Hello my name is Mark, but you can just call me ReptilesBlade like every one else on the Internet (Reptiles, Reppy, and RB are popular as well). I am a 23-year-old guy still living at home with his parents for a little while longer for reasons that should soon be apparent. If you want this can become kind of a riding log to keep up with me and what I am doing particularly on the bike but off of it a bit as well if requested. I live in DeSoto Missouri, which is very hilly terrain because I think we are the northern stretch of the Ozark Mountains in Central America (or at least it was at one time). It is not uncommon to have a 30 degree climb for at least 2-4 city blocks and the highways can see that grade of incline or more for well over a mile on just one side of the hills and these hills are often back to back like some kind of torturous roller coaster!
I am not exactly new here, I was a lurker for a long time but I have grown more active because I like the community here and I am growing more and more fond of Cycling. This is coming from a very solid nerd whose other two main activities are video games and reading and that is most likely never going to change though cycling and fitness have taken a great chunk of my time away from them probably permanently. I spent far to many years unable to do anything else to ever give them up completely. I think cycling is at least part of the solution to many of the problems we Americans have and I am doing my part to use it in that capacity.
First I am going to post a nice condensed bit of the introduction to myself, which is just a repost of something I wrote early last August on another web site. It might give you a good idea about the kind of person I am. After this I will make an extension and kind of update what you are about to read a bit. Well, here it goes.
I will go with the short description. I was born with nine things wrong with my heart and my lungs are half the normal size, all the circulation to my right lung had to be artificially created using a BT Shunt. I was only the third person to be operated on with my kinds of problems and the first to ever survive. Basically this has left me with several disabilities and limitations. I cannot go out in extreme heat or cold (think 40-85 degrees Fahrenheit as my range, anything beyond those is bad news for me) or bad things happen. Like going into cardiac arrest bad. I also have a life-long 25 lb weight limit on ANY lifting I do and I cannot be exposed to any harsh fumes, that especially includes most cleaning products. I constantly suffer from energy problems, I just never have enough energy to do what I want or need to do. I am also on a Low-Salt, No Added Salt diet that for starters means about 70+% of all the snack foods out there are off limits to me. I have had four open heart surgeries, the first when I was two days old, and have spent probably the first half of my life in the hospital. I was so week that just lifting a 5 or 10 pound object could cause me to pull a hamstring in my arms and I was unable to walk even two blocks without getting winded and having to stop.
Around early January of 05 I got fed up with this and actively decided to change my lifestyle. I bought a bicycle, started exercising regularly, and completely changed my diet.
The bicycle has been a Godsend, I have finally found an outdoor activity I am capable of enjoying and I have steadily increased every aspect of my physical capabilities since I began using it. I have been on it almost every day I get the chance to be. I always do at least a three-mile round trip ride and if given the chance I stay out for a ten-mile ride. I can ride it continuously for nearly six miles now, something that was never possible before.
I usually exercise every other day or every three days, that way my body has a chance to rest and repair and I get the maximum amount out of each exercise. I would like to note that does not count for bike riding, I ride the bike nearly every chance I get. That means at least once a day on nice days and sometimes even more. I now lift weights to strengthen my arms, shoulders and back. I have always had a weak back but the arthritis pain goes away after I exercise (I have bad arthritis in my lower back caused by the countless surgeries). I must be careful not to exercise my chest however, that could lead to countless medical problems for me due to the many surgeries.
My diet has changed in a couple of ways. First of all I am paying even more attention to the nutrition labels on food now. I always had to watch them anyway because of my low salt diet but now I am looking at other thing than just salt. I am now preparing a larger portion of my own food, rather than eating ready made or microwave able meal things. I am actually becoming an above average cook. I have almost completely eliminated fast food of any kind. I used to eat it between 1-5 times a week, which has now been reduced to just one or twice a month at most. Also I used to eat almost anything on their menus, now when I do eat fast food it is just a hand full of items and I never touch their hamburgers. I really only consume their fries and some of their breakfast items like pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and hash browns and even these favorites are growing increasingly unpalatable. This does not just go for McDonalds but ALL fast food chains. Subway, and Arby's are ok and Fazoli's is still my most favorite restaurant of all but I have basically boycotted everything else.
The results have been startling. My acne is all but gone, I am stronger than I have ever been, and my energy problems and back pain are only a fraction of what they once were. I have gained 16lbs of pure muscle of the past 6-7 months and I expect at least another ten by the end of the year. I am currently on five-pound weights but I will probably go all they way to ten or 12.5-pound weights. I cannot go past that due to my weight restriction, but to be honest I do not care.
I no longer adhere to any specific performance goals because the ones I did have when I first started were my wildest dreams at the time and I achieve them within the first two months. I have since changed the informal goals I wanted to being able to ride the bike for twenty miles at a time and to be on the 10-12.5 weights. I did have a discussion with my doctors about those goals and they gave me a green light for all of them. So far I am about half way there on all of them.
I will admit I am slacking off during the summer, the reason for this is that it is so hot this year it is just sapping my energy and I am unable to do all that I want too. It is that heat restriction coming into play and there is nothing I can do about it except to do nothing. I hate doing nothing. Fortunately it is just beginning to cool down some and within another month I expect to be going just as strong as I ever was. The best is still ahead!
Ok now for the update.
I have been forced to sideline most of the exercise due to the weather and my temperature restrictions for the past two or three months. However I am slowly getting back into it and I still love it as much as I have grown to in the past year or so. Even with severely slacking off I kept most of the physical conditioning. My first attempt to assess my physical condition was to try and walk two miles on the treadmill, which was my original main goal to obtain when I first started my lifestyle change over a year ago. I learned from my Grandfather who is a military man (I am not by the way) that part of their basic physical requirements are that they are able to run for two miles. I figured a decent goal for myself with my physical limitations was to simply be able to just walk for two miles at any speed I wish. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only was I able to walk rapidly for two full miles after at least a two month slack off of any exercise but I was able to do it with ease! I actually did a little over the two miles and then stopped simply because it was getting late and I wanted to do something else instead. I could have easily continued for at least another mile if I had wanted to. I owe all of this to my bike so if I sometimes seem slightly zealous about cycling or the bikes I own this is the reason. I try to keep myself under control though; I am not a wild person.
I forgot to mention it but the first bike I had bought and tried to ride for several years was a Next Avalon from my Local Wal-Mart. I spent about $200-250 on the bike after all of the accessories I put on it. I started with this bike for two reasons.
1. There was just something about the way it looked, I loved the style and still do but do not really know why.
2. I was really uncertain if I could even use it in any real capacity with my physical limitations so I did not want to spend a bunch of money that might go into a yard sale or too the Salvation Army a year later.
Needless to say the Avalon did its job remarkably, I have finally got an outdoor activity I can enjoy besides fishing (something my mind runs far to fast to enjoy anymore, I literally drive myself crazy with the chatter going on in my own head lol) and I have finally gotten some small measure of the health and vitality someone my age should enjoy.
I finally replaced the Avalon last August even though I still keep it around as a secondary bike for friends to ride or as an emergency bike in case something happens to its replacement. My decision to replace the Avalon with something better was brought on by several forces working against this inexpensive but much loved bike.
The first of these was simply a growing knowledge and experience level. As I have started to mature as a cyclist the Avalon was growing more and more inadequate. It was far to heavy for me to continue to use in the hilly area I live in. It helped to build up muscle but you can only walk a bike up the same hill for two blocks feeling like you are going to die every step of the way before it no longer becomes fun. I also came to realize that the bike was entirely the wrong size for me as a rider. I think the Avalon was designed for someone at least six feet tall, at five feet nine inches it was far to large for me. The second was that the bike was wearing out far faster than I originally expected, something I have come to learn is a hallmark of the X-Mart type of bike. I had only put about 150 miles on it yet the bike often was rattled and unstable feeling enough to begin causing me real concern. If taken up to 20 mph or above you would experience a ride and vibration from the bike that would be described as unsettling at best and terrifying at worse. The brakes were and still are increasingly getting worse and there is nothing that seems to slow the deterioration down. I honestly began to expect something to go catastrophically wrong with it at literally any time during a ride. The poor bike is increasingly getting bad and I am certain that if it ever even sees 300 miles I will be forced to scrap it. There is absolutely no way it will ever last past 500 miles in any ride able condition. I owe this bike a great service I can never repay so for a sentimental guy like me this is an unpleasant thought but I know there is nothing I can do about it. It is only a matter of time before I give it away and this makes me sad. However until that time my friend Joe loves riding it with me and borrowing it when he is in town because it is his only form of transportation since he is a poor college kid like I was until just recently (BTW I am still poor, just not in college lol).
The third reason I upgraded was I wanted to start using the bike as more of a form of transportation. The Avalon was poorly equipped for this and there was no way to upgrade it to this function even if I had tried. That is why when gas prices hit roughly $3.00 last August I said **** it and bit the bullet (I drive a Corolla BTW, gas is always cheap to me anyway but it still bothered me). I spent about $1000 overall but have already gotten nearly that much out of it. What did I purchase for all of this you ask? Why my fully loaded Trek 7500 and car rack (for when I need to take it farther than it can take me)!
The difference between the Avalon and 7500 is literally night and day. Every component and aspect of the 7500 is superior to the Avalon in ways I could never describe in words. The first time I did 20mph on the 7500 I did not even realize it until I looked down at the comp and it told me my speed. I was totally shocked at the time and the feeling still lingers to this day; unlike the Avalon the 7500 is as smooth at 20mph as it is at 10mph. Now thanks to this bike cruising at 20-25mph down hill or on level ground is almost second nature and my stable cruising speed has remained at a nice 14-16mph on flat ground. I can keep that up with no problem for at least three miles with no rest and if I stop momentarily for a break I can go much farther. I still have to walk it up hills but that is far easier now and is growing increasingly less important due to the fact that I can almost ride it up the smaller inclines in this area already. Considering my doctors have explicitly said no hills this is no small victory for me and if I ever fully accomplish it there will be celebration. Besides, I once read somewhere that it only matters that you get to the top of the hill under your own power, it does not matter weather the bike was underneath you or beside you and that seems to gel nicely with my overall outlook on life.
I personally prefer not to go over 25mph for a couple of reasons even though I am capable of it at least on the downhill rides. First is safety, I ride in a small mid-western town where some drunk idiot in a large truck or SUV could run me over or some kid could run out in front of me at any time with little or no warning. I want to make sure I have some kind of reaction time for events like this. Also I do not use a helmet when I ride and often just wear shorts and a t-shirt to keep from overheating and ruining my rides and maybe even my ability to just get myself home. I do own a cheap Bell helmet that is far too bulky for my tastes and I am probably going to purchase a much lighter one sometime soon. I will use that helmet on a regular basis if I get it if for no other reason than my Mother is growing increasingly fervent in her desires for me to wear one now that she has realized this is not just another phase and that unlike the Avalon the 7500 is not a toy. I think this started about the time I brought the 7500 home, told her the price, and after calming her down enough I got her to understand I looked at it as buying a vehicle and not some hobby or plaything.
The final reason I prefer not to go over 25mph is because that is the usual speed limit around here and one of my major goals in life is to piss off the cops as little as possible! XD Now there are a few non-residential streets I ride where the limit is 35mph but I only do about 25-30mph on them for brief stints if for no other reason than I do not feel I quite have the skill level needed to go faster than that. I know the bike can handle it easily but I have finally gotten what I have wanted for years and I am not about to loose it in an accident of any kind.
If you would like a picture of my two bikes and my friend Joe you can see it here.
The 7500 is almost perfect for me the way it is, however I do wish to perform one final upgrade to it in the next few months. I want to replace the suspension fork for a carbon fiber one. I cannot figure out how to get the suspension to work correctly and it absorbs almost nothing so there is no real reason to keep it. Plus as far as I am concerned any weight I can reduce from the bike helps when trying to get around and up those damned hills, as long as I can keep that front fender I will be happy. As of right now I ride the 7500 in a Fitness/Commuter kind of way (as a Vehicular Cyclist might I add) but I am getting increasingly interested in taking it Touring. I would have to grab the pack and basically live off of a plastic card because I simply would be unable to carry the weight of full touring equipment while doing so but I think it might be doable. I have heard of hybrid bikes like mine being used for light to medium grade touring before so I know there is a precedent for it.
That is all I can think of right at this moment. I will add more and correct any minor grammatical errors when I have more time if not as an edit to this post then as another post altogether.
Please let me know what you think and for what it is worth I am happy to be a member on this site.