Be Inspired: Best Bicycling Tips from Physician Turned Bicyclist

How to stay fit for life

cyclist cycling road bicycle silhouette

Maybe you haven’t ridden a bicycle for years, or perhaps you ride regularly and would like some ideas to make it even more a part of your life. Richard Kratche, MD, Cleveland Clinic Family Medicine, explains how his love for bicycling began and how he stays inspired. He also offers tips to making bicycling part of your own routine.

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Touring the country

Dr. Kratche has biked across the country twice, and he spends ordinary weekends riding with his wife around Northeast Ohio, stopping for lunch and meeting other cyclists. “One great thing about bicycle touring is that you get to see the best of humanity,” he says.

He caught the bicycling bug when he was 14 years old. Then, during medical school, he and a group of buddies rode from Seattle to New York, “and it was quite an adventure,” he says. “Ever since that trip, we get together for a week each summer and do a bicycle tour.”

Bicycling is a way of life and a major mode of transportation for Dr. Kratche, who rides the 14.6-mile route to and from work, one to three days a week from April through Thanksgiving. Then his bicycle moves to a trainer indoors so he can clock miles over the winter.

How bicycling can get you hooked

The breathtaking sights and unique bicycler’s perspective are big reasons why the sport is such a transformative experience for Dr. Kratche.

“There are times when it’s hard — you are riding into a headwind or it’s raining and challenging and you just have to push through it. Other days you’re cruising along with a tailwind and rolling hills and it’s a beautiful day, and you get this ‘pinch me I must be dreaming’ feeling,” he says.

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Making exercise an escape, or a true pleasure, even when it is challenging is a part of staying fit for life, he says.

Amazing six-week journey

Dr. Kratche and his wife embarked on a cross-country tour in August 2012 that lasted through early October 2012. They started in San Diego and rode to St. Augustine, Florida, a total of 2,829 miles. During the journey, they updated a blog called 2 Cyclists 2 Bikes 2 Coasts (2cyclists.blogspot.com), a record of their six-week journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. They raised more than $26,000 for Destiny Rescue, a rescue organization that helps children lured into the sex trade.

During 38 riding days (and two rest days), the Kratches crossed eight states, met with friends along the way, camped, changed 44 flat tires and inspired many. In addition to family and friends, many patients followed the blog as Dr. and Mrs. Kratche crossed the country.

“One of my patients caught the bicycle touring bug and completed a one-week tour of his own last summer. He had a blast and even brought in a photo album to share with me,” he says proudly.

How you can do it

Here are a few fitness tips from Dr. Kratche:

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  • Trade your wheels. Rather than fueling the car to run errands or drive to work, strap on a helmet and hop on two wheels. By using a bicycle for transportation, you’re working exercise into your daily routine, saving on gas money and helping the environment.

  • Choose an event. “Having a big goal to motivate me to work out regularly has always worked for me,” says Dr. Kratche. And that doesn’t have to mean a cross-country tour. Check out local bicycle events, or map out a route to ride on a weekend day. Ride for a lunch date with a friend. Sign up for an event focused around a fundraiser so you’re riding with double the purpose — for health and a good cause. Dr. Kratche has committed to riding VeloSano this year (July 19-20), which is the new Cleveland Clinic annual bike ride to raise money for cancer research (check it out at VeloSano.org).

  • Buddy up and ride. Dr. Kratche looks forward to summer “reunion” rides with a group of friends. On weekends, he and his wife enjoy time together on two wheels. “You get a chance to talk and bond,” he says.

Remember, you can start small and build up from there. The key is to enjoy what you are doing to help you stay consistent.

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