Philobiblon: Beware Kyphosis Bicyclistarum

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Beware Kyphosis Bicyclistarum

I'm a recent convert to cycling. I was lucky that my former employer was - once my fitness level and skills got to a reasonable level - only 20 minutes or so from home on two wheels, faster than any other method except for a taxi on a Sunday.

Then when I changed jobs it upped to 30 to 40 minutes, which covers about 5 miles. Hah, I hear the enthusiasts say, that's crawling.

Well there are around 20 sets of traffic lights along that route, plus a section of the Thames path littered with dogs, tourists and small children. Some people do cycle it at road pace; I don't trust my reflexes.

And the rest is through central London traffic - which is not as much of a problem as some suggest, since it is seldom going at any great rate, but between bendy buses (a nightmare - that is definitely not joined-up governmental thinking) and taxis that stop suddenly, to get a straight 500m run is a rarity.

To say cycling has changed my life would be a slight overstatement, but it has made me fitter than I've ever been before (not that I claim that is saying a lot), healthier, and generally happier. I cycle in any conditions short of icy - my "magic" fleece balaclava soon warms me up, and if I've worn it on an insufficiently cold day, cooks me.

Even on those days it is hard going, it is nice when you stop. That's an emotion beautifully summed up by Zen and the art of fixing a flat tire [tyre]. (A belly-laughing hat-tip to One more cup of coffee, who is a real cyclist.)

It was from him that I also learned about the dreaded Kyphosis Bicyclistarum caused, they said in the 19th century, from bending over the handlebars.
From Manufacturer and builder
Volume 25, Issue 8, August 1893

"A word of warning is uttered by the well-known medical authority, London Lancet, which young men, and boys in particular, who have the ugly habit of riding the bicycle with a forward stoop, will do well to take seriously to heart. This pernicious habit is by some acquired unconsciously, and by others (and these constitute the larger number of examples) in foolish imitation of the stooping, or humped, posture of the professional racer. For those who are old enough to understand and appreciate the evil consequences of this unwholesome posture in wheeling, which robs the exercise of all its hygienic value, will need no persuasion to break themselves of it at once; while for the thoughtless boys, among whom the habit is most common, and, because of their immaturity, most injurious, the intervention of parental authority is urgently called for. "

There's nothing new about health scares.

Luckily I'm safe from the affliction, since my back only allows me to ride in a "sit up and beg" posture. Looking on the Zen side, I say this is guaranteed to maximise wind resistance and therefore excercise.

Two tags:

2 Comments:

Blogger Susoz said...

Funny you should write about bicycling, as on my way to work I Sydney this morning I was mentally rehearsing a poem about cycling - it never turned into anything that could be written down, but I was so enjoying the experience that I wanted to put it into words.
I rode around London for 10 years, usually at least 90 minutes a day. I was once knocked off my bike by an Evening Standard van and have had a stiff left shoulder ever since. That doesn't turn me off cycling, even though I'm aware how dangerous it can be (and my blood ran cold when I clicked thru to ken's cycling pages and read that he'd been killed.)

2/14/2005 03:39:00 am  
Blogger Edward said...

"To say cycling has changed my life would be a slight overstatement, but it has made me fitter than I've ever been before (not that I claim that is saying a lot), healthier, and generally happier."

Likewise. I don't know how much the being healthy leads to happiness, but apart from cycle commuting I find nothing as relaxing as cycling out of London and cycling through the countryside for a bit. Nothing clears the head better or makes the city seem a million miles away.

I don't know if I'm any more of a 'real' cyclist than anyone else who gets on a bike though.

ed

2/21/2005 12:03:00 pm  

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