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This month there has been a big change to my transportation situation. I’ll begin with some context.
One of my favorite vehicles to own was a 1993 Geo Metro that could get over 40MPG due to its small size and 3 cylinder engine. The Geo Metro replaced a very large, very heavy, 8-cylinder powered car that was getting 12 miles per gallon. So, what I saved in gas every month more than paid for the Geo Metro. It was easy to park, fun to drive, and surprisingly roomy. After putting over 220,000 miles on that car, I eventually retired it to a junkyard and began riding my bicycle full-time — a task made easier by having a short and predictable daily commute over about 15 years.
For many years, I didn’t own a car. I would rent a car when needed for longer road trips, take a taxi, or use public transit, but most of the time, I’d ride my bike. After some years went by, I began driving a leased Toyota Corolla, then a Honda CRV, and in 2016 started driving a Subaru Forester.
In the past few years of doing full-time consulting, I had intentionally been limiting my work to people and businesses that were easy to reach on a bicycle. I also was trying not to take on projects that required filling up a car with heavy equipment. People would deliver computers to my home instead. It was possible to run the business 90% by bicycle, but I was limiting my work quite a bit. I was reducing my own carbon footprint, but that was mostly just shifting the driving and carbon output to others.
In 2018, I realized that being on the bike so much can result in some health problems such as skin cancer, cataracts, and possible bicycle accidents. I also realized that using the car when practical could allow me to take on more work and serve more people. So, I began using the car more.
While the bike had its potential negative effects on health, so did the car. Driving so much was making me more sedentary. I began to notice some stiffness, and even ankle soreness from so much back and forth between the brake and accelerator – which is common with in-town driving.
For the past few years, I’ve been driving a 2016 Subaru Forester. It’s a very small SUV-style vehicle that’s a little taller than its station-wagon inspired sibling, the Subaru Outback. The Forester was great for hauling computers and its small size allowed it to have impressive fuel efficiency for an all-wheel-drive vehicle. However, with more daily driving, I was finding the legroom to be a bit cramped, and the road noise would make it hard to dictate or hear on the phone sometimes. I was hoping for something a little larger. Last year, Subaru started making a slightly larger Forester-like vehicle called the Ascent. The entry model is roughly the same cost as a higher Forester trim package.
In addition to being very quiet, and having more legroom, the Ascent has some additional features that reduce driving fatigue, especially the ankle fatigue from the repetitive stress of braking and accelerating. There’s a brake-hold feature, so the brake will stay held on once you stop at a light even without your foot on the brake. That’s a big help. Also, in-town and on the highway, the automated driving assistance features are very helpful. The car can accelerate, stop, and resume to a normal speed without use of the accelerator or brake pedal. There’s a learning curve to having some of the driving tasks handled by artificial intelligence. It’s like sharing the driving with someone who has their feet on the brake and accelerator while you have your hands on the steering wheel. It’s not quite like fully autonomous driving, but there’s definitely less fatigue. In just the first few days of driving the car I’m noticing that all the driving fatigue and signs of repetitive stress are gone. I’ll probably create a video and write an article about the Ascent to share more about its other features.
You might think the Ascent is the big transportation news from this month, but there’s more. I’ve been riding the same bike for many years – a heavy slow bike that emphasizes comfort and posture over pedaling efficiency. I’ve enjoyed that bike, but it was more exhausting to ride than a lighter more efficient bike. As a result, it was less practical to ride longer distances. On days when I had a lot of client work to do, I would just drive instead of riding the bike.
About two weeks ago, I purchased an electric bike that is really quite amazing. With the electric motor assisting, it’s possible to keep up with traffic on most in-town streets – so drivers are not suddenly coming up upon you. It’s those sudden surprises that distracted drivers aren’t prepared for, but when you’re riding with the flow of traffic, drivers have more time to see you and respond as needed. The extra boost of having a plug-in electric bike means that it’s possible to say yes to biking more often, even when errands and work take you farther away. It’s not a problem on an electric bike. So, now I’m running more errands and doing more consulting work on the bike, in less time. That’s less time in the heat and sunlight. I can arrive where I’m going without breaking too much of a sweat. Because it’s a bicycle, I can still take bike trails which are usually more direct than driving routes around town. Most destinations are reachable in less time on the bike than they are by car. With bike lanes to avoid traffic and more convenient parking for bicycles, the bike is really an appealing choice.
Riding the electric bike feels like riding a very expensive lightweight racing bike with biking shoes clipped to the pedals and narrow tires with 110 pounds of air pressure. All the expense to make a bike lighter, the discomfort of leaning over to reduce wind resistance, and the slick spandex biking clothing are not needed. The electric motor makes the 50-pound bicycle feel like a 15-pound bicycle. It makes hills feel like they aren’t so steep. It’s like everywhere you ride you have a 30 mile per hour tailwind.
The combination of a more comfortable car, and faster bicycle, has really made a huge difference for my biking and driving experience. I’ll be able to better enjoy my driving while needing the car less now that I have a speedy bike.
My improvised home workout is going well. I’ve been able to recreate the gym membership experience at home using tension bands and a few inexpensive free weights. Before strength training, I’m still starting the day with yoga, meditation, and then a morning walk/run that lasts about 20 minutes.
I’m maintaining a low-carb, low-sugar, high-protein diet with incremental fasting. I don’t have any fixed targets for intake, but generally, I’m consuming 20 grams of carbs per meal, 5 grams of sugar per meal, and 50 to 70 grams of protein per day. So, nothing too extreme. My sugar intake occasionally is higher if I have fruit. I count all forms of sugar and equivalents, not just refined sugar. To keep my carb intake low, I avoid bread, rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, chips, and other non-essentials that are high in carbs. This is a flexible diet that’s easy for me to stick to. As of this month, I’ve reached my lowest body weight in more than 6 years. The weight loss is slow and gradual, which is a good thing for long-term success.
Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.
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Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.