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Sorry but I have to ask this question ...

Old 01-18-18, 01:58 PM
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raria
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Sorry but I have to ask this question ...

This may appear rude, but my intentions are honorable. Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease runs in my family. I took up riding to loose weight to put those things off and its worked. But since I've started touring I've noticed something which raises my question:

'Why are there so many chubby cyclists who ride long tours frequently?'

I'm not talking about cyclists who ride on MUPs once a week, rather cyclist I've met on longer tours who have done many tours.

I estimate 1 in 2 serious tourers have a pretty good spare tire. But many are riding 100s of miles a month regularly.

Thoughts? Is it something that's inevitable i.e. an age thing or an efficiency thing (your body gets so efficient at riding)?
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Old 01-18-18, 02:20 PM
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My weight when I started riding bikes? About 210#, give or take a few. My weight now? About 210#, give or take a few.

Only thing I can figure, while good exercise, even at hundreds of miles a month it isn't really all that intensive of a workout. Have traded some chub for muscle, but not much weight loss.
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Old 01-18-18, 02:32 PM
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Fair question - I think due in part to folks over-eating while riding, ice cream, desert, burrito's etc. The body has a very strong urge to stay at a certain weight at any cost. Many folks out touring eat when their body says they should because they are enjoying the experience and don't want to 'feel' hungry. Cant blame them, its supposed to be fun not necessarily a way to lose weight.

My first tour I cooked all my own meals - lost 5 lbs, quinoa, veggies, lean meats. My last tour was lightweight and ate on the road, gained 2 lbs, burritos, bars, chips, etc!
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Old 01-18-18, 02:57 PM
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I wondered the same thing years ago when I was getting simultaneously chubbier and losing muscle while training for an Ironman.

At the time it was explained to me that doing lots of endurance type exercising elevated cortisol levels which, I forget how, makes us store energy in adipose tissue.

I've since learned this is, at best, an oversimplification.

Look at what most cyclists eat: pasta, granola bars, candy bars, vegetables, etc etc. It's ALL carbohydrate and the proteins that do tend to be included are lectins which are quite detrimental to one's health. These people probably think of food in terms of calories only but that's a mistake. Simply put, they are eating too much carbohydrate and not enough healthy fat and protein. Of course, nutrition is anything but simple but that's what it boils down to. Carbohydrates are for relatively quick energy but also they are the macronutrient most easily converted into adipose tissue which, back when we couldn't get vegetables in February, was useful because it allowed us to survive winters where food, carbs in particular, was scarce. Eating excessive carbohydrate daily is going to make us fat, with cyclists the process is just slower because we burn more fuel than couch potatoes.

In the years since my triathlon days I've successfully employed ketosis to lose adipose tissue by way of eating high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate foods as well as doing intermittent fasting. During long tours or frequent exercise as with training for races it becomes quite difficult to power yourself using fat as a primary fuel source. For one most meals are mostly carbohydrates so you have to order special meals at restaurants and sometimes just go without food altogether. It's also a lot easier to just chug gatorade all day and be relatively good as far as electrolyte replenishment is concerned. When I first started my tour I'd wait until noon to eat my first meal but I'd be on the road cycling by 9 am typically so I was in ketosis. I'd have a couple of high fat moderate protein meals with low carbs during the day and generally be in bed shortly after sundown 5:30-6pm so the long sleep was a huge help.

I had a few bad nights of sleep while riding a lot of hills/mountains so I started chugging Gatorade during the day and eating junk like pizza so I can see my body storing adipose tissue now. I need to re-adapt to my old ways and get back into ketosis; it just takes a little more foresight and planning than a normal diet, but it can be done.

You may regard this as more BS dieting advice but if you do your research and actually give it a try you'll find it much easier than anything else you've tried in the past. For one if your only goal is to lower blood sugar and lose some adipose tissue you don't need to exercise at all. Exercise can help speed the process up but the saying "Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym" is 100% true. You needn't workout another day in your life if you don't want to, just don't do what everyone else is doing.

There are sub ******s for both the keto diet and fasting if you're interested

Last edited by TallTourist; 01-18-18 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 01-18-18, 02:59 PM
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Based on the people I have seen doing self-contained tours, the spare tire has been significantly less frequent than 50%.


That said, I tend to agree with nickw above. When I crossed the country (Northern Tier west to east) with a small group back in '99 I lost weight at first and ended up putting on weight in the middle of the country. I chalk that up to eating like I was still riding in the mountains. We also ate out a little more often, and the food choices were often not the healthiest in that part of the world. (Even the fish was battered and deep fried). I was not working as hard but psychologically tuned to eat like I was. When we hit the hills again starting in NY and through New England, I lost what I had gained.


I was thinking about this subject this spring and came to the conclusion that I overeat when I tour. I tried eating less by eating less often and by reducing dinner portion sizes (I almost always cook dinner). I didn't notice any drop in performance.
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Old 01-18-18, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post

'Why are there so many chubby cyclists who ride long tours frequently?'
1. Doesn't feel like matching my recollections. If I had to bet, I'd say that the average tourer is thinner than the average population. I took quick a look at the thread of touring rigs pictures. Not many overweight people there.

2. I believe that it is estimated that 60% of the American population is overweight. Would therefore make sense that a significant number of cyclists are overweight themselves.

3. There could be a self-selection bias -- cycling is said to be a good way to burn fat (aerobic, low impact, burns 500 cal/hr). Would therefore make sense that overweight people would try cycling in order to get in better shape. That might include touring.
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Old 01-18-18, 04:10 PM
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My limited sample leads me to disagree with the hypothesis. I do not see overweight touring cyclists, certainly not in the Western US mountains where I do most of my riding. My last multi-month tour started with five major pass ascents in Washington's North Cascades. I met quite a few cycle tourists there, nearly every one impressively fit and ready for that test.
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Old 01-18-18, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTourist View Post
I wondered the same thing years ago when I was getting simultaneously chubbier and losing muscle while training for an Ironman.

At the time it was explained to me that doing lots of endurance type exercising elevated cortisol levels which, I forget how, makes us store energy in adipose tissue.

I've since learned this is, at best, an oversimplification.

Look at what most cyclists eat: pasta, granola bars, candy bars, vegetables, etc etc. It's ALL carbohydrate and the proteins that do tend to be included are lectins which are quite detrimental to one's health. These people probably think of food in terms of calories only but that's a mistake. Simply put, they are eating too much carbohydrate and not enough healthy fat and protein. Of course, nutrition is anything but simple but that's what it boils down to. Carbohydrates are for relatively quick energy but also they are the macronutrient most easily converted into adipose tissue which, back when we couldn't get vegetables in February, was useful because it allowed us to survive winters where food, carbs in particular, was scarce. Eating excessive carbohydrate daily is going to make us fat, with cyclists the process is just slower because we burn more fuel than couch potatoes.

In the years since my triathlon days I've successfully employed ketosis to lose adipose tissue by way of eating high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate foods as well as doing intermittent fasting. During long tours or frequent exercise as with training for races it becomes quite difficult to power yourself using fat as a primary fuel source. For one most meals are mostly carbohydrates so you have to order special meals at restaurants and sometimes just go without food altogether. It's also a lot easier to just chug gatorade all day and be relatively good as far as electrolyte replenishment is concerned. When I first started my tour I'd wait until noon to eat my first meal but I'd be on the road cycling by 9 am typically so I was in ketosis. I'd have a couple of high fat moderate protein meals with low carbs during the day and generally be in bed shortly after sundown 5:30-6pm so the long sleep was a huge help.

I had a few bad nights of sleep while riding a lot of hills/mountains so I started chugging Gatorade during the day and eating junk like pizza so I can see my body storing adipose tissue now. I need to re-adapt to my old ways and get back into ketosis; it just takes a little more foresight and planning than a normal diet, but it can be done.

You may regard this as more BS dieting advice but if you do your research and actually give it a try you'll find it much easier than anything else you've tried in the past. For one if your only goal is to lower blood sugar and lose some adipose tissue you don't need to exercise at all. Exercise can help speed the process up but the saying "Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym" is 100% true. You needn't workout another day in your life if you don't want to, just don't do what everyone else is doing.

There are sub ******s for both the keto diet and fasting if you're interested
Hang on though - is it fair to lump all carbs in the same group? I mean fruit, quinoa and sweet potatoes are much different in my mind than say a Snickers bar or a loaf of white bread.

I've also always wondered why no top tier athletes use it. I know the opposite to be true, the top marathoners and pro-tour level cyclist typically eat higher carb even in the off season.

For me personally, if I didn't eat before noon, I'd bonk hard...which I've done at it was miserable. Took me 3-4 days to recover and would have ruined a few days in a tour, but thankfully I was just on a training ride.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:03 PM
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I guess it illustrates the differences in ratios between calories burned vs eaten.
I could probably burn 600 cal/hour at touring pace.
If I’m eating in restaurants, getting a 1200 cal lunch and a 2000 cal dinner would be no trouble at all.
Add some snacks to that, and you’ll see that maintaining your weight while touring doesn’t have to be a big deal.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by nickw View Post
Hang on though - is it fair to lump all carbs in the same group? I mean fruit, quinoa and sweet potatoes are much different in my mind than say a Snickers bar or a loaf of white bread.

I've also always wondered why no top tier athletes use it. I know the opposite to be true, the top marathoners and pro-tour level cyclist typically eat higher carb even in the off season.

For me personally, if I didn't eat before noon, I'd bonk hard...which I've done at it was miserable. Took me 3-4 days to recover and would have ruined a few days in a tour, but thankfully I was just on a training ride.
I'm definitely not saying all carbohydrates are created equal, that would be ignorant, but if your diet is something like 60-80% carbohydrate based or higher then it doesn't really matter all that much if those carbs come from white bread or spinach, the result will be an increased level of adipose tissue.

I agree top-tier athletes in competitive sports tend to be using carbohydrates for their primary fuel source, it's going to give them an advantage over people burning fat plus it's a method most people are familiar with and it's easier. There are people who do amazing physical feats on low carb diets but it's generally not in the competitive sports realm; I suspect because body composition is not as important to many as winning is when you are a professional athlete. I've been involved in weightlifting in many forms over the years and can confirm my overall strength goes down while on a low carb diet. I look amazing lifting light weights though

There are middleground approaches to maintaining high levels of physical performance while not eating tons of carbs but I've had limited personal experiences with targeted keto dieting or cyclical keto dieting. It is possible though and I'm sure as these ways of eating become more mainstream it will be more commonly seen in professional sports. This is all moot for non-competitive athletes though as we can easily do a lot with little carb intake; I'm living proof of that.

In your case, because you are (I'm surmising) and probably always have been on the traditional high carb diet most people eat, yes, fasting would be tough. It's tough for me and my body's relatively used to it. If you went through the miserable experience of initial keto adaptaion (two days to two weeks or maybe more) it would change that, it would make your body more used to burning adipose tissue and dietary fats but yeah, if you're used to carbs then you'd be quite unhappy. Only you can say if it's worth the hassle. Keto has irreversably changed my life for the better but that's just me.

Last edited by TallTourist; 01-18-18 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
1. Doesn't feel like matching my recollections. If I had to bet, I'd say that the average tourer is thinner than the average population. I took quick a look at the thread of touring rigs pictures. Not many overweight people there.

2. I believe that it is estimated that 60% of the American population is overweight. Would therefore make sense that a significant number of cyclists are overweight themselves.

3. There could be a self-selection bias -- cycling is said to be a good way to burn fat (aerobic, low impact, burns 500 cal/hr). Would therefore make sense that overweight people would try cycling in order to get in better shape. That might include touring.
You've made some valid points as to why cyclists may be a bit on the pudgy side but I think what the OP is getting at is why is it that some cyclists, after many years of experience, haven't become lean. It's quite well documented that even without exercising at all it's possible for very overweight people to become lean via fasting or, more slowly, eating foods that do not disrupt ketosis. I remember in my triathlon days noting that even the top athletes winning the races had a bit of belly pudge or an overall blanket of adipose tissue, when you have to eat as many calories a day as they do I don't think counting grams of carbohydrate is all that practical so there will inevitably be some excess going to storage.

You might imagine an extreme example of a bike tourist who eats cookies all day and drinks soda/pop vs one who eats a steak cooked in olive oil and a salad for his meals and water for drinks, you don't have to be a scientist to imagine the latter rider is going to be more lean and if they continued their habits, even with the same mileage and body types the junkfood eater will get softer and the healthy food eater will get lean.

It's funny, I met another bicycle tourist on my trip recently and initially thought he was quite lean but it turns out he's eating a lot of rice and potatoes and oatmeal and so while he's certainly no couch potato, he's got that classic pad of chub on the belly. I'm not judging him, those foods are much more economical and easy to get here but it doesn't have to be that way.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:37 PM
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Cycling can be done in ways that don't burn tons of calories. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the percentage of overweight cyclists isn't all that different from the general population.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:51 PM
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This thread is based on a false premise.
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Old 01-18-18, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTourist View Post
[...] the OP is getting at is why is it that some cyclists, after many years of experience, haven't become lean.
Hmmm... I recall reading that for some people, exercise is an excuse to indulge. I also recall reading tomes about the difficulty of losing weight (we'd have some kind of "thermostat" that'll bring us back to where we were, whatever we do, other than perpetually starving ourselves; or that once fatty cells have been created, the situation becomes hopeless, justifying worries wrt child obesity) And so on.

I've encountered a few "chronic tourers". They were fit and skinny. I suppose that the occasional tourist spending a few weeks every year or so may carry extra weight, especially if he/she celebrates every day on the road with plenty of ice cream -- or beer.

For the record -- we've done two summer long tours. I'd say I've lost 3-4kgs. My BMI is "normal". We don't ride to lose weight. And I don't feel like we're eating much more than when we are sedentary. I guess that there are plenty of calories in a kilo of fat
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Old 01-18-18, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
This thread is based on a false premise.
What false premise? The OP is simply relating his observation and asking about it? It's not like he's making any kind of statistical claim, so we're free to chalk it up to observational bias, ie. he expects cyclists to be relatively fit (or thin) and so those who are pass below his radar, and those who aren't stand out in contrast.
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Old 01-18-18, 06:54 PM
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Carbs.

Actually not just carbs. Insulogenic foods --> messes with appetite / satiety hormones, and keeps body mostly in energy storage (presence of elevated serum insulin) mode.

(I highlight 'insulinogenic' because certain other foods, e.g. dairy are very highly insulinogenic despite being low in carbs.)

But for sure for most people 80% of the problem is carbs.

Losing weight is about correct diet (does not mean starving.. just means clubbing your Insulin Resistance / Hyperinsulaemia to death like a Baby Fur Seal ... this IS the Sine Qua Non).

After that, look into a healthy mix of aerobic and resistance exercise.

People get the arrow of causality backwards. It's understandable. We see thin fit types doing vigorous exercise and we assume that this is what makes them thin. Mostly Wronggggg. Selection Bias.

Also, re carbs. Empirically there appear to be about 30% of folks who have lucky genes and will never develop insulin resistance, no matter what they eat. These folks tend to be 'live wires'.. We all know some Energizer Bunny Beanpoles. Imagine all the energy you eat wanting to be burned off in muscles and it being positively difficult to store it as fat. Half their luck!

The other 70% of us have to face the fact that carbs are not our friends.

I did, and it worked for me. For the rest, GIYF. So easy to do research, so easy to do n=1 experiments, and so easy to quickly confirm that much of published peer research in the supposedly evidence-based literature consists of badly-designed 'experiments', citational circle-jerks, p-hacking, etc.
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Old 01-18-18, 07:00 PM
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Well, I guess I could be one of those chubby bike tourists. Definitely weigh more than I'd like. But I figure if I wasn't riding and out touring, I'd probably be even MORE overweight than I am....maybe even obese.
But for me I believe the bottom line was my day job. Weight gain from weeks and months of inactivity sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen 8-12 hours a day ain't going to disappear through bike commuting and a two week cycling vacation.
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Old 01-18-18, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
What false premise? The OP is simply relating his observation and asking about it? It's not like he's making any kind of statistical claim, so we're free to chalk it up to observational bias, ie. he expects cyclists to be relatively fit (or thin) and so those who are pass below his radar, and those who aren't stand out in contrast.
The false premise is that there are supposedly "so many chubby cyclists who ride long tours frequently". Virtually no long distance cyclists I have observed are "chubby". I've also hosted many warmshowers guests and none of them were chubby.
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Old 01-18-18, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
This may appear rude, but my intentions are honorable. Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease runs in my family. I took up riding to loose weight to put those things off and its worked. But since I've started touring I've noticed something which raises my question:

'Why are there so many chubby cyclists who ride long tours frequently?'

I'm not talking about cyclists who ride on MUPs once a week, rather cyclist I've met on longer tours who have done many tours.

I estimate 1 in 2 serious tourers have a pretty good spare tire. But many are riding 100s of miles a month regularly.

Thoughts? Is it something that's inevitable i.e. an age thing or an efficiency thing (your body gets so efficient at riding)?
Where are you getting your data?
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Old 01-18-18, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTourist View Post
if your diet is something like 60-80% carbohydrate based or higher then it doesn't really matter all that much if those carbs come from white bread or spinach, the result will be an increased level of adipose tissue.
Not for me. When I've been on a high carb low fat diet, I got pretty skinny. This was a fairly extreme diet - vegan, super low fat, and all long chain carb. Basically grains and vegetables. The result was low body fat and tons of energy.
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Old 01-18-18, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
The false premise is that there are supposedly "so many chubby cyclists who ride long tours frequently". Virtually no long distance cyclists I have observed are "chubby". I've also hosted many warmshowers guests and none of them were chubby.
I get that, but as I noted, it was simply his observation, and possibly he sees that because it's contrary to expectation.

OTOH, over the years, I've seen plenty of "chubby" long distance recreational riders. Also, with aging of the cycling population, I expect the percentage of not obviously fit cyclists will increase.
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Old 01-18-18, 08:03 PM
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A few months ago met a man my age (60) who'd recently converted to cycling as his exercise of choice because, after a lifetime of trying other things, cycling is the only thing that would keep his stomach flat.

I credit cycle commuting and touring with allowing me to keep wearing the same size clothes I did in high school.

We must travel in different circles because I just don't see pudgy serious cyclists.
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Old 01-19-18, 01:43 AM
  #23  
saddlesores
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
...I estimate 1 in 2 serious tourers have a pretty good spare tire. But many are riding 100s of miles a month regularly.....
1. cycling does nothing for your tummy mussels.

2. riding 100k/day 5 days/week, body gets used to burning more calories, so
even on off days, keep feeding the furnace.

3. body gets more efficient, but still wants to store excess knowing there more
hills coming up. naturally migrates to the least exorcised zone.

i like to get into town/village by 3pm, have a hot shower, relax a bit.
then can mosey around town, have a big dinner, then find a supermarket
for the evening tv-time snacks.

here's a typical snack pack for one evening (includes breakfast):
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Old 01-19-18, 05:17 AM
  #24  
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Just my opinion, but I believe the consumption of alcohol prevents many people from loosing weight. Many people relax in the evening with a drink after work to gain calories that don't get burned off in there sleep. Some people also like to snack while drinking giving more calories not to get burnt during sleep. Again, this is theory 0. All theory, no data. In case you can't tell, I've retired from the profession of drinking.
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Old 01-19-18, 06:14 AM
  #25  
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I would suggest the percentage of overweight bikers is pretty much the same as that of the general population in any given country. Here in Japan, for example, almost no one, biker or not, is overweight because we eat small meals. When I tour I continue to eat small meals.
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