Confessions of a Junk-Food Junkie By Daryl Fuller


I only recently discovered cycling as a means of commuting. For years I worked at using the bus system for traveling to and from work, with limited success. Then two years ago I started thinking about bicycling as an alternative commuting method. I immediately found several reasons (excuses) not to be able to cycle, like "It's too dangerous" or "What do you do when you arrive all sweaty?" or "How do you get your good clothes to work, and home again to get them cleaned?”

After taking 6 months closely observing the various roads, steepness of different hills, directness of different routes, I finally took the plunge, pounded most of the rust off my bicycle chain, and tried to ride to work and home again. I loved it. My bike wasn't suited for commuting; being an old mountain bike weighing 35+ pounds, but it did have a granny gear, needed for me to get up one particular hill on the way to work. I am fortunate to have run into several enthusiastic, long-term (committed, in all senses of that word) cycling co-workers. They showed me a "bike locker room" at my work, where there was an unused locker to store my work clothes in and they showed me where the shower facilities were.

From October 1997 through to about March 1998 I rode on average 3 days per week. Then another cycle enthusiast friend lent me some toe clips. Instantly, I gained one gear in every situation. Two weeks later, after finally springing for some proper booties to cover my running shoes in the rain, I bought myself some used clipless pedals. Once I sourced and bought some shoes, I was set to relearn how to ride. I gained another gear on my almost daily commuter rides, getting up to a high of 13 workdays in a row of cycling. In my 3 years of commuter cycling here are some of my observations:

* Bicycle Butt: for the first 6 months my butt shrunk (shrank?) down to a skeleton of its former self. Great encouragement to regain the hollow butt look from my (distant) youth. Then something diabolical happened. My butt started to grow again! Closer inspection determined that as I start to push myself more and more on my (almost daily) rides, I have starting to develop a "real cyclist's butt". My gluteus maximus is developing into the strong muscle that it is capable of becoming, and as a result, my butt is growing again. It is a new world I am entering now. Pants are starting to fit differently and people look at me differently. I seem to have more confidence and energy. My waist is shrinking still, but my butt and thighs are growing the right way.

* Junk Food Junkie: as a cost-cutting measure to help me afford the new cycling over-pants, the shoes, the booties, as well as the fact that I was hungry within an hour of getting to my desk, I started making my own lunch. A big lunch. Well, it actually added almost 8 pounds to my pack. I could eat all day while sitting at my desk, and still be hungry. The only problem here was that I could eat junk food as often as I wanted, and I wouldn't gain weight. Great! I love junk food, so the money I saved on lunch was being spent on the mid-afternoon chocolate bar and bag of chips. The only problem with this approach was the days I couldn't ride, for family reasons or other inconveniences. If they continued for more than one day, I gained all the weight I had taken a year to lose. Or so it seemed. Only recently have I learned to adjust my lunch based on whether I am riding or driving, and this has fixed the weight gain on non-cycling days. Whew! Besides, now I quickly feel the effects junk food really has on my body, and I no longer have the same cravings. I can eat anything I want, but I want to eat better.

* No More Public Transit: when I am late for work, which happens a lot lately, I now find myself driving to work to make up for that lost time. Before I became a commuter cyclist, I always took the bus, knowing that if I wasn't out of the house by 7:25, I would miss the 7:35 local bus, and I would be late. It takes me 20-25 minutes to drive to work. It takes me 30 minutes to ride my bike the 11 km to work, and another 20 minutes to shower and change. If I am too late to ride, I am most definitely too late to take the public transit, which only runs every ½ hour at the most frequent time, and takes 30 minutes of travel time, not counting the wait for the next bus. So I now have the potential of polluting more now than I was when I was only taking public transit. I have an extra incentive to prepare properly for cycling every day, and make the lunches the night before.

* Cost Savings: I am saving a bit of money over driving or taking transit too, but it isn't the total picture. In the past year I made 127 commuter trips by bike, totaling just under 2800 Km. This saved me $444 in either one-zone transit, or $381 in pay parking ($3.00 per day in S. Burnaby). It cost me $188 in parts (oil - $24, new chain - $12, new cables - $10, 3 tires - $110, 2 tubes - $8, patch kits - $4). BUT - I would pay extra for the joy I feel every time I hear the snap of my shoes clicking into my pedals. And I would have to pay for a fitness club to get the exercise I am getting 'for free'.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

  I read more now on bicycle-related issues, I notice bicycles more now when I am driving, I am (gradually) changing my lifestyle to a 'smaller footprint' version, and I like what I see when I look at myself in the mirror now. No, it's not the vanity thing - I like the type of person I am starting to become - more in tune with the world around me, and much less in tune with the ads I hear on the radio when I drive. Bicycle commuting has changed my life, and the lives of my family. I think it's for the better. I'll keep you posted.


Published on BikeCommute.Com with the permission of the author, Daryl Fuller, Originally Published in Spoke Magazine