As of today, I have been riding bicycles on a daily basis for one year. I did not believe I could last this long at the beginning myself. However, I made it! And it looks like I will continue on cycling for the years to come.
I bought my first bicycle in 2001, from Target. It was on sale for $79.99. The brand was Glacier Point, OEM from China with steel frame and 26 inch wheels. Due to the nice weather in the Bay Area, the bicycle still looks new today and no rust at all. I had been using the bicycle for casual riding along the banks of the Alameda River. Speed was never more than 12 miles per hour.
Last May, my wife and I went on a trip to Yosemite National Park. We brought the bicycles with us and it was a great decision. We spent a week in Yosemite and the bicycles were invaluable getting us to places. I started riding the bicycle faster after getting home. I could go as high as 15 miles per hour and average was around 12.
After coming to China, I bought a used mountain bicycle for 300 RMB (about $50). A Giant Blaster, originally made in 2003, with 14 inch frame, 24 inch wheels, and aluminum frame. The weather in my local town (Changxing) in China is very humid, steel frame will rust very quickly and thus aluminum frame is must have.
Because of the road and traffic condition in China, adequate protection is also a must have. I bought a helmet, two headlights, one taillight, one straddle bag, one horn, and a speedometer from taobao.com (the equivalent of eBay in China). The cost of these was about 1/2 to 1/3 of their counterparts in the US. Even the riding jersey that I bought, was only $20.
With my used bicycle and my brand new gears, I started riding in China. My daily trip was around 12 miles, from my home to the Tai Lake (biggest lake in China). The big trucks, electric scooters, motorized tricycles, and the pedestrians were indeed fairly intimidating at the beginning. After a month, I got used to them all, and I learned to “negotiate” the road with them just like the locals do. It was during the summer, the weather was extremely hot (30-37 degrees Celsius), and the air was very humid. After each ride, I could squeeze enough sweat out of my jersey to fill a coffee cup!
After 4 months of riding, I could ride up to 60 miles per day and average at about 14 miles per hour. I circled the Tai Lake in 3 days and 170 miles total in the winter. By then, I realized that the Giant Blaster was too small and too slow for me. In addition, the rear shifter was going bad as well.
I sold the Giant Blaster, and bought a used Giant ATX750 mountain bike. The previous owner was a casual rider so the bicycle was almost new. I took the bike apart, cleaned all parts with gasoline, added enough lubricants and put them all back together. I also replaced the front fork with a brand new self-locking fork. This fork helped a lot on road runs since it eliminates vibrations and resonance.
By this time, it is already Spring in China, best time for bicycle training. To the credit of the local government, they built a great road right by the Tai Lake, from my town to Huzhou, the nearest city. The road was new, smooth, clean, with nice views of the lake and the villages. My daily trip included:
1. Ride to the lake
2. Ride to Huzhou by the lake
3. Reverse the above back home
Total trip is about 31 miles (50 kilometers), and I could make it in two and half hours, average is about 12.4 miles per hour.
In May, 2012, I joined the athletes from various professional cycling teams in China for training. They were here for two weeks to train by the Tai Lake. I was lucky enough to be accepted. Wow, what a great experience and eye opener. Their average speed was 20 miles per hour, and they could go on for 4 hours non-stop!
One thing I learned was the control of peddling frequency, so I needed a new speedometer with peddling frequency. Eventually I bought a BoGeer (weird brand name) from taobao.com for 70 RMB (about $13). And it worked nicely. My APF (Average peddling frequency) was only 75, much lower than the desired 90-100 range. This would be a major task for the next 3 months.
In search of a good exercise tracking app for iPhone, I stumbled on RunKeeper. It is a great site, with a great iPhone app. You could see my daily progress at:
So after a year of peddling, what did I get?
1. Good health, much better health than before and more energy for everything.
2. Better lifestyle, less time on the computer
3. Lost weight, 20 pounds less than a year ago
After all, it was well worth it! I will keep on cycling!