Healthy Living in the North

Biking to save your life

Bike riding

Biking can save your life… in more ways than one. Pictured: Andrew on a course in Whistler, BC.

I never actually saw the bear, but I sure heard it.

It was the end of a good solid ride, and I was pretty tired. I had put in about 10 km on the gorgeous single track trails out at Otway, and my legs were feeling quite Jello-ish. It was early evening, warm, and the golden light of impending night permeated everything with a slow sense of peace and easy satisfaction. And so, lost in my thoughts and a pleasant haze of endorphins, I didn’t think much of the rustle in the trees to my right.

Once I was safely back in the van and coherent thought beyond survival returned, I realized that that small rustle was the cub, and the snarling, crashing chaos that ensued to my left thereafter was the mother I had offended. With the guttural grunting of a grisly death in my ear, however, only one thought was discernible: RIDE FASTER. I’m not sure I have ever pushed a gear that low that hard, before or since, but I am sure about this: my bike saved my life that idyllic summers’ eve.

And, now that I think of it, that was actually the second time that biking saved me. Although the first lacks the drama and explosive adrenaline rush, it is no less valid. Before I found mountain biking, I was committing most every health sin imaginable. Lack of exercise: check. Excessive consumption of alcohol: check. Poor diet: check. Smoking: check. In short I was overweight, out of shape, and on a crash course with a premature heart attack for sure.  Also, I had a daughter on the way.

Not a good look.

So I bought a used mountain bike on eBay for $200. It cost me almost that much again once she arrived to get her ride-able, but she convinced me at the top of my first big climb to change my lifestyle around.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now 30 pounds lighter, a non-smoker, and I exercise regularly and eat at least reasonably well. I also no longer feel like I’m going to puke and pass out once I ride uphill for a few minutes.

That bike, by the way, is named Polly. I now have two shiny engineering masterpieces, full of flashy hydraulic bits and nifty feats of geometric wizardry that have made my much quicker on trails, but Polly is still around. I will never get rid of the bike that saved my life (twice), and she now serves as my commuter bike.

This brings me, at last, to the point of this rambling little diatribe: Bike to Work Week. I have organized a team for my work colleagues, the Kilometer Crushers, because I believe everybody can benefit from throwing a leg over a bike. It doesn’t matter whether you ride roads, trails, or both, just riding is the point. So join a team, and get out there: you only live once, and you’ll live better on a bike!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is a 33-year-old HR Assistant living in Prince George, BC. He enjoys biking, paddling, and almost any outdoor activity you can name. When not on his bike, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, listening to and playing music, reading and writing.