Category Archives: Opinion

Why You Should Cycle to Work

Cycling to work: major new study suggests health benefits are staggering

by Jason Gill, University of Glasgow and Carlos Celis-Morales, University of Glasgow

Research has consistently shown that people who are less physically active are both more likely to develop health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and to die younger. Yet there is increasing evidence that physical activity levels are on the decline.

The problem is that when there are many demands on our time, many people find prioritising exercise difficult. One answer is to multi-task by cycling or walking to work. We’ve just completed the largest ever study into how this affects your health.

Published in the British Medical Journal today, the results for cycling in particular have important implications. They suggest that councils and governments need to make it a top priority to encourage as many commuters to get on their bikes as possible.

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The findings

Cycling or walking to work, sometimes referred to as active commuting, is not very common in the UK. Only 3% of commuters cycle to work and 11% walk, one of the lowest rates in Europe. At the other end of the scale, 43% of the Dutch and 30% of Danes cycle daily.

To get a better understanding of what the UK could be missing, we looked at 263,450 people with an average age of 53 who were either in paid employment or self-employed, and didn’t always work at home. Participants were asked whether they usually travelled to work by car, public transport, walking, cycling or a combination.

We then grouped our commuters into five categories: non-active (car/public transport); walking only; cycling (including some who also walked); mixed-mode walking (walking plus non-active); and mixed-mode cycling (cycling plus non-active, including some who also walked).

We followed people for around five years, counting the incidences of heart disease, cancers and death. Importantly, we adjusted for other health influences including sex, age, deprivation, ethnicity, smoking, body mass index, other types of physical activity, time spent sitting down and diet. Any potential differences in risk associated with road accidents is also accounted for in our analysis, while we excluded participants who had heart disease or cancer already.

We found that cycling to work was associated with a 41% lower risk of dying overall compared to commuting by car or public transport. Cycle commuters had a 52% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. They also had 46% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer at all.

Walking to work was not associated with a lower risk of dying from all causes. Walkers did, however, have a 27% lower risk of heart disease and a 36% lower risk of dying from it.

The mixed-mode cyclists enjoyed a 24% lower risk of death from all causes, a 32% lower risk of developing cancer and a 36% lower risk of dying from cancer. They did not have a significantly lower risk of heart disease, however, while mixed-mode walkers did not have a significantly lower risk of any of the health outcomes we analysed.

For both cyclists and walkers, there was a trend for a greater lowering of risk in those who commuted longer distances. In addition, those who cycled part of the way to work still saw benefits – this is important as many people live too far from work to cycle the entire distance.

As for walkers, the fact that their health benefits were more modest may be related to distance, since they commute fewer miles on average in the UK – six per week compared to 30 for cyclists. They may therefore need to walk longer distances to elicit meaningful benefits. Equally, however, it may be that the lower benefits from walking are related to the fact that it’s a less intense activity.

What now?

Our work builds on the evidence from previous studies in a number of important ways. Our quarter of a million participants was larger than all previous studies combined, which enabled us to show the associations between cycling/walking to work and health outcomes more clearly than before.

In particular, the findings resolve previous uncertainties about the association with cancer, and also with heart attacks and related fatalities. We also had enough participants to separately evaluate cycling, walking and mixed-mode commuting for the first time, which helped us confirm that cycling to work is more beneficial than walking.

In addition, much of the previous research was undertaken in places like China and the Nordic countries where cycling to work is common and the supporting infrastructure is good. We now know that the same benefits apply in a country where active commuting is not part of the established culture.

It is important to stress that while we did our best to eliminate other potential factors which might influence the findings, it is never possible to do this completely. This means we cannot conclusively say active commuting is the cause of the health outcomes that we measured. Nevertheless, the findings suggest policymakers can make a big difference to public health by encouraging cycling to work in particular. And we should not forget other benefits such as reducing congestion and motor emissions.

Some countries are well ahead of the UK in encouraging cyclists. In Copenhagen and Amsterdam, for instance, people cycle because it is the easiest way to get around town.

It was not always this way – both cities pursued clear strategies to improve cycle infrastructure first. Ways to achieve this include increasing provision for cycle lanes, city bike hire schemes, subsidised bike purchase schemes, secure cycle parking and more facilities for bicycles on public transport.

The ConversationFor the UK and other countries that have lagged behind, the new findings suggest there is a clear opportunity. If decision makers are bold enough to rise to the challenge, the long-term benefits are potentially transformative.

Jason Gill, Reader, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow and Carlos Celis-Morales, Research Associate, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

UCI and USA Cycling Honor Rights-Violating Qatar

The UCI is holding the Road World Championships in Doha Qatar next month. The USA is sending a team, including a womens team. I think it’s a disgrace.

Bestowing the honor of hosting one of cycling’s most prestigous events, the World Championships, should not be taken lightly. Granting this privilege to a country implies validity and respect, that they are worthy.

In the case of Qatar, nothing could be further from the truth.

While paying lip service to rights, the truth is…

Qatar is an absolute monarchy. Political parties are banned. Slavery is rife. There is no free speech. There is no objective law and no individual rights. It’s barbaric. Not to mention that we’re at war with a more a consistent form of the governing ideology, radical Islam.

“Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar’s Constitution. Sharia law is applied to laws pertaining to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases in Sharia-based family courts, a female’s testimony is worth half a man’s and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.”

“Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. Article 88 of Qatar’s criminal code declares the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes. Adultery is punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man are involved.”

“Apostasy is a crime punishable by the death penalty in Qatar. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison and proselytizing any religion other than Islam can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. Homosexuality is a crime punishable in sharia by the death penalty for Muslims, though in Qatar the penalty for consenting males is up to 5 years in prison.”

Source: Human Rights in Qatar, Wikipedia

It goes on… forced labor and more.

This is where the UCI holds it’s most prestigious race of the year. And USA Cycling sees no problem.

Can we still claim to be the land of the free, home of the brave… a shining beacon of liberty? Can we expect to eradicate such horrific abuses of individual rights while turning a blind eye and treating the violators as respected members of the world community? And what does it say to the victims of such regimes?

References

Cycling’s Secret Weapon

A friend and former Euro pro once called it “the most underrated cycling gear ever.”

It’s the humble bicycle trainer, used for cycling indoors.

But the secret is, don’t just ride it in winter, use it year-round for structured, no-nonsense workouts. It’s quick and efficient. I did two good workouts this week, each in less than 45 min.

The secret is to ride your trainer year-round for structured, no-nonsense workouts. Click To Tweet

Indoor Cycling for Comprehensive and Year-Round Training

The thing I love about indoor cycling is I can do leg strength easily. I use Bill Edwards’ progressive power training method for developing cycling-specific strength. (Save your gym membership fees and invest in a trainer, much more effective.)

The other big plus for is the ability to climb for as long as you want to, and not be limited by the topography in your area. (When I was racing I used to get on the trainer at lunch and grind away up Alpe d’Huez at least twice a week during my lunch hour. I’d have to fly to France to replicate that.)

Add to that you can do that day or night, wet or dry… and you can do it safely.

And… I’ve got a huge fan next to my bike that I’d say with iced bottles, air conditioning and the blast from my huge fan, keeps me cooler indoors than I’d be on the road. That means I can increase the work load and get in a better workout (similar to using supplemental oxygen).

BTW, I think a lot of people go wrong here. If you don’t keep cool, your power will lower, and you’re not going to get a quality workout. Invest in a good fan, and put your trainer below (or near) an air conditioning vent if possible, and hydrate!

Enjoy the outdoors, but think that’s the only way to get in a killer workout… all the good guys I raced with used trainers year round.

Which is the Best Bicycle Trainer?

There are a number of good trainers, from mag, fluid to electronic or “smart” trainers. (You can explore some the options available in the Cycling Store.)

I have a CompuTrainer, and it’s rock solid. The only thing I don’t like about it is the software and the controller, the trainer itself is bulletproof and will give you decades of hard use. But CompuTrainers are the original smart trainers, now decades old, and it shows.

Wahoo’s Kickr is one of the best, and maybe the best of all. I haven’t ridden every trainer out there, so I can’t say definitively, but it’s as solid as the CompuTrainer in construction, but with state of the art technology and software. It lets you do normal trainer workouts, Erg style workouts based on power, and ride courses and online with Zwift.

It’s compatible with Windows, iOS, Android and more. It connects to just about every app you could wish, WahooFitness, Strava, Zwift, TrainerRoad, Kinomap and ones I’ve never heard of.

Forget the trick wheels, it’s a trainer that will really lift your game.

Check out the stats on Wahoo’s Kickr.

Can These Three Letters Save the Rio Olympics?

Tejay van Garderen has withdrawn from consideration for the Rio Olympics over concerns about the Zika virus. His wife is pregnant and the virus has been linked to birth defects. Two high profile golfers have also withdrawn from Rio, and I expect we’ll see more athletes bail.

The World Health Organization insists the games should go ahead. 150 medical experts disagree and have signed a letter saying it would be unethical for the games to proceed in Rio.

I think there’s a simple solution. Bring back DDT.

It is very effective, and contrary to the hysteria surrounding it, not the life-threatening, planet-annihilating chemical it’s been demonized as.

Nearly 1 million people a year die from mosquito-borne diseases, notably malaria. But did you know that malaria deaths worldwide were nearly eliminated… until they banned DDT? Then there was a massive resurgence.

The alleged downsides of DDT are insignificant next to the lives it has saved… and still could.

Read: Tejay van Garderen Pulls Out of Rio Over Zika Risk

The Bicycle Chain Coffee Mug

Look, it’s not a mug, it’s a work of art!

The Bicycle Chain Coffee Mug - a great gift for cyclists
The Bicycle Chain Coffee Mug – guaranteed to make your coffee taste better… well at least make you look awesome.

Check it out: http://velologic.com/store/plug-industries-bike-chain-coffee-mug/

Why a Black Belt Turned to Cycling and the Lesson for Us All

Successful entrepreneur Howard Chang tells “Spartan Up” host Joe De Sena, why as a karate champion at 17, he switched to endurance cycling, a sport which he admits he had no natural affinity towards.

What separates entrepreneurs from the rest of us? Is it their success? Or their failure? Or their refusal to stop at failure, and recognition that strength only comes through struggle and failure?

Top Entrepreneur on How Being Bad at Something Helps You Get Good

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With Very Little Cycling Infrastructure, Why Is Cycling in Tokyo So Popular?

Cycling in Tokyo is a bit of a paradox. There’s only about 6 miles of cycling lanes in Tokyo, a tiny amount for a huge international city, yet many people ride their bikes in this densely populated city without a second thought. Why?

This StreetFilm video offers an explanation.

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"The Amazing Machine" tee shirt highlights what a simple but fascinating machine the bicycle really is with the quote: "an ever-saddled horse that never eats."
Unique and Cool Gifts for Cyclists A collection of unique gift ideas for the cyclist in your life, sure to amuse, entertain and thrill. These are gifts that will remind them of their passion and of you for years to come. Read: Gift Ideas for Cyclists  

The Mysterious Biomechanics of Riding – and Balancing – a Bicycle

by Stephen Cain, Research Investigator in Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan.

Humans have been riding bicycle-like machines for close to 200 years, beginning with the Draisine or “velocipede” in 1817.

While riding and balancing a bicycle can seem simple and effortless, the actual control process used by a human rider is still somewhat of a mystery. Using mathematical equations, researchers have explained how a bicycle without a rider can balance itself and have identified the bicycle design features critical for that to happen.

However, the stability – that is, the ability to remain balanced – of a bicycle with a rider is more difficult to quantify and describe mathematically, especially since rider ability can vary widely. My colleagues and I brought expert and novice riders into the lab to investigate whether they use different balancing techniques.

The physics of staying upright on a bicycle

A big part of balancing a bicycle has to do with controlling the center of mass of the rider-bicycle system. The center of mass is the point at which all the mass (person plus bicycle) can be considered to be concentrated. During straight riding, the rider must always keep that center of mass over the wheels, or what’s called the base of support – an imaginary polygon that connects the two tire contacts with the ground.

Bicycle riders can use two main balancing strategies: steering and body movement relative to the bike. Steering is critical for maintaining balance and allows the bicycle to move to bring the base of support back under the center of mass. Imagine balancing a broomstick on one hand – steering a bicycle is equivalent to the hand motions required to keep the broomstick balanced. Steering input can be provided by the rider directly via handlebars (steering torque) or through the self-stability of the bicycle, which arises because the steer and roll of a bicycle are coupled; a bicycle leaned to its side (roll) will cause a change in its steer angle.

Body movements relative to the bicycle – like leaning left and right – have a smaller effect than steering, but allow a rider to make balance corrections by shifting the center of mass side to side relative to the bicycle and base of support.

Steering is absolutely necessary to balance a bicycle, whereas body movements are not; there is no specific combination of the two to ensure balance. The basic strategy to balance a bicycle, as noted by Karl von Drais (inventor of the Draisine), is to steer into the undesired fall.

Newbies versus pros

While riders have been described using mathematical equations, the equations are not yet useful for understanding the differences between riders of different ability levels or for predicting the stability of a given rider on a given bicycle.

Therefore, the goal of my colleagues’ and my recent work was to explore the types of control used by both novice and expert riders and to identify the differences between the two groups. In our study, expert riders identified themselves as skilled cyclists, went on regular training rides, belonged to a cycling club or team, competed several times per year, and had used rollers for training indoors. Novice riders knew how to ride a bicycle but did so only occasionally for recreation or transportation and did not identify themselves as experts.


A subject riding the instrumented bicycle on training rollers in our experimental setup. Cain SM, Ashton-Miller JA, Perkins NC (2016) On the Skill of Balancing While Riding a Bicycle. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149340, CC BY

We conducted our experiments in a motion capture laboratory, where the riders rode a typical mountain bike on rollers. Rollers constrain the bicycle in the fore-aft direction but allow free lateral (left-right) movement. They require a bicycle rider to maintain balance by pedaling, steering and leaning, as one would outdoors.


A subject preparing to ride the instrumented bicycle in our experimental setup. Stephen Cain, CC BY-ND

We mounted sensors and used a motion capture system to measure the motion of the bicycle (speed, steering angle and rate, roll angle and rate) and the steering torque used by the rider. A force platform underneath the rollers allowed us to calculate the lateral position of the center of mass relative to the base of support; that let us determine how a rider was leaning.

We found that both novice and expert riders exhibit similar balance performance at slow speeds. But at higher speeds, expert riders achieve superior balance performance by employing smaller but more effective body movements and less steering. Regardless of speed, expert riders use smaller and less varying steering inputs and less body movement variation.

We conclude that expert riders are able to use body movements more effectively than novice riders, which results in reducing the demand for both large corrective steering and body movements.

Mysteries remain

Despite our work and that of others in the field, there is still much to be learned about how humans ride and balance bicycles. Most research, including ours, has been limited to straight line riding, which only makes up a fraction of a typical bicycle ride.


Out in the world, expert riders know how to control the bike with subtle movements. Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, CC BY

Our work reveals measurable differences between riders of different skill levels. But their meaning is unclear. Are the differences linked to a higher risk of crashing for the novice riders? Or do the differences simply reflect a different style of control that gets fine-tuned through hours and hours of training rides?

Ideally, we would like to identify the measurements that quantify the balance performance, control strategy and fall risk of a rider in the real world.

With such measurements, we could identify riders at high risk of falling, explore the extent to which bicycle design can reduce fall risk and increase balance performance, and develop the mathematical equations that describe riders of different skill levels.

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Cyclists, Count Your Blessings… a short list

As cyclists we’re extremely lucky. Think about it.

A runner… your speeds are “slow” and “slower.” It beats you up, the pounding on the pavement sends a shockwave through your feet, your knees, your hips, your back. You’re prone to injuries, ongoing pain and even long term damage.

Swimming vs Cycling
Swimmer – courtesy Flickr user Tyler Bolken

If you’re a swimmer, okay it doesn’t hurt so much. But it’s painfully slow! You literally have to claw and drag your way through a substance that’s trying to smother you. And your view? It’s a freaking stripe at the bottom of a pool, and a few flashes of feet poolside when you gasp for breath.

Cyclists? We’ve got it made. A simple, amazing machine and we can go places no runner or swimmer could even dream about.

We enjoy incredible variety of speeds and emotions. On the flats we fly, on the hills we grit our teeth and grind, and on the descents we go into an exhilarating virtual freefall.

Now I did a few triathlons years ago, that’s how I got into cycling. And I still run, every day in fact, but IMO nothing beats the simple joy and range of experiences that the amazing machine makes possible.

Trail Runner's Altra Lone Peak 2 shoe hitting the ground.
A trail runner’s Altra Lone Peak 2 shoe hits the ground.

I think this translates to indoors too. You can run indoors with a treadmill, but those things are huge and expensive. I’m looking for one right now for my wife. The experience is pretty much “thud, thud, thud, thud.”

The incline feature doesn’t simulate hills because although the treadmill tilts upward, the ground (rotating band) is falling downward. It’s much harder to run up a hill in reality, you have to lift your entire body weight up and over the hill, and a treadmill you just have to lift your foot a little higher but your body weight stays exactly where it is.

Swimming indoors? Yeah, for a ton of money you can install an endless pool in your garage, a friend of mine and swimming coach did just that. It’s very expensive, requires a lot of maintenance… and the experience, well let’s just say you’ll be missling that line and those feet.

Cycling indoors these days is an awesome experience, especially with a smart trainer. Sure, it doesn’t match the outdoors, but it’s a long way from grinding away on a trainer staring at a wall, a workout, or cycling video.

Today, with a bullet-proof bicycle trainer like Kinetic, you can race online in real time with people from anywhere in the world. You can ride in a group, draft, attack… win sprints and King of the Mountains.

It’s an incredible sport. A simple machine, human-powered, and now technology like Zwift brings that fun and excitement indoors too.

Lucky us.

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The Incredible Sport Made Possible by the Amazing Machine

As cyclists we’re extremely lucky. Think about it.

A runner… your speeds are “slow” and “slower.” It beats you up, the pounding on ripples through your feet, your knees, your hips, your back.

If you’re a swimmer, okay it doesn’t hurt so much. But it’s painfully slow! You literally have to claw and drag your way through a substance that’s trying to smother you. And your view? It’s a freaking stripe at the bottom of a pool, and a few flashes of feet poolside when you gasp for breath.

Cyclists? We’ve got it made. A simple, amazing machine and we can go places no runner or swimmer could even dream about.

We enjoy incredible variety of speeds and emotions. On the flats we fly, on the hills we grit our teeth and grind, and on the descents we go into an exhilarating virtual freefall.

Now I did a few triathlons years ago, that’s how I got into cycling. And I still run, every day in fact, but IMO nothing beats the simple joy and range of experieces that the amazing machine makes possible.

I think this translates to indoors too. You can run indoors with a treadmill, but those things are huge and expensive. I’m looking for one right now for my wife. The experience is pretty much “thud, thud, thud, thud.”

The incline feature doesn’t simulate hills because although the treadmill tilts upward, the ground (rotating band) is falling downward. It’s much harder to run up a hill in reality, you have to lift your entire body weight up and over the hill, and a treadmill you just have to lift your foot a little higher but your body weight stays exactly where it is.

Swimming indoors? Yeah, for a ton of money you can install an endless pool in your garage, a friend of mine and swimming coach did just that. It’s very expensive, requires a lot of maintenance… and the experience, well let’s just say you’ll be missling that line and those feet.

Cycling indoors these days is an awesome experience, especially with a smart trainer. Sure, it doesn’t match the outdoors, but it’s a long way from grinding away on a trainer staring at a wall, a workout, or cycling video.

Today, with a bullet-proof trainer like Kinetic, you can race online in real time with people from anywhere in the world. You can ride in a group, draft, attack… win sprints and King of the Mountains.

It’s an incredible sport. A simple machine, human-powered, and now technology like Zwift brings that fun and excitement indoors too.

Lucky us.

Motorized Doping: A Punishment that Fits the Crime

With the first proven case of “motorized doping,” it’s time to seriously consider what the appropriate punishment should be. This video might hold the key.

In the video below, bike thieves get more than they bargained for when they steal this bike. “Ride it like you stole it… and it’s electrified.”

Perhaps “motorized dopers,” should be strapped to their bikes… after they have been similarly rewired, and the remote control given to those they tried to cheat.

Seems like a logical consequence to me.