Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are you getting enough exercise on your cycle?


You have a swanky cycle. It has 21 (3 x 7) gears. You plan to take it on a spin everyday. After swimming, cycling is the best exercise you claim. But wait, are you getting the exercise you need. If you throw the gears every time you face uphill, the gears are doing all the work, not you. Fix a gear combination, say 2.4, and then stick to it whether it is uphill or a flat. Once you become comfortable with that, notch it up a little. Move to, say, 3.2. And remain there till you are ready to move further up. At the same time increase your range gradually. Start with 2km - too less? - ok! 5km. Once you have reached the top gear (=3.7) move to the next distance range, say, 7km. Try various combination. It is fun. Oh by the way, try coming back the same route you went. That will compensate for the downhills with uphills when you return. And always, always, always wear a helmet.

And at the end of it do not forget to guzzle tender coconut water (or whatever your favourite thirst-quenching, body-minerals-replacing drink is).

Picture courtesy: Dan Shirley

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Glen B. Alleman said...

As a rider here in the states, could yu explain the gearing numbers you mention in the post. Our road bikes here are 20 or 30 speed. 10 in the rear cluister and 2 or 3 chain rings up front.

Amitabh said...

In India, at least the one I have, a Trek 3700, has 7 in the rear cluster and 3 in the front. So it is a 21 speed bike. This is largely true for all Indian bikes. I will be surprised if any Indian bike goes beyond 21 speed. I am of course willing to be corrected.
In my article, when I use "2.4" or "3.7" I mean "front.rear" combination. Though strictly not a decimal system I find it easy to use.

Sanoop said...

Y not use the plain old gearless cycles... After all we do not mountain-climb with these cycles.. Or does age have a say in the gear level selected?

Amitabh said...

Geared cycles are useful when you want to commute. You don't want to reach office breathless and dead. Besides, sometimes you would really like to give it a go and ride at top speed, just for the heck of it. Even if you are planning to cycle only for exercise you will require a geared cycle, especially when you 'bonk' (a condition when you find all your energy gone - the onset could be sudden.) When you bonk and need to reach home, shift to something like "1.3" and slowly make your way home. By the way, consuming bananas is a way to 'de-bonk' quickly. Tender coconut water is another.

Sanoop said...

Have never felt bonked whenever I have used a cycle... maybe its because the path I used to cycle had ups and downs spread out evenly... So I maintain that speed and put in that extra effort for the climb bcos I know that there is a de-bonking inclination coming up... and all this was on a gearless cycle and 1.5 years back until it got stolen :'-(... Am looking to buy the gearless one again cos I have never felt comfy on the geared cycles... Still use my neighbour's cycle for trips to the departmental stores etc.. but the exploration with my dear ol' cycle has stopped.. and I do not get it to office bcos most of the times there are after-office plans :p ... Anyways dont u think using a gearless cycle offers more exercise than the geared one cos when going uphill it is only ur effort that gets u up there?

Richard Keatinge said...

Cycling is good - at my moderately advanced age it's far too dangerous not to cycle. Regular cycling, Danish style, not too far, not too fast, nearly halves the death rate, see All-Cause Mortality Associated With Physical Activity During Leisure Time, Work, Sports, and Cycling to Work. Andersen et al, Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:1621-1628.

The trouble with bike helmets is that the figures don't show that they work - helmet laws have stopped a lot of people cycling and have done nothing for head injury rates, see Robinson DL. No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets. BMJ 2006;332: 722-5. It appears that helmets break easily, but don't absorb the impact, see the engineers quoted at A broken helmet has simply failed. Helmets have also strangled some young children who were wearing helmets while playing off their bicycles.

Amitabh said...

Bonking generally results on really long distances and if your body does not have adequate supply of carbohydrates. And when I say long distances I mean upward of 10 km. And if you notice, I am trying to bring in aspects of "gearlessness" while exercising on a geared cycle. Having a geared cycle helps in that gradual increase that is so important for good exercise regime. With geared cycle you are stuck with only two dimensions: Speed and distance.

Amitabh said...

I like the term "Danish Style" cycling. I would still recommend wearing helmet. I have read many for- and against-helmet-theories. Not sure which way to go. Helmet seems to be offering more protection to the head. It seems to better than having nothing.

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