coverI just finished an interesting cycling book called Heft on Wheels, about a college professor who liked to ride his bike a lot, but he weighted in at around 275 pounds or so and had a lot of other issues as well. 

The book is about how he turned his life around, stopped smoking, drinking, lost weight, and competed on club rides and races as well as in the Bridge to Bridge, 3 State 3 Mountain, Assault on Mount Mitchell.

From the back cover:

Take one very large guy. Add booze, cigarettes, and an extreme amount of junk food. Mix in a wry, self-effacing with. Throw in a bike. The result? Heft on Wheels, a potently funny look at turning your life around, one insanely unrealistic goal at a time.

Not that long ago, Mike Magnuson was a self-described lummox with a bicycle. In the space of three months, he lost seventy-five pounds, quit smoking, stopped drinking, and morphed from the big guy at the back of the pack into a lean, mean cycling machine.

Heft on Wheels is an unforgettable book about getting from one place to another, in more ways than one.

It's a fast read and a nice summer novel. Here's an excerpt that I liked:

Ed’s going to ride in the 3 State 3 Mountain with me next weekend in Chattanooga, and the idea today is we’re going to blast through a hard hundred miles at event pace, meaning we can stop a couple of times, briefly, to pee and to fill water bottles, but otherwise we’re pushing it all day. Get through this, recover nicely during the week, do a few surges on Wednesday, take a day off, easy ride on Friday, then next Saturday, when we’re riding up real mountains in a real mountain range, we’ll be able to hang with the top group.

This is how perfect things are, no wind, cloudy but dry, seventy degrees. We cut loose, we jam up every climb, we work together in the flats, sharing the draft, we eat PowerBars and drink a bottle of Gatorade every hour, we stay focused on pressing the attack forward. A couple of times in there I drop Ed, really drop Ed hard, near the top of the longest climbs, and it occurs to me, during these moments, that I should ride back to Ed and turn around and drop him again up the hill before he can crest it the first time, like he had done to me two years ago. I should rub it totally in his face and be a dick about it, but I get to the top, ahead of Ed, and slow down till he catches my wheel again. Ed doesn’t say anything about it, I don’t say anything about it.

We’re both riding really hard, is what matters, working together, not winning or losing or proving we’re superior to each other.

Saki says, Ride together.

I know what that’s about now: If you attack and drop somebody on the road, you are creating a situation where you will ride alone, and if you drop somebody repeatedly during the course of a ride, you effectively are informing the person with whom you have agreed to ride for six hours that, Hey, I’m better than you, man. See how I keep dropping you? Why should I be riding with you in the first place, if you can’t keep up? You may be stronger, but you are alone off the front and proving something hollow and empty and never true: I am superior to you.

No one wants to drink alone, right? By extension, the people who can drink the most, the people who are the best at drinking, they don’t shy away from more-moderate drinkers, do they? Hell no. It’s more fun in numbers!

Maybe the logic isn’t the same in cycling, but it’s close. Ride together for six hours with someone, or with several people, enjoy the conversation and the camaraderie, it’s more fun, it’s a more enriching experience all around.
With this in mind, after I’ve ridden ninety-five miles or so with Ed and we’re cruising side by side back into Carbondale, I ask Ed if he’s had a good ride.

He says, “You betcha.”

I knew that’s what he’d say.

Heft on Wheels is written by Mike Magnuson and published by Three Rivers Press. Mike teaches creative writinng at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and has written for Esquire, GQ, and Bicycling. Visit his website at .