Cycling for Weight Loss – Part 1

After being voted off of the Biggest Loser ranch in 2005 I was determined to fit in my workouts around my regular daily life and continue to lose weight.  I had lost 83 pounds in 62 days while on the ranch and I was another 83 pounds or so away from my goal.To do this I needed to workout hard and then squeeze in extra workouts whenever and wherever I could.  To squeeze in these ‘extra’ workouts I decided to invest in a bike in order to ride back and forth to the gym and my other workouts.

This plan set me on a 10 day search for the perfect bike.  I visited every bike shop in this college town of Ann Arbor, Mi and listened to all types of advice.  With every salesman I explained my goal: To put in a lot of miles over city streets in an attempt to lose weight.  The advice I received varied wildly as some salesmen were just trying to make a big sale.

Like the salesman who recommended a $1,000.00 light-weight tri-athletes bike.  It was a curious recommendation as I stood over him at 6’5” and approx 318lbs.  I swear I heard the bike moan your breaking me when I sat on it in the show room.  Then there was the salesman trying to clear out his stock by recommending a $100.00 used student rental.  I could hear that bike requesting to be put out to pasture as I picked it up to look at it.

These recommendations and many others fell by the wayside when I met the owner of the Wheels in Motion bike shop, Dwight Plotner.  Dwight recommended a very solid hybrid bike called the Trek Navigator 50 which cost me about $200.  He educated me on the finer parts of shock absorption, tires, handlebar height etc.  In the end Dwight said that if I wore out this bike then at least I had only spent a couple hundred dollars in the process.  This made great sense and I could tell that he cared more about outfitting me with the right equipment than making the quick sale.
So here are some important things to consider when looking for the perfect bike for weight loss.

There are quite a few types of suspension (or shock absorption) on a bike.  There are far too many points and types to cover in depth but you should take a look at purchasing a bike with at least some of the following : Front Suspension, Rear Suspension and or Seat Suspension.

My bike had only one type of suspension.  Seat suspension.  Specifically my seat pole had shock absorption built in.  Dwight, my salesman suggested that I forgo any other types of shock absorption since I was so big that I might wear out the shocks prematurely.  For me, at that size, this was great advice.

Seat Size
One of the key things for a comfortable ride is to have a seat that is comfortable.  I swapped out the already large seat that came with my bike for an even larger seat that would be popular among the seasoned citizen segment of the population.  I ride my bike hard with the goal being sore legs not a sore bum.  Consider a very, very, comfortable seat to go along with that shock absorbing seat pole.  Also make sure you consider adjusting the seat itself for optimal comfort.  I had to tilt my seat slightly downward for maximal – ummm comfort.

What is the purpose of the bike you are riding?  Better yet, where will you be riding it?  If you plan to ride it off-road on hills and trails then you need off-road tires. These wheels are ‘knobby’ and are made to grip the dirt.  If, like me, you plan to mostly ride along the road then you need either ‘road’ or ‘hybrid’ tires that are mostly smooth where the tire’s surface meet the road.  Correct tires will greatly improve your ride.

I first learning about burning calories while ‘spinning’ on the Biggest Loser ranch.  One of the big things that I learned is that clip-in pedals or shoe cages allow you to left up on the pedals in addition to just simply just stepping down.   I added this knowledge to my bike purchase and added shoe cages to my new bi-pedal weight loss weapon.   I would have purchased actual shoe clips instead of shoe cages but I cannot find clip in bike shoes in size 16.  Sigh.

Handlebar Height
Poorly positioned handlebars can cause lower back, shoulder and neck soreness and discourage you from riding regularly.  I try to ride in as upright a position as possible.  I was blessed that my bike came with a very long set of upright handlebars.  Of course this means that my body position is primarily over my seat which means I feel bumps in the road slightly more than if I were in a crouched position but I am satisfied with this tradeoff.  Comfort in the saddle equals more pounding the pedals.

I am in love with anything that will actually give me an advantage when it comes to pushing myself harder or longer while working out.  Electronics help me with this.  The first and most important piece of equipment is my Polar Heart Rate monitor.  With it I can actually ride my bike effectively for weight loss and not just for recreation (more about how to ride in the next post).

In addition to a heart rate monitor I outfitted my bike with a odometer that would measure and keep a history of both the speed and distance of my rides.  Then I worked hard to try to improve in every way possible while my electronics give me objective feedback.

I hope these considerations help you to choose the proper bike for your situation so that you can ride for months and months and miles and miles.

Now let’s be honest, most of us know how to ride a bike.  However, not many of us know how to bike effectively for weight loss.  In Part 2 I will give you a few tips on actually riding your bike in the most effective manner for weight loss.

In the mean time, check out HealthyWage, which provides health incentives for everyone.  Incentives make accountability fun, and studies show that incentives increase your odds of success.  Check it out!  And keep up the good work!

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