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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've got the flu - the biking flu.

Hi all...

Well, I got the flu, literally... but that is not really what I wanted to talk about. I've also managed to catch the biking flu.

At the start of April me and a co-worker decided to have a competition. Whoever would loose more kilograms until 15. September would win an all paid meal at the town's best steakhouse - paid by the looser of course. We figured the average three course meal, with fitting drinks, would come about being around $150 each so the stakes were high enough. On top of that, knowing us, both guys well over 250 lbs the meals would be more expensive. There were no rules. If you were competitive enough you were allowed to cut off limbs to win.

Now, the guy I was up against used to be quite the fitness freak versus me, a guy that always enjoyed sports and used to be in a fairly good shape some 8-9 years ago. Since then interests lay elsewhere and on my 27th birthday in April I weighed in at roughly 295 lbs. As I didn't really have all the knowledge my opponent had I wasn't quite sure what route was best for me. At the same time I was getting a bit worried about my own personal finance situation and was searching for ways to cut down on cost each month. I quickly saw the immense costs every month because of the car usage but didn't really figure out right away how to change that. Until it hit me… How about breaking out that 11 year old Gary Fisher Piranha and start biking to work - and any other distance less or equal to the commute? My mind was set, spirits up and the date was decided. 1st of May I'd start biking to work every day.

The bike was in decent shape. I'd used it a few times each summer but nothing worth noting. I had to swap out some parts (one rim, tube, brake pads) but the cost was less than $50 to start with. So all I had to do was build up some momentum before 1st of May to be able to do this every day after that. After many attempts at fighting the constant weight gain at the gym I was lucky enough to have a heart rate monitor already which I decided was an essential part of doing this "the right way". I started out by biking every third day or so - more often if the body allowed. Trips were short, probably about 30 minutes max. The days in between were used for some walking and swimming. I set myself a goal to stay in the 130-160 zone for the heart rate which I hoped would not be too optimistic of a goal.

1st of May came too quickly, but by this time I was so determined to try my hardest even though I wasn't to optimistic about the actual competition. I figured I'd save some money on gas and hopefully loose some weight. The latter part was the biggest gain at the end as I didn't see how much effect it would have on my life. My commute to work is about 6,5 kilometers and back home about 8,5. The routes involve some biking on roads in the traffic and some on sidewalks/paved paths for pedestrians. Luckily the pollution because of traffic is not very high here in Iceland so the traffic part didn't turn out to be hard.

The first few days were simply incredibly hard. I asked myself every time my heart rate passed 160 bpm and the monitor started beeping "why the hell are you doing this to yourself???" To top this off my first week of riding was met with pouring rain and headwind "Icelandic style". I also noticed how my biking rhythm was odd and I was continually checking what gear I was in, state of my tires and if the rim were crooked yet.

But the days passed and before I knew it I was besting my time to work every day and quickly getting used to using the bike without having to think about each and every gear shift. I found from the start that my work day was much more fun and I was more efficient if I rode to work. June came with sunnier days and for those windy days I decided to embrace the extra challenge. Soon enough co-workers, friends and family started telling me I looked better and they could see an incredible change in my features and posture. I even started to get more glances from girls when out and about. Nothing but a great confidence booster. I intentionally stayed off the scales as I figured it could possibly make me slack off a bit. The mirror and my mind were my only comparisons and I was sure I was doing well.

About two years ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea at a very high level and have been sleeping with a compressor mask ever since. It forces me to breathe in my sleep, so that I don't feel as tired during the day. I was at a point where driving was possibly dangerous since I was risking myself falling asleep while at the wheel. The doctor's had told me that me being way over weight was the single biggest contributor to this illness and the other being genetic. According to them my biggest chance of improvement was losing weight. Since the diagnosis I didn't really do any exercise or changes in my lifestyle to improve as I figured the mask thing would make it all better. The disorder had been very disruptive for me work wise as I overslept a lot of the time, and when I did it was not a matter of minutes, rather hours.

--> Fast forward until today



I can't believe it has already been 4 months. I've biked more than 1300 kilometers already, I feel like a different person in both mood and physically. I am now below 250 lbs. and generally feel much better. The sleeping disorder has improved a little bit although I still have a long way to go - just as with the weight. Best part of biking versus driving though - there is not a chance in h*ll that I'll fall asleep over the handle bar. :) It is only today I see how bad a shape I was in and I was simply heading for disaster. It is a long time since I stopped thinking about the competition because the biking ambition and interest quickly overcame that. I now look at the commuting to work as an exercise for tougher off road trips during the weekend. The picture above is taken during one of those. The longest one yet was 74 kilometers and even though I was simply exhausted after it I couldn't wait for the next one. Although I do biking in just about any environment, pavement is my least favorite. I've started preparing for biking through the Icelandic winter and hopefully I'll be able to do as much commuting as possible - even during the toughest 2-3 months.

Since starting this whole process I've been lurking around on these forums and I really don't think I would have been so enthusiastic if it weren't for the countless threads in the Passion section showing pictures from various rides. I believe I have found my passion here and these forums had a lot to do with pushing me over that edge. I have now started planning three different rides in the Icelandic highlands for next summer and my winter will be spent shaping up for it. My trusty old bike is still carrying me and I'm simply amazed every day at how such a simple thing can stand under such immense pressure at times.

I hope more people out there start riding, whether it is for work, exercise or simple fun… It doesn't matter, as long as you are enjoying yourself. I for one will do my best to drag friends along on rides during the weekends - spreading the joy.

Thanks for the inspiration. :thumbsup:

Tobbi - 47 lbs. later :)
 

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You should at least cross-post this in passion, as it is definitely as passion-worthy as pics of a nice ride. Good going and keep going! What kind of singletrack do you have in Iceland?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks guys. Its been really great and all summer I've waited to be able to post something like this. I'm not sure how to cross post like that... anyone up for teaching? :)

Thanks for those pics madgeronimo. Its pictures like that I really enjoy looking at and motivate me to take a trip to the US and Canada one day to do some biking there.

Bikinfoolferlife: I'm not sure how I can answer that. The "singletrack" I've been riding are old horse or sheep trails people used to use. There are very few areas where there are specific trails for bikes, and very little has been done to get people riding in the vast amount of uninhabited land we have. I live in a 20k town just outside of Reykjavík (I guess what would generally be called a suburb) and only need about 10-20 mins of riding on roads for cars before I'm into the lava fields for some great fun.

I'll try to whip up maps of two routes I've taken this summer a few times (work is busy first half of a Friday, very slow the second half)... I really should bring a camera next time I go those routes to show the type of roads/tracks I'm riding on the way. One route is made up of simple gravel roads for cars, a road that is used for rallying along side a beautiful lake called Kleifarvatn (pic 1, pic 2), and back on a jeeps only road on the other side of the mountain ridge. The other route is part jeep roads, and a short part that is similar to a singletrack made by people riding horses. In both cases you have to ride for about 40 mins (at 20 km/h) on a paved road, with very little elevation.

From what I gather on Icelandic websites for biking, people simply use these horse trails even though they can be through rough terrain and you have to walk with your bikes at times.

Tobbi
 
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