Thursday, 28 August 2014


"... the results of your A1C..."

"... I know the news is a bit shocking..."

"...the good news is we identified it and now..."

Did you just say I have diabetes?

And I sat there, a little bit shocked and a little bit numb, while the doctor went over details with me.  I started to think about how crappy this news was.  It was another salvo of bad medical news that I seem to keep running into.  I felt hopeless and full of despair.  Then I started getting angry.

Then I thought about how unproductive it was to get depressed and angry, and started thinking about ways to approach this.  One of the things that I remembered from the doctor's visit was that I could manage this with diet and exercise.  So I came up with a plan; start moving even if its just a little, increase distances and get some diabetes education.

I got a wealth of information from a diabetes educational center.  I learned that I had a lot of misconceptions about the disease and ways I could eat better.  I started walking a lot and eventually got on the road with my hybrid.

I set out like a first time cyclist, with wobbly steering and not enough balance to pull out my bottle while riding.  On that first ride things seemed so far!  I managed to rack up a couple of kilometers and make it home, completely exhausted.  But as tired as I was, I felt so great!  I forgot how much I loved cycling and it was all coming back to me.

So off I went every sunny day I could, with small milestones and big dreams.  I kept adding an extra kilometer every day or three.  My first 5 km felt like such a big win, I felt like a champion after a big race.  I felt the same way for 10 km, 20 km and every milestone I've set.  When I recently did 100 km, I felt exactly that same way.  I began keeping a log of my food using an app on my phone.  When I wasn't on two wheels, I was constantly reading blogs and news about cycling.  Reading about Team Novo Nordisk was particularly inspiring.

For the first time in a long time, I looked forward to my next doctor's appointment.

When my appointment rolled around, the doctor seemed pretty impressed.  I managed to bring my A1C number lower and had dropped a significant amount of weight.  The benefits of exercise and eating better were apparent.  The doctor reduced my medication and indicated further reduction was possible in the future if I kept things up.

I took it as a challenge and dove right in.  The next few months saw me transition over to a road bike and even longer distances.  My perseverance paid off; my last medical appointment had even more weight loss and amazing a2c numbers.  I feel more fit than I have in years and I'm happy and proud of myself.  It feels like such a contrast to that guy who was so depressed and angry months ago.

As of today, there is no cure for diabetes.  I will have to continue cycling my entire life to keep it at bay.  And I might only be able to slow the disease's advance.  But I'm stubborn as a mule, I enjoy challenges and I really love cycling!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

My First Metric Century

No dedicated lanes but not many cars either!
When it comes to long distance rides, I've had several milestones.  Some were quite modest, like my first 10 or 20 km ride.  As my ability to ride further increased, I've been making sure to update them.  This August I was able to cross one major milestone off my list, the first 100 km ride.  Its also known as a metric century ride.

Pulling it off took three things.  Training, Preparation and Persistence:

Askew Picture brought to you by my Action Cam!
Training: I started off doing small rides many times a week.  One long ride (followed by a recovery ride), 2 moderate rides, an easy ride and 2 days off.  Sounds pretty intense!  But things don't always go as planned; I try to avoid to ride in rain and sometimes life has other appointments and plans for me.  Still, trying to stick to five days means you'll end up there 3-6 times a week.  And each week you increase distances (more for the long ride but you should gradually increase them all).

Section of the Waterfront Trail
Preparation: This includes checking out the bike (tire pressure, wheel trueness, brakes, etc.), preparing enough nutrition (Gels, energy bars/drinks, lots of water), making sure electronics have enough power for the ride, making sure you can deal with most repairs and careful route planning.  And of course, have a "Plan B" and a "Plan C" should things go south.  I also try to bring a small, personal first aid kit.

My coach checking up on me!
Persistence: I was pretty enthusiastic when I started the ride.  After about halfway point I started having problems with my derailleurs and my chain slipping.  It was really tempting to abort the ride right then and there.  But I ended up sticking to the plan and I came out on top.

I find my success to be empowering and encouraging.  After all, once you do 100 km's, what's another 60 or 100?  Well, only one way to find out!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bonking and Nutrition

I've been trying to extend my distance steadily in order to tackle some distance milestones.  Early in the process I ran into an odd problem where I just ran out of energy.  It felt like I was too weak to continue cycling.  My limbs felt heavy and standing was only possible using my bicycle as a crutch.  Despite being only a kilometer from home, I needed a ride!

I didn't understand what was going on, so I looked up my symptoms and discovered I had bonked.  In cycling, the term "bonking" refers to a state where you deplete your glycogen stores in your liver and muscles.  You start to get dizzy and show signs of hypoglycemia.  It can't be fixed by rest; it needs the energy replenished.

There are a lot of tips out there on how frequently you should eat and what it should contain.  I initially went with store-bought solutions so I could clearly see carbohydrate content.  To get some hard numbers I used a glucose meter and tested myself at set intervals.  It enabled me to see exactly when I should eat.

Here are some consumables I've used to keep energy levels up.

Energy Bars.  I started out with these.  They should contain a decent amount (~30g) of carbohydrates.  Generally I find they upset my stomach if I've been riding for long periods.

Energy Gels.  Very easy to consume but be careful to drink enough water; if you don't you will have an upset stomach.  They vary in taste from "pretty good" to "did you just feed me fecal matter?"  Their advantage is that they can be consumed pretty quickly and come in various caffeine levels  And if you are careful to drink enough water, they are pretty easy to digest.

Energy Drink.  Easiest on your stomach.  I find them extra helpful as they're also a good source of electrolytes.  The bottles they are sold in usually fit bicycle water bottle cages.  The main downside is its heavy and it occupies more volume than bars and gels.

Natural Foods. There are more natural alternatives to a prepackaged processed food.  A banana or a jam sandwich packs the same carbohydrate punch that many of the above solutions do.  Just make sure it has enough carbohydrates and can easily be consumed; if its fluffy or breaks apart easily its not a good idea!

Ice Cream From the Shop That is 12 KM Away From my Home.  Who am I kidding, this isn't great for riding.  But I still do it on occasion!

My Road Bike

My Norco Valence A1 is my very first road bicycle.  When I first started shopping, I literally didn't know anything about these bikes.  So I started reading lots of reviews and tapping the sage wisdom of forum gurus far and wide.

The very first thing I learned?  Not all drop bar bikes are created equal.  At the time, a touring bike, an endurance bike, a race bike and a cyclo-cross looked the same to my untrained eye.

After doing more research and thinking about what sort of experience I was looking for, I opted for a road endurance bike.  Not a race bike nor a touring bike, but somewhere in between.

Armed with information, I went to bike shops and started test driving.  When I first tried out the Norco, it seemed like a perfect match.  I was very comfortable on it and it seemed to be extremely responsive.  It had an aluminum frame but packed a front carbon fiber fork and seat post to help dampen road vibrations.  If I had liked carbon more and wanted to burn a bit of cash, I could have gone for the Valence C1 but I am a big lad and just feel safer on aluminum.

I test drove several bikes, before and after trying the Valence.  But once I had tried the Valence, every ride after was just a comparison to how great the Valence felt.

The group-set (gears, derailleurs, braking) use Shimano 105 components almost everywhere (the cassette is a 10 speed Shimano Tiagra).  Most bikes in the Valence price range come equipped with Shimano Tiagra group-sets.

So far I've had this bike for a little over a month, and I've clocked over 1000 km on it.  I've gotten further than I ever have, faster than I ever have, with a lot more comfort.  And I've been enjoying it every inch of the way, even the painful ones up a steep incline.

I feel like I need to hit a high level of fitness to take complete advantage of this bicycle.   I know as I drop weight it will be easier to go faster (more muscle for power, less weight to log around overall).  Since cycling is an activity I enjoy, its a great catch 22; the more I enjoy it the better it will get!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Clothing Stages

I've noticed that my cycling clothing has changed in stages.   I like to call them Casual Clothing, Serious About Fitness and Spandex Invasion.  I'm glad I did it in a staged manner as "Spandex Invasion" clothing was off putting at first; now I feel great in it.

The Casual Clothing Stage

aka if it fits, wear it.

Shirt: Formless black cotton T-shirt
Shorts: Any that fit.
Shoes: Beat up old pair of shoes.

When I started biking on my hybrid this year, I had one clear requirement for clothing... it had to fit!  I was getting so big that even my baggy clothing was starting to get a bit tight.  I wasn't opting for looking good, just something I could change out of after.

The Serious About Fitness Stage

aka cotton?! what were you thinking!

Shirt: Polyester blend T-shirt
Shorts: Polyester blend shorts.
Shoes: ASIC running shoes with a stiff sole.
Gloves: Cycling gloves

Sweating profusely in a cotton shirt is gross.  So I switched to something with wicking properties.  At this point I had dropped some pounds and reduced my waistline and some older workout clothes started fitting.

This transition wasn't particularly difficult.  Adding gloves in made my hands feel a lot better.  The stiff soled shoes made my feet feel a lot better; the shoes were also mesh so my feet stayed cool and dry.  The hardest thing was getting used to wearing polyester as I found cotton really comfortable.  That was also an easy switch as I found clothes that wick a lot more comfortable than being a sweaty disgusting mess.

The Spandex Invasion

aka ugh, I used to make fun of people who wore spandex

Shirt: Jersey with pockets in back.
Shorts (light duty): Cycling liner & cargo shorts.
Shorts (medium duty): Cycling shorts.
Shorts (heavy duty): Cycling bib.
Gloves: Cycling gloves.
Shoes: Cycling shoes with clipless pedals.

Having clothes that could wick made a huge difference, but they were starting to get baggy.  Then they'd ride up (my arse, not the road).  Putting anything in the pockets usually meant I'd lose it.  And long distances were starting to hurt my derriere.  At first I went with a cycling "inner liner" which is underwear with a chamois pad in it.  Now I'm one of the Lycra clad cyclists I used to make fun of.

This transition was more difficult.  First of all, cycling clothes are "body fit."  Being overweight, body fit feels like you're putting the rolls of fat on display.  Secondly, cycling clothes tend to fit smaller people.  Third, bright colours (especially neon) are not my thing!  Last but not least, you are expected to wear the cycling shorts "commando style".

For a while these reasons prevented me from getting serious with my clothing.  But as your weight comes down you start to feel good about body weight; and when you are hunched over your bike at speed, no one's really noticing your gut.  I also went to a store (MEC) that had a lot of clothing selections and XXL/XXXL sizing.  I was able to try out lots of makes and sizes of things that actually fit me.  Colour is easy to get over when you realize you want to look garish and outlandish; the cyclists who blend in also tend to get blended into the pavement by cars!  And the cycling shorts?  Well, more on that another day, but they help so immensely you'll get over the no-underwear part fast.

There's enough details about the shoes and pedals for their own post, so another day!



I started this blog as an effort to chronicle my adventures in cycling.  I tend to yammer on a lot about subjects that interest me, to the point of boring people to death.  At least in a blog, you can stop reading before your tedium reaches lethal levels!

There are lots of reasons to get on the two-wheeled bandwagon.  In my case, its for health and its for fun.  I used to love "urban mountain biking" as a youth and wanted to get back to it.  But it was my declining health that really helped push me into starting again.

So far things have been working out great.  I've been getting healthier and have lost 40 lbs.  I plan on losing another 40 lbs.

What can you expect?  Well, pretty much everything bike related.  Sometimes I might talk about a particular ride.  Sometimes I might review equipment.  Some might be related to my health.  Sometimes it will be convergences of hobbies and cycling (for example, 3D designing and 3D printing various things for my bike).

My expectations are to document the experience for myself.  I do hope it becomes more than that, like a vehicle for encouraging others to be healthy, or a way to help others navigate the early horrors that you encounter cycling, such as "What do you mean you don't wear underwear under those bike shorts!"  Most of all I hope its a lot of fun; for the writer (me) as well as the reader (you).

My current bikes are a Miele Umbra (steel hybrid) and a Norco Valence A1 (aluminum road bike).  I'm hoping to add a few more ponies to my stable too -- I would love to have a recumbent, a touring bike, a tandem, a cruiser, a cyclocross, a fat bike and a full suspension mountain bike.