For the first time in my life, I have the perfect bike for me. It was built by Michael, the owner of Klink Cycles in Eugene, to my specifications, out of used parts when possible, for $250. It looks goofy but it feels great–I finally decided to get completely over aesthetics and go for ergonomics when it comes to my primary form of transportation. Bicycles have been hurting my posture for too long.

My specs:

Frame/wheels/tires OK for Eugene streets and Joshua Tree dirt roads.

A low top tube for easy stepping over, to accommodate recent back and hip limitations.

A shock absorbing seat post for butt, pelvis, and low-back comfort.

A “sweet cheeks” seat with no crotch and no nose for crotch comfort.

A tall handlebar stem for upright posture.

Handlebars with a certain amount of curve and flat-palm grips for hand wrist and hand comfort.

Michael spent a couple of hours with me, tweaking and changing out parts, then having me ride around until I found a complaint, then re-tweaking. He was amazing and this bike is amazing.

I am in a long, slow recovery from a sacroiliac joint sprain. I’ve just started being able to do more exercise than mild physiotherapy exercises, after almost nine months. I have to be careful, but I can do it. I am in the worst shape of my life, and generally I dislike it. The one nice thing, though, is how little I have to work to reach an aerobic heart rate.

In my normal shape, for example, bicycling is not a good choice for an aerobic workout. I have to push uncomfortably hard just to get to my minimum, low-level aerobic heart rate. [Which is somewhere around 108 beats per minute–60% of an estimated maximum of 180, since I can’t yet push hard enough to discover what my actual max is.] Now I can hop on my bike and hit an aerobic zone within a minute of riding gently. Pretty nice!

I’ve been a commute cyclist since 1992, biking between several hundred and a couple thousand miles a year, mostly in 15-30 minute chunks. I’ve also been a lap swimmer since the mid-80s. In October of 2010 I was diagnosed and treated for a sacroiliac sprain, which basically means that one of my pelvic bones had gotten stuck, rotated backwards compared to the bottom of my spine, called the sacrum. Part of the treatment was refraining from all exercise except walking for several months, while the joint healed. A big change. In January I started adding exercises back in, and last month I started biking and swimming again, slow and careful.

In the meantime, I had been paying close attention to my posture, and doing a lot of physiotherapy for my spine and hips. My experience the effects of biking and swimming is quite different than it used to be. The bikes that I’ve tried now feel badly designed. They make me lean forward too far, hunch my shoulders, round my upper back, and jut my neck forward. And after biking even a few minutes, my low back feels all crunched up, especially in the L5/S1 region, and my psoas muscles feel tight. Swimming feels good while I’m doing it, but afterwards my shoulders are rounded forward and my thoracic curve is exacerbated. Both exercises feel like they are working against the progress I’ve made with my posture.

Can anyone recommend some stretches or exercises to specifically counteract the negative effects of swimming or biking? (I mostly swim freestyle/crawl.) I’d appreciate the help!

In a part of the new Seminar About Long Term Thinking, “Deep Optimism,” Matt Ridley talks about the ethics of buying local. Apparently, the amount of fuel used to ship an object to a store in the US from a factory in China is on average ten times smaller than the fuel you use to drive to the store to buy it. There are other factors in the ethics of buying local, of course, but it may be that how you get to the store is a more important decision than how far away the object you want was made or grown. It makes me wonder where buying mail-order falls in terms of fuel efficiency. Will we see Amazon asking us to buy from them to protect the planet?

I kept track of my driving mileage this last year here, and my biking mileage here. I drove (that is, I was the driver of a vehicle) for 5,056.1 miles and bought 152.341 gallons of gasoline. I bicycled 837.52 miles during the same year, almost entirely in just-under-two-mile-each-way commutes to school.

That means, according to the .28 calories per mile per pound of body weight calculation suggested by this site, I burned about 31,658 calories of food by biking this year. That’s about 1,266 medium-sized carrots, or 220 beers. And, according to this site, that is approximately the same number of  calories that are in a gallon of gasoline, so I bought 152 times as much calories of gas to drive my 5,056 miles as I did food energy to bike 837 miles. That makes biking a heck of a lot more efficient! My driving calories could have gotten me about 125,000 miles on a bicycle.

I’d like to do a cost analysis, too, but I’m behind on updating Quicken. Maybe later.

I got hit by an SUV as I was biking back from my swing dance tonight. I’m fine–neither of us were moving fast–but pissed off. The kind of accident I had is common enough to have a name: The Right Hook.

I was in the bike lane, with traffic on my left, moving at the same speed I was. We were all about to cross a street at a light. The person in the SUV next to me turned right into me as we entered the intersection.

So, if you are in a car next to a bike lane, keep in mind that it is a traffic lane so it would be a good idea to use your turn signal and look over your shoulder before turning across it. You might really hurt someone if you don’t.

If you’re on a bike with cars around, wear a helmet and be ready for anything.

I’ve been tracking my driving and biking mileage since my last birthday, just over six months. I just broke 400 miles on my bike, so I thought I’d figure out my mileage ratio. I’m at 401.8 miles on my bike and 3,283.2 miles on my truck. That’s 1 to 8.17 biking to driving, or 12.24% biking.

That’s pretty good, I think, considering I’m just a commute-cyclist. I drove less than half of the average miles for an American (7,500  in six months, according to WikiAnswers) and biked 37 times the average American miles (using 6.2 billion miles biked in 2001 from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and 285,669,915 people in the US in 2001, according to the, giving about 11 miles per person per six months, if my math is right.)

I expect my biking to catch up some to my driving, too. I drove to Joshua Tree for Christmas this year, accounting for over 2,000 of my driving miles, and I won’t be making another trip like that for quite a while. Without that trip, I’d be at about 1/3 of my miles biked.

Hmm… maybe next year I’ll track my walking too. That would be cool to know.

This has been my busiest term of school ever. I’ve got two very challenging classes, Social Psychology and Applied Data Analysis, my honors thesis, and a ten hour a week internship at Stepping Stone, a residential treatment center for adjudicated teenage boys. On top of that, I’m taking the GRE (Graduate Record Exam–a really hard test, like the SAT for getting into graduate schools) during finals week. That’s on the same day as my last final. That’s the point in my story where my classmates’ eyes bug a little. “OK, that’s crazy.”

This is too busy. I don’t like it. I like being in heavy intellectual training. I like being in this kind of shape; I can read and understand a journal article in a couple hours, for example. I enjoy being this productive, too, but I’ve gotten stressed out. About halfway through the term I started skimping on my non-intellectual stuff, to keep on top. My meditation practice is getting the squeeze–I’m rarely sitting for more than 15 minutes a day and often it’s just a token few minutes. That’s when I feel how strong my mind is going the most–when I’m sitting to meditate or lying down to sleep, this clear, powerful thinking, like a force, pushing up to the front of my head, driving my awareness and dominating my experience. I am getting enough sleep, at least. I’ve been strict with myself on that and it makes a big difference. My exercise has been getting the squeeze, though. All I do is bike, and I like biking but I also like to run, lift weights, and swim. I just can’t do them as part of my commute. I ride for transportation 30-90 minutes a day. I bike between classes. Sometimes it feels like all I do with my body is bike, sit, and sleep. Not very much walking, even.  I dance, too, probably four hours a week on average. That’s gotten some squeeze, but not too much. My songwriting and music playing has gotten the squeeze. My emotional support has gotten the squeeze. I’m down to maybe one co-counseling session a week and no phone time with friends. I’m lucky to live with good friends, so I still get supportive conversations. I get almost no physical affection, though. I can’t blame that on my term–I’m just far away from my most affectionate friends and family. Danielle, Maya, Jeannie, Mom, I miss you! I miss the rest of you too. I want to be in your lives more. I want to know how you are and what you’re doing.

But not for a couple more weeks. After this post, I’m putting my head down, business only, until the term is over. I’ll start posting again in mid-December. Have a great Thanksgiving and end of fall!

Here are some photographs of my calendar I took when I first conceived of this post, a few weeks ago. They are the first six weeks of my term. I’m a little nostalgic about how much more balanced I felt in those days. (Look at all that blue, red and pink!) Here’s what you’re looking at: I kept track of what I did, as I did it. Anything that I did for at least 15 minutes at a time made it on here. (My week calendars do not look like this ahead of time–they have only firm commitments and deadlines in them, GTD-style.) The columns are days, Sunday to Saturday, from about 8 am to about 11 pm. The purple is school stuff, like classes and studying. The blue is personal stuff, like cooking, eating, cleaning, and talking with friends. Green is office work, blogging, working in the elections office, teaching dance classes or lessons. Orange is dancing. Red is meditation and co-counseling. Pink is exercise. Yellow is Suntop stuff–chores, meetings, and outings.

Week 1

Week 1

Week 2

Week 2

Week 3

Week 3

Week 4

Week 4

Week 5

Week 5

Week 6

Week 6

I crashed my bike today, pretty bad. I was on my way to Saturday Market—Eugene’s open-air, booth-vending extravaganza—from an African dance class, crossing Olive Street, and suddenly I hit the asphalt hard. My arms and stomach hurt and I was dazed. It took a minute to realize what had happened: My front wheel had fallen off. There it was, over by the curb. Six or seven people stopped to help me and stayed with me for quite a while as I caught my breath, until I could tell them convincingly that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. A couple of them had stopped driving when they saw me fall and offered me rides home. I wished that I had taken them up on it at times on my slow, painful pedal home.

The quick release for my front wheel had somehow worked itself loose and when I wheelied a little to avoid some of the puddle between the curb and the street, the wheel just fell off. I was very lucky that it was raining, so I was bundled up in rain gear—extra pants, jacket and gloves. Because of that I have bruised instead of bloody knees, elbows and hands. I’ve crashed enough to be grateful for that right away. Later, though, I realized that the real hero of the story was my helmet. It was the front of my helmet that hit the asphalt instead of my face. I could easily have broken my nose or jaw or teeth without it. At the very least I would have lost a lot of skin.

I’ve had this helmet for at least six years without testing it like this. I haven’t always worn it, either—I don’t like wearing a helmet. They make my head sweat and itch. I don’t like how they look much, either. But I’ll be wearing mine regularly from now on.