I am a Clydesdale bicycle rider.
There. It’s out on the table. Having said it, I won’t dwell on it in this blog further.
…except for this post.
If you are, in today’s parlance, “triggered” by discussions of obesity and fat people, stop here. Some of what follows is not pretty. But, it’s part of who I am as I start out riding across the North American continent, so you might as well know.
While there is no definitive weight (at least that I can find on the Internet) above which one becomes a Clydesdale class cyclist, there would appear to be at least general agreement that it is around 220 pounds/100 kilograms. Cycling women, err… of size- Athenas- start at around 160 pounds/70-75 kilograms and go up from there. Extremely heavy Clydesdales and Athenas are sometimes termed with an added superlative, such as Super- or Mega-.
In 2016, when I bought my Disc Trucker, at 375 pounds/170 kilograms, I guess I was a SuperMega Clydesdale.
I guess, huh?
Never mind why, not that it’s hard to figure out, but over the preceding 15 years or so I had blimped out to horrendous proportions- a 56 inch/142+ centimeter waist size chief among them. Now, I’ve always been a big guy: six foot four inches/193 centimeters tall, but this was ridiculous. I felt lousy all the time. I was taking 20 different meds a day. My diabetes doc was starting me on injectable insulin. My feet and knees were miserable.
I. Was. Fat.
There’s no shame in that, mind you. Having been there, I try mightily not to judge people by how his or her body presents itself. I’ve met extraordinarily obese people who are centered, happy and perfectly lovely individuals and who totally accept themselves the way that they are. It’s fine for them. Sometime in the spring of 2016 I decided that it was no longer that way for me.
I decided to buy a bicycle and ride across the United States.
Now, I’ll just tell you- the “buying the bike” part was a huge obstacle, never mind riding across the country. That situation really deserves a blog post all on its own and I won’t dwell on it here except to note that the entire bicycle world is seemingly designed around that (pretty small, when it comes right down to it) percentage of the population that is of average size, weight and body proportions. A very few bikes in general production are rated for more than a 200 pound/90 kilogram rider. Suffice it to say that I voided the frame warranty on my Surly Disc Trucker the first time I sat on the seat. And then, once you have a bike, there’s nothing for sale in a bike shop that fits you. Waist sizes in generally available cycling shorts top out at around 40 inches/100 centimeters. Shirts and jerseys stop at XL, if you can even find those. Cyclists over six feet/180 centimeters tall are simply out of luck. Don’t even think about finding cycling shoes in a bike shop if you have size 15 (US)/50 (Euro) feet. I feel like I’m starting to rant here, but this is a pretty frustrating situation. I mean, you’re probably already pretty bummed out over being way outside the norm to begin with, then there’s all these obstacles…
But I got past that. Let’s fast forward through the past three years to right now, one week to the day before I finally take off on that transcontinental ride I promised myself I’d make three years ago. The payoff has been that, over that time, I have:
-lost 115 pounds/just over 50 kilograms;
-made three unsupported bike trips each equivalent in length to or longer than a transcontinental U.S. ride across the southern tier;
-biked about 12,500 miles/20,000 kilometers, three-quarters of that distance on 1,000 mile+/1,600 km or over fully loaded unsupported rides;
-come off 15+ daily medications including statins, BP meds such as Azor and Bystolic, injectable insulin, Metformin, Januvia, Allopurinol and other major drugs, with the only thing I’m left taking today being a weekly Vitamin B12 shot and a daily aspirin and multivitamin;
-reduced my A1C from around 8.0 to a consistent 5.4 or less;
-reduced my serum cholesterol to “normal range” levels;
-lowered my blood pressure from a consistent 160+/115 to daily readings of 125/80 or lower;
-increased my oxygen saturation level while sitting from around 92 to a consistent 98;
-discontinued use of a CPAP machine because I no longer suffer from sleep apnea;
-started substitute teaching pretty much every day during the school year to pay- completely- for my bike trips;
-saved a bundle on car insurance by switching to GEICO;
-only whined a little; and
-am happier, healthier and sexier at almost 67 years old than I have been at any time in the past 30 years or more.
OK, I made part of the last one up, but you get the point, right? Hey, it’s worked for me. Diet and exercise, that’s the ticket. And great docs and a dietitian, all of whom have been my biggest fans in doing this.
So, as this is not a health and fitness blog (except maybe collaterally), enough about weight loss. We’ll see what happens during Side2Side, but I’m right now pretty much one of those folks I described above, comfortable in the body I’ve got today.