How Cycling May Have Saved My Life
by Mark Maffitt
"Like most of us, my love affair with bicycles started with a fat-tired one speed. Perhaps that bike would have value today as a "retro" if I still had it. Alas, my mom gave it away and it fell victim to an artist's acetylene torch. Bless her heart, for she knew not the pain of my loss, but I digress.
I bought an entry level Peugeot "10 Speed" in 1973 with money that I had earned by mowing the lawns of neighborhood widows. Since mountain bikes had not yet been invented, nobody would have thought to describe such a bike as a "road bike" but that is what it was. In 1979, I upgraded to a Peugeot PX10 (with cutting edge Reynolds 531 frame). I kept both road bikes away from my mother and they currently take up rafter space in my garage.
During my college years, I rode a lot. There were multi-day bicycle tours, weekday training rides and occasional century rides. Graduate school really put a crimp in my riding style, and after graduate school came a job, three kids, soccer games, an even busier schedule, fast food and about 60 extra pounds around my gut. A month before my 48th birthday I stepped onto the bathroom scale and was somehow shocked to see that it read 250 pounds. I had not been diagnosed with any other health problems, but I was clearly headed towards disaster.
I still don't know why the 250 pound milestone was so momentous to me, but I am glad that something finally caught my attention.I resolved that I would reach my ideal weight by my 50th birthday. Despite public opinion, there are no magic bullets for curing obesity. Over the course of about 18 months I shed nearly all of the excess baggage by doing some very un-American things, like eating less and exercising more. None of the lifestyle changes were radical, for I know myself well and I know that draconian deprivation would only have been followed by hedonistic relapse. Perhaps I should share that insight with Oprah.
I rediscovered my love of cycling during the weight loss phase of my life, and once I returned to the sport, I was indeed smitten. The 2006 MS150 marked the debut of my return to long rides. Since then, I have been riding more and more centuries each year - 12 in 2009 and 15 in 2010. The highlight of my 2010 season was riding the 300k Dairyland Dare with my friend Craig. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is to engage in activities that are enjoyable to you. I love to ride, and cycling may have saved my life.
I also bike to work, year around. In the last two years, I have missed fewer than 6 commuting days.
Editors Note: When I took this photo it was 20 above zero. The week before, Mark rode all week to work with an average temp of - 6F degrees!
I rode about 6500 miles in 2010, and 3500 of those miles were from my commute. The miles really add up when you get religious about commuting. This is not as heroic as it may seem at first, for much of my ride is on the Capital City Trail where the deer outnumber motorists and my thoughts are free to wander. If I had to contend with cars, I would probably be much less zealous about it.
My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2008 by purchasing a Co-motion tandem. Since then, we have missed very few of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides.
In 2009, we rode the Bicycle Tour of Colorado on the tandem. We signed on with the Shuttleguy for that trip and had a terrific time. We did the 2010 GRABAAWR together and we are already registered for the Shuttleguy's 2011 Tri State Ride.
Perhaps we will see you there!"