Friday, August 5, 2011

The "Heavy" side of cycling

Why you shouldn't Believe your Body Mass Index Calculator

According to my BMI calculator, to put it bluntly "I'm fat". I weigh 186 pounds, which is around 10 pounds over the top end of what my maximum weight should be for someone five foot ten, which is 175 pounds. I would like to ask the guy who invented BMI, "have you ever weighed yourself?"

There are several factors that determine if your weight is healthy or not. We come in all shapes, sizes and builds. Body Mass Index calculations to not account for muscle mass and bone density. Some people will naturally have a higher percentage of muscle mass. This will not make them "unfit" or "fat". Men with broad shoulders and tall women generally fall into this category. Even if someone has a higher percentage of body fat, this doesn't necessarily make them unhealthy. The truth is people with little to no body fat are more susceptible to illness and malnutrition. 

Does that mean that because the scales are inaccurate that everyone gets a free pass? I am not saying this either. Each person needs to evaluate their own bodies and if still in doubt ask their physician about their weight and how to manage it. Too much weight on an individual can cause a broad range of health problems. These include back problems, anxiety, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. 

Is anyone too fat to ride a bike? The truth is that no one is too fat to ride a bicycle. Bike frames are designed to support weights in excess of 300 pounds. If you are a heavy rider (and I mean upwards of 250 pounds), a suspension mountain bike is best suited for you. The frame on a mountain bike is generally more upright and will put less strain on your back and mid-section.  Designs  in road bicycles have really come along way in offering lightweight yet strong materials. A bicycle mechanic at a bike shop can advise you which bicycle best suits your weight and riding abilities. Keep in mind your fitness level before engaging in any sports activity, this includes cycling. Road cycling is very demanding on the body since it usually requires the person to ride long distances for long periods of time at considerable speeds. It would be best to start on the bicycle that you are most comfortable with and work your way up to road cycling and even competitive cycling.

Lets say you are an average Joe like me and ride a bike regularly, but that BMI scale doesn't seem to agree with you. Are you too fat to compete in a bicycle race? The best thing to do is ignore that stupid BMI scale. As long as you have the strength in your legs to hold 20 to 21 mph for 30 minutes, you can compete in any local category five race. Winning races is more about using the peloton to your advantage by drafting behind them and having enough sprint  in your legs to go 30 to 32mph on the last 200 yards of the race. This isn't always easy, it involves skill and timing that is only attained by losing a few races. You will also have the "snobs" as mentioned in my last article, that will try to play mind games with you, as well as early attacks by the peloton. Consider the monetary aspect of the entry fee and the day license, which in itself can be a deterrent. Combine all these factors together and see if it is worth it to you. But if you are capable of dealing with all these factors and don't mind them, do not let your weight be the sole decisive factor to keep you from racing.

Bicycling is for everyone, regardless of size and weight. If everyone replaced driving with walking or riding a bike, weight would not be an issue with society and this article would not exist. It would be like Amsterdam, but bigger. Think about it. Pretty deep, isn't it?

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