Weight Lost Monday (uh, Thursday?), Part 5

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I was initially going to start this post with comments about my new used bike, the Cruzbike Sofrider whose name is Rhino, and then some thoughts about the perils of calorie calculations BEFORE giving my weight data. But it turned into a rant, so I’m going to do weight numbers, first!

Over the past eight days, I’ve ridden 211.91 miles (not a typo), which used 23,362 calories according to MapMyRide. I’ve lost 2.6 pounds, which is a pound lost for every 8,985 calories. Which is HORRIBLE accuracy.  It’s off by more than 100% for this week! Overall, I’ve lost 13.4 pounds since May 25th, which (overall) is a pound lost for every 5,771 calories. Which, overall, is also awful accuracy, being off by 61%.

However, again, it’s hard to complain about losing two pounds a week. But saying to your average person that you should devote, y’know, fifteen hours a week to riding their bike is fairly absurd. I can, however, say that I’ve lost an Amanda Nunes in weight, now! By relating how much weight I’ve lost to human beings makes me aware that I’ve, basically, been carrying a human-sized backpack around for decades.

So, about the Cruzbike Sofrider?

The short answer is that the Cruzbike Sofrider is faster than a Sun EZ-Racer SX-1. Even though I’m still not great at riding the Sofrider – mostly, I’m not leaning back far enough in the seat, and am using my upper body to pull myself up a little, which puts an unnecessary strain on my shoulders, forearms, and grip – I’m nevertheless about a mile-and-a-half faster on the Sofrider. It was only today, on a thirty-mile ride, that I was able to relax a little into the ride and not consistently. But since I know what it feels like, now, it’ll be easier to get to – and I can adjust the handlebars, so it’s easier to get there!

All of which suggests that come October, I’m gonna get myself a Vendetta.

Also, for what it’s worth, if anyone wants to get a Cruzbike, let me know, and I can get you a hundred dollars off a bike or frameset! And if you’re local, I’ll build your bike for a reasonable fee – probably something like parts plus a dinner on the town or something. 😉

Now for the rant:

I’m going to emphasize how ridiculous counting calories is for exercise. None of these sites take into account your bicycle. To the Internet, apparently, all bicycles are the same. The same weight, the same aerodynamics, ridden in the same way.

In particular, due to the more laid-back position (and when I’m better with Rhino, I’m going to make it even more reclined), I’m sure that Rhino is more aerodynamic than my previous bicycle which has a very upright position. Which means that at speed, Rhino is faster, all other things considered, while using the same energy.

The complete indifference of these online bicycle computers towards aerodynamics, alone, means their numbers are farcical. If I’m going twenty miles-an-hour on a high-racer recumbent like the Vendetta, I’m using a lot less energy than if I’m going twenty miles-an-hour on a mountain bike.

So, bearing in mind that I know this is all bullshit of the highest order. . . what else do we have? Unless you’ve got a power meter on your bike (at which point, all of this vanishes, because calculating calories from wattage is mathematically trivial), you use what you’ve got.

But it suggests the perils of using this kind of data to plan your diet and exercise habits. Right now, in my life, I’m well able to spend a lot of time exercising – so much that it doesn’t matter what I eat as long as I’m not scooping butter into my mouth all day. I’m still a long way from bottoming out on my weight, and if I keep riding a hundred-plus miles a week, I’ll probably end up well under two-hundred pounds.

But many people can’t just say, “Oh, I’ll take the wife along on three or four rides a week, do most of my errands on a bicycle, and devote a weekday to an all-day ride.” They’re not in that place. Maybe their significant other doesn’t want to go on three or four rides a week. Or at all.

And, of course, most adult families have children. As I can attest from my rides, while I completely approve of families that go through the effort of teaching their children good exercise habits, there’s a long period where children can’t match their parents in effort. This Memorial Day weekend, we saw a bunch of families with kids wobbling on their bikes and their parents going along at six miles-an-hour. While it is good parenting, it’s not exactly an intense workout for their parents.

For many adults, then, they’re carving out a few hours in the week to exercise. How much effort they’re putting into it is the difference between setting realistic expectations and feelings of despair and futility.

For instance, let’s say that you believe how many calories is burned in cycling by a program like MapMyRide. But (in this example) MapMyRide is doubling the actual calories spent. So you decide that losing half a pound a week is reasonable, and if MapMyRide is telling you that you’re using 3000 calories riding a bike, you say, “Great, I’ll create a diet where I’m under my weekly calorie input by 1500 calories.” Except. . . if the data is wrong, then you’re going to keep your weight. You won’t lose weight. You’ll be consuming your maintenance in calories at best.

You’ll have done everything right, but because some website gives you bad numbers, you’re going to fail.

I’m not sure there is a good solution. Bicycling is one of the activities where it is possible to measure your output accurately, but the cheapest power meter I could find was $400. Even for me, firmly in the middle class, I find myself leery at spending that kind of money for a gadget whose sole function is to tell me how many lightbulbs I can power as I ride. Even if I was a racer, a power meter is only marginally more useful than a cheap heart rate monitor for training purposes. (Yes, for serious racers, I know that a little can be the difference between victory and defeat, but I’m just not that guy.)

Even an activity as objectively simple to calculate as weightlifting is almost impossible to accurately judge, calorie-wise. Sure, you can measure how much you lift something, but how far do you lift it? Different people have different arm and leg lengths if nothing else – sometimes radically so – and there are things like angular momentum and leverage to take into account.

Barely a month into this exercise, and I’m thinking of throwing out the calorie count! I will stay strong, however, to measure its overall inaccuracy.

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