THE FIT: All Bodies, All Bikes

 A silk dress and high heels were no deterrent for this woman to ride to market in northern Italy. Photo by Nicole Eikenberry

A silk dress and high heels were no deterrent for this woman to ride to market in northern Italy. Photo by Nicole Eikenberry

A column titled “The Fit,” must be about improving your fitness, right? Sure! If you want to get more fit, you should — like legendary professional cyclist Fausto Coppi said — ride your bike more, and more, and more. There. My work is done.

But wait, the role of fitness in health is a little more nuanced, and there’s a reason this column is longer than a few sentences. Let’s start off by digging into a few definitions of fitness.

COSMETIC FITNESS : I Know You’re Fine, But How Ya Doing?

Ahh, the vision of youthful, slim, good-looking, well-attired cyclists — this is Cosmetic Fitness. Looking fit on the surface says little about true ability or actual health. You might just get lapped by someone who doesn’t fit the dominant culture’s vision of health and fitness.

As a non-diet dietitian, I don’t have much patience for cosmetic fitness. If you’ve grown too big for your college kit, don’t wait until you’ve “corrected” your weight to some past glory. Get one that fits and get back in the saddle!

 A shrine to the wise Fausto Coppi, atop Passo del Stelvio in northern Italy. Photo: Nicole Eikenberry

A shrine to the wise Fausto Coppi, atop Passo del Stelvio in northern Italy. Photo: Nicole Eikenberry

 
Ride a bike. Ride a bike. Ride a bike.
— Fausto Coppi

PERFORMANCE FITNESS : Fast = Fit

Up next is Performance Fitness — riders in crisp race-fit kits, with veined and ripped muscles, on bikes you can lift with a finger. The focus is on power, speed, agility, and endurance. In short the focus is on winning — which is not what this column is about.

Although I recently acquired a bright white pair of Lake high-performance road shoes, you’ll never find me on the front line of any race start. I will always choose vivacity over velocity (and sometimes those overlap!).

HEALTH FITNESS : Fitness for the Health of It

I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days
— Unknown

Now we’re really getting to something meaningful. Health Fitness, a.k.a., metabolic fitness, involves our whole body, notably the cardiovascular system.

It means you are able to do the activities involved in your daily life, relative to how you spend your day and how you ride your bike! It’s about disease prevention and health promotion and maintenance.

Metabolic measures of health include cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar) and/or insulin levels, and blood pressure. Health fitness is the ultimate goal, balancing effort and rest to prolong the years in your life. And more importantly, the quality of life in those years.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Fitness is just one spoke on a much broader wheel of health that includes mental, emotional, spiritual, and social/relational aspects on top of the physical ones. Cycling can enhance all of those components in spades. The pursuit of health is both a privilege and a choice, not a moral obligation. With a bike between your legs, the ride is about JOY, leaving health as a welcome side benefit.

Further, just as the health of an eater is inextricably linked to the health of the food system, so the health of cyclists is inseparable from the health of cycling, including but not limited to trail systems, commuting infrastructure, access, bike shops, civic attitude, safety ...

Maybe author Robert Kuttner had a cyclist in mind when he wrote of someone who “radiates a vitalizing energy, the zest and gaiety of an inexhaustible joie de vivre.”

We’ll focus on finding that sweet spot in cycling that makes you smile relentlessly with bugs and dirt in your teeth.

WHY THE FIT?

This column is about how to fit cycling into your life. All bodies and all bikes fit in here. We are a gloriously motley crew, we JoyRiders, brought together by our shared passion for cycling.

We’ll tackle questions like, “How can you fit more comfortably on your bike?” and “How can you gain more confidence in roadside fixes, technical riding skills, or the safest route from here to there?” and “Is your ride motivated by pleasure, or purpose, or both?” We’ll focus on finding that sweet spot in cycling that makes you smile relentlessly with bugs and dirt in your teeth.

As humans, we are a social species that craves connection with others. Bikes can be a vehicle for connection, not just to fit in with others in this singularly united and joyful field, but to nature, from place to place, to ourselves, to our path.

 Columnist Nicole Eikenberry getting joyful on the Cedar Lake Trail near downtown Minneapolis

Columnist Nicole Eikenberry getting joyful on the Cedar Lake Trail near downtown Minneapolis

My FIT MISSION 

My intent, dovetailing with the overall JoyRide mojo, is as follows:

  • To entice and empower more people to get on their bikes more often, more comfortably, more joyfully, and more confidently than before.
  • To create or extend individual cyclists’ connection with the diverse cycling community united in their enthusiasm for the beloved bike.
  • To enhance and advocate for the health and well-being of the individual cyclist through practical and accessible information regarding resources, skills, gear, inspiration, metabolic/health fitness, motivation, and fuel for the ride.
  • To enhance and advocate for the health of the cycling community by lowering real and perceived barriers to cycling and increasing access to, diversity of, and inclusivity within our community.

 

This column is for all bodies, on all bikes. Welcome to The Fit.