The Human Machine

The human body is an amazingly efficient machine that is capable of accomplishing a wide variety of physical tasks. When coupled with a mechanical machine, a single person can accomplish extraordinary physical feats. Part of this project is to show that a person is capable of powering a bicycle across the country in a single summer.

A Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver is being used to calculate distance travelled, average speed, top speed, total elevation gain, total elevation loss, and net elevation change for each daily segment. These variables will be compared to see what effect terrain has on human performance.

Nutrition is also a very important component to understanding how the human body performs. A daily log of food and water consumption is being kept in order to track the total energy expenditure for the rider. From this I hope to be able to tell the total amount of energy required to traverse the country along the TransAmerica route on a bicycle.

In preparation for the trip, I underwent a training regimen that had two stages. In the early spring of 2002, I rode as often as I had free time with just the bicycle. I mixed hill riding with riding along flat roads. This built cardiovascular endurance and toned the muscle groups that are necessary to power the recumbent. The second stage in training ca,me in the beginning of May when I will added the trailer and gear to the bicycle. The trailer and gear adversely affect the handling characteristics of the bicycle. This requires more strength and skill on the part of the rider.

By the time the trip began I built up enough cardiovascular endurance, physical strength, and skill in handling the rig to tackle the Appalachian Mountains during the first few weeks of the trip. Each of these three important attriubutes will grew as the summer progressed. I hope to be able to quantitatively measure my increase in performance through the summer using data from the GPS.

NEW SECTION (7/30/02)

I have noticed significant changes in my body over the past two months of riding.

  • Increased muscle mass - My thigh and calf muscles are significantly larger and more sculpted than before the ride. Early in the trip I did a great deal of stretching before, during and after each day's segment and my legs were sore after riding each day for about the first three weeks. After the 30th day my legs completely stopped hurting all together and all pain ceased.
  • Decreased fat mass - I have lost a significant amount of body fat throughout my body. In particular, the fat deposits on my thighs and around my abdomen have shrunk significantly. I generally look much leaner than at the beginning of the ride
  • Increased lung capacity - My respiratory rate early in the trip was very high. Riding for long durations of time and at high elevation has increased my lung capacity.
  • Increased cardiovascular efficiency - My resting and active heart rates are far lower now than before the trip. My heart used to race while riding hard early in the trip. Now it doesn't race at all and remains at a moderate rate.
  • Change in skin color - Being out in the sun for five hours per day has made my skin quite tan. I liberally apply sunblock (Coppertone Sport SPF 30 is the best!) a few times each day. My leg and arm hair has become sun bleached and turned from dark brown to nearly blonde in color.

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© 2001-2003
Lawrence J. Flint
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