Man's Greatest Invention

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. - Elizabeth West

Purpose and Mission

To share our experience and to encourage and inspire others to use a bicycle as a form of year round recreation and transportation. To be an example of living car-free and to help others to make the transition to having a car-light or car-free life style.

Our bodies is the engine that moves us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Francisco's Diary Part 2: Battling the Mental Dialogue

It’s been a few weeks since I started my journey with real cycling training. It’s sure been an interesting time so far. After the fitness evaluation, I thought I was doomed when I found out how much work I needed to do. But to my surprise, it hasn’t been too overbearing...yet. When I first started, I could barely do ten km. Now I have more than doubled that in a few weeks of training, including riding a few challenging hills.

The people at Saddle Up have taught me how to properly use the gears on my bike and that has made riding my bike more enjoyable, especially when I’m climbing some steeper hills. This extra support and help has allowed me to challenge myself more when I’m climbing hills or going on longer rides because in the back of my mind, when I am struggling, I know I have an extra gear or two to help me. Riding with others also challenges me to push myself to places where I may doubt myself. Along with that, I have been getting out on my bike at least four times a week, rain or shine, unless it’s a snow blizzard. We do live in Calgary after all!

Learning how to incorporate stretching into my routine has also been a huge success factor. Jenn from Triple Threat Training – T3, has shown me the benefits of stretching. I have increased movements in my joints and have reduced muscle tension which enhances my riding. Personally, I find stretching in the morning an excellent way to start the day and it’s also a great way to cool down after a challenging ride. Without the encouragement and guidance from the gang at Saddle Up, I may not have done this ride. Or, it would have been a difficult journey on my own.

Embracing the cycling lifestyle has had positive rippling effects in other areas of my life. It has helped in reducing my stress levels from working everyday and the craziness of my social life. Long rides provide me with an opportunity to clear my head from a difficult or stressful day.

It has also improved my confidence and belief in myself, especially when I am challenged with climbing a difficult hill that I’m not sure I will be able to climb. Once I start tackling that hill, the internal battle in my mind starts. My muscles hurt and my mind tells me to stop because it hurts too much. Then I need to remind myself that a year ago, I was much worse off, battling cancer which I overcame. I tell myself not to quit and that I am stronger than I think I am. Once I conquer that hill, there is a boost of confidence that rushes into me like a drug, but much better than that.

The training has been very enjoyable. With a little less than a month of training to go before the RTCC ride, I know it’s time to put my training into high gear. As our cycling training motto goes, “we do a little extra than the ride before.”

Bye for now, Francisco

The half way point of our first training ride.

Taking a breather after climbing a big hill.

The spot where we reached our first goal.

Francisco has shown his ability to overcome the negative thoughts in his mind. This isn’t an easy task and is an ongoing journey. When the mind is weak it can easily convince us that we too, are weak, physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually. We can come up with all kinds of excuses about why we “can’t” do things. We’re too busy, too tired, too sore, too fat, too skinny, I don’t have time and on the on the list can go. We become victim to ourselves and our inner demons. It leads us to believe we have no choice in the matter. This is who we are we are, we tell ourselves.  But who told us these things?

The war and violence that we see around us externally in the world is only a bigger reflection of what is going on inside of us. There is an ongoing mental battle with our inner demons. The demons that tell us we aren’t good enough, smart enough or strong enough to do certain things. Overcoming these negative thoughts is one of the most challenging parts of being human and a continuing journey to overcome.

All of us at some point or another have been told by someone, society, religion or media etc. negative beliefs, thoughts and ideas about ourselves. The mistake we have made is in believing them rather than seeking out the truth for ourselves to see what we are made of. Knowing who we truly are is taking the time to do the work to find that out. In turn, we realize our strengths and limitations having made those decisions for ourselves rather than just believing what people tell us.

The interesting thing I know about myself is when I challenge myself physically, how those negative thoughts can awaken inside of me to try to take myself out of the game. It’s an ongoing journey of training the mind. An important part of mental training is learning how to free the mind of stress and tension associated with doubt, fear, anxiety and other distracting and negative thoughts. Minimizing tension in the mind alleviates tension in the body when doing any kind of activity.

Lori Meisner, a registered physiotherapist and cyclist recently stated in May/June 2010 Impact Magazine that “There is a relationship between the length of a muscle and the amount of power it can generate. A tense muscle is a shortened muscle. Consequently, there is too much overlap of the contractile components within the muscle. For maximum power output, you need to keep your muscles relaxed.”

When a person is relaxed they are able to breathe more deeply using their diaphragm, a strong breathing muscle which helps to increase the amount of oxygen they can take in. This reduces muscle tension which impacts the amount of force you can use when cycling or doing any activity. It’s also about being present and in touch with your body and noticing when you are breathing and when you are not. So many times I have caught myself where I have stopped breathing and need to remind myself once again to breathe.

Incorporating mental training techniques and simple reminders into a training routine can be easier than you think. One technique is to continually check in with yourself when doing an activity or just going about your day. Ask yourself, “Am I breathing? Am I relaxed? How is my body feeling?” These three simple reminders can be the start to becoming in touch with your body, training your mind and being consciously aware of where you are at. You can then tell your mind and body to “Breathe, relax and let go.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Great Divide Ride

The trailer for the "Ride The Divide Movie". Doing this ride over a 60 day period would be my idea of a dream ride.  75kms a day.

Ride The Divide Movie Trailer from Ride The Divide on Vimeo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Charity Rides: Starting from the Beginning: Francisco's Diary

Throughout my life, I have had contact with a few people that have had cancer.  I lost my mother and brother-in-law to cancer within a year of each other in 2005-6.  Over the years, I have been informed of other family members passing away because of this dreadful disease.  I have a couple of personal friends that had battles with cancer and won.  There are many people that are still around and alive today because of what modern research and medicine has achieved.  Alternatively, there are many people who have left us because it was too late for a cure.

There are all kinds of theories, reasons and ideas of why people get ill or have disease.  Disease in its' definition means there is an uneasiness in the body.  When there is uneasiness in the body or an imbalance, it's probably due to things like stress, lifestyle choices, inactivity and other factors that make sickness and disease more easily accessible in the body.  Some people even believe that on some unconscious level we create sickness and disease with our thoughts.  Having a strong mind and thinking positively are a couple of things that can counterbalance this.  With the overload of chemicals, toxins and environmental pollutants running rampant on our planet, this could be another reason for the increase in disease.  The point is, it's sometimes difficult to completely pinpoint why someone gets ill and why someone else doesn't.  All we can do is live the best we can and make the healthiest choices along the way so we can live a long life.

Changes need to be made in our lives and in our lifestyles but that will be for another article.   In the meantime, we still have to treat the people that are currently suffering with these diseases and these are the people we are doing the charity fundraising rides for.  Sometimes people decide to do fundraising because they have been personally affected in some way.

We are fortunate to be working with someone that has a personal story that they are willing to share with everyone.  We'd like to introduce you to someone who is a cancer survivor. 

Meet Francisco.

What did I get myself into? The Diary of Francisco

“Yikes! What did I get myself into?”  Sometimes I ask myself this question when I realize that the journey which I am about to embark on, “The 2010 Ride to Conquer Cancer”, is coming way sooner than expected for me. The ride will be happening in about two months or so.

There are many reasons why I decided to do this ride: the first being that it’s a great charity and it’s for a good cause. The other being that I am a survivor: a cancer survivor. I come from my own experience and awareness of this life threatening disease and so, I feel compelled to contribute in some way.

While I was in the hospital last year, I was lying in bed battling for my life against AML Leukemia. I was waiting for my bone marrow transplant praying for a second chance at life. As I lay there, I made a promise to myself. I told myself that when I got out of the hospital and was back on my own two feet again that I was going to do more in this next stage of my life.

One of new things I decided to do was take up cycling. I had never cycled before but two of my co-workers did. After hearing about their experiences, I was by inspired into action by them. My co-workers did the ride last year and both of them embrace the cyclist lifestyle. They showed me that it is not just about training and competing in races, but that it is also about living a healthier lifestyle. Not only that, but it is environmentally friendly to the world we live in and also great on my pocketbook as a form of affordable transportation.

After speaking with my co-workers about their experiences on the 2009 RCC ride, it helped to relieve my concerns about doing this ride myself.  I was convinced that I wanted to do it. I felt this would be a great vehicle to show my family, friends, doctors and anyone else who had helped me get through my dark times that I wasn’t going to take the gift of a second chance at life for granted. I wasn’t willing to revert back to living my old unhealthy lifestyle and cycling was one of the first steps of achieving a new way to live.

In late November 2009, I bought myself a great road bike. Every time people see it they are impressed by it. It’s funny though, people will start talking about all the options on my bike and I don’t know what the heck they are talking about. I’m not a bike expert. I just ride my bike. So I just nod my head and say “Yup.”

In November, along with the bike, I purchased a bike trainer. I thought “I’ll start training on the trainer right after Christmas.” At first I took it seriously, but like most New Year’s resolutions, the excitement fizzled out. Even though I was now cycling, I realized that with my current level of fitness, I was going to have to do more. I would need to be more disciplined with my training, but where and how do I start?

One day I was reading a blog article called “Calgary Charity Ride Training and Preparedness: Part 1” on the Saddle-Up Calgary Blog. This article mentioned a participant who had challenges last year doing “The Ride to Conquer Cancer”. The participant wasn’t prepared for the ride and so, it was extremely difficult at times for her to get through it.  It was a real wake up call for me because I realized that I could be more prepared and make it easier for myself.

I have to say I have a number of fears doing a ride of this length. My fears are that I will need to be picked up by the sweeper vehicle and driven to the finish line because they need to close the road or worse that I was just too tired to finish.  I guess I’m getting ahead of myself here and shouldn’t worry but those thoughts are in my head.

After reading that article, I decided to contact the people at Saddle-Up Calgary.  After speaking with them, I decided to get the help and support I need from them and it’s now the start of my real training for “The Ride”.  I am excited about this new odyssey and I feel very lucky to have people helping and supporting me along the way.

As long as I do my part and put in 100% effort into my training, I’m confident that with the help and support from the wonderful people of “Saddle-up Calgary”, that I will reach my ultimate goal of crossing the finish line. Only then can I finally give myself the peace of mind that things will feel like they are back to normal for me. I realize it may still be challenging but I can finally put closure on that chapter of my life of battling Leukemia and start a new journey home.

Let the training begin!!!


And so it begins... We here at Saddle-Up are lucky to be in partnership with Jenn from triple threat training t-3 who is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and avid cyclist.  Below, Francisco is having his fitness assessment done. 

We design everyone's training regiment based on their personal level of fitness and desired goals.  As well as completing "The Ride to Conquer Cancer" charity ride, Francisco has a long term goal of better physical fitness.  Cycling will be included as a form of regular exercise.

As well as designing a training program, we are also assisting Francisco by teaching him riding skills such as the proper use of gears and making use of the mechanical advantage a gearing system on a bicycle offers.

We are able to do the gear shifting lessons in a controlled environment away from the hazards of city traffic.


These videos show Francisco's first gear changing technique lesson.

Now that Francisco is ready to hit the road, the real fun can begin.  Here we are at the halfway point of our first training ride.

Join us as we follow along as we get closer to the big day of Francisco's charity ride.  Watch as he turns himself into an avid cyclist ready for the RCC ride and then continues on his journey to explore Calgary with us by bike. 

We still have a few spots available and there is time for you to join us on this amazing experience.  Look forward to meeting you!