Strangely, despite founding and running an organization whose funding has become dependent on the efforts of cyclists, I had not ridden a bike since the early 1970’s—until the spring of 2020. For years, friends had been telling me to get on a bike and give it a try, but I always had a list of reasons—more accurately, excuses—as to why I couldn’t.
The people who encouraged me were devoted cyclists with loads of stamina and not an ounce of fat. They were—and still are—awesome to me. Ultimately, they inspired me to get (and stay) mobile.
Until five years ago, I weighed more than I should, and I shuffled when I walked because of chronic back pain. I had had extensive spinal surgery years before for a benign nerve tumor that caused nerve damage, pain and loss of muscle control. I used to keep a cane in my car to help me get out and move. Lying on a flat surface gave me some relief. When I was driving from state to state for Less Cancer meetings, I often stretched out on cement sidewalks in rest stops.
Anyone who has had chronic back pain knows exactly the desperation I’m describing. And they know that people in pain often find relief in food. For me, it was sugar which, I have learned, has many of the same “reward” impacts on the brain as the chemicals in highly addictive painkillers. Like other addictions, it convinced me I was doing the right thing. Sugar “gives you energy,” right? Wrong—on so many levels.
Not everyone needs help in transformative change, but I did. Fortunately, I was able to work with movement professional Chris Forsten, who helped me lose weight, gain strength and increase stamina. It’s an ongoing process to motivate myself in diet and exercise, knowing that one day in a chair can turn into a week of inactivity, and a couple of cookies can lead to consuming a whole cake.
So, where does biking come in?
When Covid 19 struck, I thought biking might be a safe way to get out of the house, so I bought a bike. You could call it love at first sight. Since my first ride, it’s been hard for me to stay off the bike. I’ve ridden about 3,000 miles in less than a year, have lost more weight and feel great physically and mentally. I discovered that biking is one of the few things I do that won’t allow me to multi-task. I need to be fully focused on riding to stay safe.
My weeklong work with Less Cancer is always rewarding, but when I feel my energy ebb, biking has a way of restoring my drive and focus on the organization. Now I am committed to riding 500 miles between June 5 and July 6 during the Less Cancer Bike Ride America.
I am not an expert on cycling or a skilled rider, but I know that riding a bike has changed my life—body, heart and mind—for the better. Whatever you think you can do when it comes to cycling, I urge you to give it a shot. Take your time; do your research. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride—whether it is a stationary bike, e-bike, road bike or tricycle—as long as it works for you. You may find that it’s a life-changing experience, as it has been for me.
If I were rich, I would buy everyone a bike.
Not unlike the taste of chocolate, biking is complex to describe. For me, it’s a combination of sensations—freedom, movement, wind and even a feeling of flight—but there is also the synching of the wheels of my mind with the spinning wheels of the bike. The end result is big smiles from me and riders I meet on the trail. My bike is all about connecting with myself—who I am when I am not in Less Cancer mode, and how I connect with nature and the greater world.
Yes, the key to freedom is definitely a bike.