads that day.  As the night dragged on, we ran out of subjects to

talk about and were frankly bored.  Then I said, "I could use a soft

drink."  My son said, "Yeah, I could use one too."  I said, "But it

would be wasteful to drive that far for just a drink; why don't we

take our bikes?"  And so we began.  However, the night was a lot

blacker and the road was quite a bit muddier than we had suspected.

Because of our floundering around at slow speeds, the generator lights

just didn't illuminate the road, which led to more difficulties.  But

we persisted until we reached paved road, and the rest of the trip was

easy.  While we were enjoying our drinks, I said to my son, "Remember

the cigarette ad -- I'd walk a mile for a Camel?  You just rode seven

for a coke."  Then we had to ride back, and my son fell in the mud

near the end, but we were both pleased with our adventure, more

pleased than we would have been if it had been easier. The next

morning, the bikes had to be washed with a hose, but it was worth it!


           How to Tell if You Are a True Cyclist

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

To understand this better, see the parent article at

For those who are unsure if they really qualify as True Cyclists, the

following test has been devised.  Add up your points.  A True Cyclist

should score at least 100 points.

1.  Give yourself two points for each item of visible cycling clothing

that you wear when OFF OF your bike.  Give yourself one point for

each item which is NOT visible (socks, underwear, keychains, etc.).

2.  Give yourself the following points:

For a dark tan in back with no tan in front: 1 point

For an oval tanned spot on the back of the hand: 3 points

For a frayed right shoelace with the other normal: 3 points

For a chain mark on right inside leg: 5 points

3. When you eat --

Do you eat more than anyone else? 2 points

Do people take turns passing you food? 4 points

Do people forget about eating to watch you? 6 points

4. When you drink at a fountain--

Do you make loud slurping sounds? 1 point

Do you drink all the cold water? 2 points

How much do you drink at one stop from cans or bottles?

A pint or half liter: 1 point

A quart or liter: 2 points

Two quarts or liters: 4 points

5. When giving directions to a motorist --

Do you mention only back streets and roads?  5 points

When told something is five minutes away --

Do you ask, "How far is it?"  5 points

6. Does your motor vehicle have a bike carrier?  2 points

Is your bike worth more than your car? 6 points

Do you not own a car at all?  10 points

7. For EACH quickstop or small food store you know in your area--

Give yourself 1 point.

If you know the owner's name, give yourself 1 more point.

If you have used the rest room, give yourself 1 more point.

8. In your office, for each inconspicuous cycling object--

Give yourself 1 point.

For each conspicuous cycling object--

Give yourself 2 points.

If your bike is in your office--

Give yourself 5 points.

9. In your home--

For each bike decoration, 1 point

For each bike in the bathroom, 3 points

For each bike in your bedroom, 4 points

For each bike in your living room, 5 points

For each bike elsewhere in the living quarters, 1 point

Also, count bike trailers the same as bikes!

10. For your children last year--

For each that rode 10 miles, 1 point

For each that rode 25 miles, 3 points

For each that rode 50 miles or more, 6 points

Note: Children or pets in trailers and baby seats count too!


             How to Lose Weight Through Exercise

                from Ken Kifer's Bike Pages


   Printed from a collection written for cycling newsletters

                 Copyright 2001 Ken Kifer

A cyclist wrote:

You're right that you don't need to do redline workouts and sprints,

but everybody knows that it's all about intensity.  Thirty minutes at

[a heart rate of] 155-165 bpm will burn a hell of a lot of calories

and jack up your metabolism and release endorphins and give you a


My reply:

Intense exercise is good for burning up the sugar that is in your

liver, but it burns little fat.  A longer, less intense ride is better

for losing weight.

I always ride harder when traveling shorter distances.  A ten mile

ride might average 18 mph, a thirty mile ride 15 mph, and my long days

on touring trips 12 mph or less.  Therefore, my short trips and local

rides should be better at burning fat, according to your thinking,

while the long touring days should be poor.  But, my experience shows

just the opposite.  Rather than lose weight, I gain weight while I am

riding only short rides.   On my long touring trips, however, I always

lose weight while riding day after day at low speeds, even though my

eating goes up tremendously.

When I was married, my wife tried losing weight through cycling,

following Kenneth Cooper's plan, without success.  However, during the

two weeks of our one bicycle trip, she slimmed down rapidly, even

though walking most of the hills. (She didn't actually lose weight but

swapped fat for muscle.)

I was a construction worker for many years.  On the harder jobs, I

lost most of the fat from my body, even though I was stuffing myself

at all-you-can-eat restaurants for dinner each night.  None of that

work was high intensity or even aerobic.

When it comes to burning fat, duration is more important than

intensity, and I don't consider 30 minutes of daily exercise adequate,

no matter how intense.

Edward F. Coyle in "Fat Metabolism During Exercise" shows the amount

of fat being burned declines as exercise intensity increases.  For

instance, at 25% VO2max (walking), nearly all the energy is coming

from fat while at 65% VO2max (touring), only half comes from fat.

However, more fat is being burned at higher intensities, because more

total fuel is being burned.  Two hours of intense exercise would burn

more fat than two hours of moderate exercise; however, few cyclists

could keep cycling at high-intensity that long.


My conclusion is that the best way to lose weight through bicycling

for most cyclists is through mileage.  As there is no special

advantage to being fast or slow, pick the speed that makes you want to

ride the greatest number of miles.


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