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Monday, August 16, 2010

Fat Zoning and Muscle Memory

Here are a couple articles that may be of interest to those who are training or want to start training.

The first is Matt Fitzgerald's new book, Racing Weight, about the myth of fat burning zones and on strategies to increase your weight to power ratio.

The second is a little article concerning some new research in which a team of scientists have discovered that muscles retain their memory of earlier form, far after you have destroyed them under layers of doughnuts, beer and reruns of Three's Company.

Taiwanese World Cyclist Goes Into The Wild

Taiwanese world cyclist, Wu Shih-chang, has safely arrived in Vancouver B.C. after a harrowing test of nerves and strength pedaling through the Alaskan wilderness.

Wu reported encounters with hunger and bears during the Alaska leg of his global adventure in which he hoped to stick to his meager budget of only $8000 USD allotted for his entire trip.

The Taipei Times reports:

Wu said he first thought that riding around the world on a bicycle was a romantic thing to do. After setting out, however, Wu said he came to realize there was nothing romantic about it, as he instead had to deal with loneliness and learn to survive.

Every day, he was busy thinking about how to make his food last until the next food stop 100km down the road and about where he would set up his tent that evening.

Wu said that during the first few days of his ride in Alaska, he miscalculated and didn’t bring enough food. With the next shop more than 100km away, his blood sugar levels dropped and he started feeling dizzy, as all the trees seemed to be white. After that experience, he said he never dared set out again on an empty stomach.

The bears probably wouldn't be a problem during the fat days of summer, but should be avoided in the spring when there are young cubs and in the fall when food supplies dwindle before hibernation as Timothy Treadwell learned in 2003.

Carrying enough food may be a greater issue, especially being from Taiwan, where there is always a 7-11, roadside stall, betel nut stand and in some cases roadside produce available for easy purchase. Many Taiwanese underestimate the vastness of continental living. My father-in-law could not understand why I could not take him to visit Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in 4 days of driving. Concepts of "far" can seem much different around the world.

Most of all, I would really like to applaud Wu for his spirit of adventure. It takes guts, brains and courage.

Thinking About The Future

A Random Sign On The Road

I think I have said it before and I will repeat it here again... I have been thinking a lot about cycling on this trip and especially in the comparison between the cycling I am seeing in Taiwan and what I happened to experience in Seattle and Palm Desert.

Component Pioneer, Phil Wood

Both places offer a wide gradient of cycling culture and share many similarities in execution, but there were also many structural differences that left me wondering.

Cycling Events Advertised

I think many of the structural differences stem from a common source: Our history and relationship with the automobile. When the idea crossed my mind I was taken by the idea that the relationship with the auto, which is often viewed as the antithesis to the bicycle on the roads, may actually be one of the chief drivers behind how cycling culture developed and continues to evolve in both Taiwan and the United States. The Seattle cycling communities seemed to greatly differ by city, neighborhood and city block. The type of riders you would encounter might change from weekend triathlete to urban commuter in the space of a hill. In Taiwan both utility, recreational and competitive riders can be found clustered together in and around urban centers with bike shops serving at the... er... hub of the group. Although this is similar to what many American bike shops do, I think there are some important differences.

Bike Shop

To keep from getting too long winded and at risk of over simplifying many of the dynamic forces, I feel a large part of the American cycling experience is built around the infrastructure and values that evolved around the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which was commissioned in 1956 under the Federal Aid Highway Act and with the support of the Eisenhower administration in promise and guise of "self defense". The "interstate" grew into the world's largest network of limited access roadways that could rapidly move goods and people from less densely populated areas to the highly concentrated urban centers. My grandfather was one of the chief architects of Washington State's Interstate network and believed freeways were the future of America.

Some Bikes On The Street

What my grandfather could not envision was the extent of suburban sprawl that would eventually creep further and further away from the cities and encroach into ecologically sensitive areas and watersheds. The cities became less populous as residents moved into the suburbs to grab up more space to enjoy the lifestyles of leisure being promoted as the "American Dream". Urban environments in many American cities fell into decay and many districts were left to the poor or deserted, especially at night. Rent control was often the only thing keeping some urban blocks populated. Even many of the poor moved into some of the more dilapidated suburbs. Urban centers were becoming less dense with more Americans requiring more land and resources.

Bike Touring

The focus of life in the suburban periphery became the automobile and the US transportation networks focused its sole purpose of providing infrastructure for the car. It was only in the past calendar year that this status quo has been challenged and changed to include bicycles and pedestrian traffic. With the challenge of the American romance with the automobile and lawmakers eager to snap up tax money to support the oil habit, cycling became a type of counter culture in opposition to car culture. Cycling was less convenient, less direct and impractical in a world where everything is a 10 min. drive away. Out of pet food? Hop in the car. Need to get stamps? Drive up the street to the post office. This is the world I grew up in.

Urban Grocery Getter

As the suburbs have moved to the limits of a practical commute and traffic congestion continuing to worsen despite the ever expanding system of roads, federal, state and local governments have begun asking government officials, citizens and land developers to rethink the future. The ideal environment for sustainable living is one in which people can live in more densely populated centers where a person's employment and needs are within non-driving distance. Many metro-areas have already begun repopulating the cities and making urban centers more livable and affordable.

Bike Racks

Seattle has begun investing in far reaching networks of bicycle routes, park & rides, bike-fiendly mass transit systems and other light infrastructure to better accommodate and integrate the bicycle into the new urban landscape. In an even bigger move, King County, the county in and around Seattle, has initiated a program to exchange sky for land, allowing developers to build higher downtown in exchange for buying and not developing green space. The counter culture of bicycle commuting is becoming a normal and integrated network with plenty of community support.

Bikes At Fancy Restaurant

Taiwan experienced a different economic and industrial trajectory in which much of the industrial infrastructure was built up by the Japanese during Taiwan's 50 years as a Japanese colony. Much of Taiwan's development occurred parallel to development in many parts of the United States. By 1906 Taiwan's transportation system was complete and would remain largely intact and unchanged until the 1960's and by 1935 there were over 7000 factories employing 68,000 Taiwanese workers. This number jumped to 143,000 industrial workers by the height of WWII.

Simply Enjoying The View

Despite the rise in industrial labor, Taiwan would not be counted as an industrialized nation until 1965 when the urban population reached 5 million. Taiwan experienced rapid economic growth as the United States supplanted Japan as Taiwan's chief market for export. Many Taiwanese families that could not leverage their ethnicity for government work, higher education used family capital to start small to medium sized industrial enterprises on land that had once been family rice field. 3.75 million urbanites over 12 years of age were gainfully employed.
Many Places To Lock A Bike

With economic growth came growing affluence and one symbol of that affluence was the light 2 stroke scooter or motorcycle to replace the bicycle and pedal-cab. Automobiles were still largely considered out of reach for most families until the mid 80's. The scooter provided a quick, reliable and relatively cheap form of transportation that not only reduced reliance on other forms of transportation, but also allowed more Taiwanese to enter the workforce; especially women. The utility bicycle became representative of "the poor" and the scooter became a prestige item.

Bike Lane On Bridge

Wide Shoulder For Bike Traffic

Taiwanese cities expanded and continue to expand, but remain densely populated with most people's needs within a short walk, bike or scooter ride away. In many general ways Taiwanese cities represent the modern American aspiration for the city. There was no need for suburban sprawl and Taiwanese live together in the urban setting despite socioeconomic class and many families only have one car, not one car for each member. The roads do not act as great dividers of populations as they do in America where the wealthy in Bellevue all live in a certain area and buy carbon TT bikes for a weekend with friends... or the poor urban dishwasher who rides an old steel beater to work. In Taiwan a Colnago might live next to a Jelum.

Bike Corridor

Power Line Trail Converted To Bike Corridor

This very efficient urban lifestyle in Taiwan is in decline as bubbling housing prices and exaggerated property values that are prone to speculation have begun making the cities unaffordable and unlivable for all but the most affluent Taiwanese or potentially wealthy Chinese who are being courted to fill the bubble and make very few... very rich. The centers are becoming unlivable.

Cyclist On Freeway

Father And Son Out For A Ride

Taiwanese are being pushed further and further from their workplaces and the efficiency of urban living is in greater decline. More Taiwanese, especially in the North, are seeing their commutes stretch into the hours with little sign of respite. While the United States is busy courting a Taiwanese-like model for urban living, Taiwan is beginning to emulate the United States.

Space Savers

Actual Awareness "Give Cyclists 3 Feet".

From what we have seen as of late, the central and local governments have placed a higher priority on recreational cycling over utility cycling with an expanded tourism infrastructure, but little development for the growing need for commute-friendly pathways, safe bike lockers and practical spaces for bicycles.

Bike Lockers

This is where Taiwan can learn from cities like Seattle and start seriously integrating the bicycle into the transportation infrastructure to make it easier for residents to avoid automobiles and scooters in their commutes and employ alternative forms of transportation like mass transit and park & rides that work in conjunctions with the bicycle for transport and not just recreation. I know this is a simple narrative, but it gives me a great deal of food for thought

Mixed Messages