Why I Started Biking Again, Part Two

I know this is way overdue but my time is precious, but I’m doing something about making it more effective.

Around 2002, I got a sudden attack of debilitating joint pain. After a few misguided attempts at treating it as if it were gout1, it became clear it was something else; and what it was was “reactive arthritis”. Knocked it down a bit with some very bad meds over time and then had some more flare-ups, and after each flare-up, the ‘new normal’ was worse than the one before. There was no cure and no ability to really manage the progression (I went through two different biologics at astronomical expense, then years later stabbed myself in the gut with an old chemotherapy drug once a week, and nothing brought it back to normal).

I went from being able to bike long distances whenever I wanted to having to consider whether it was worth doing a bike ride and maybe not being able to walk the next day. Given that flare-ups seemed (possibly) to correlate with increased activity, and that each flare-up seemed to result in some permanent loss of function, I gave up most significant physical activity that stressed the joints in question, meaning, biking (and volleyball too).

Graph of first few flareups and progressingly worse baseline function
Click to embiggen

Part of the reason for doing so is that I wanted to not be laid up for a week on crutches, a cane, or a wheelchair with a toddler in the house (although that happened some anyways); but also, I wanted to save some function for later for teaching those same kids to bike.

Fast-forward to 2018; the last kid wants to learn how to bike again and is 9 years old. Time to brush off the old wheels, especially since things at work also snapped into place for me to want to work my way up to occasional biking. So I did some trips home (not to work, thanks to our CIO who didn’t build showers in our new facility) to build up strength for the actual work responsibility2.

Basically, I’ve hit the point now where it’s time to show the kids that I could bike, teach them how; and then go on rides with them; as they’re now old enough where they’ll actually remember it, in the event that further deterioration happens.

It didn’t hurt that my attempts to stay in half-OK shape via diet are getting more difficult and that other exercise is also difficult3. It didn’t hurt that I haven’t had a substantial flare-up in a long time (although the baseline maintains a general level of background pain in the toes). It also didn’t hurt that the recent climate change news is so bad that I want to remind the kids that not every adult they know was completely uninterested in trying to make the world collapse a little less awfully.

So far so good, though; after 40 or 50 trips over the last 6 months or so. Some increase in normal pain but it retreats back to the baseline so far; no new flare-ups as of yet. I’m only doing 10 miles on the way home from work; not going to go out on any 100 mile rides like in the old days. Cross your fingers. And stop wondering where my online slacktivism went.4.

  1. which, ironically enough, I actually got years later 

  2. I run our ‘test fleet’ and was using one of the pre-production bikes for a while until I got an issue we’re working through now 

  3. meaning more deterioration is happening anyways, so as one of my favorite movies puts it, no point in steering now! 

  4. either help me by pushing back on AURA, or help me not waste time on you by deciding not to push back on AURA; either way I spend less time worried about urbanism and more time on my bike