It’s been no secret to long-time Randomn3ss readers that back in the summer I started to ride a road bicycle, then complete the MS charity ride and I’ve gone as far as losing 54 pounds, only 6 pounds away from a goal I set when i started riding just 5 months ago.  I’ve also been very active in the social networking site DailyMile and been rather addicted to tracking the miles and reaching new goals; I’ve even started to run.  Because DailyMile is tied in with Twitter, another service I love to hate and hate to love, I managed to grab the attention of long-time internet friend, fellow photographer and on-again off-again cyclist Ed Hidden hooked on DailyMile as well.  During one of the posts I made on DailyMile that got tweeted out via Twitter, he sent me a message asking if I’d like to read a book he recently finished, he’d mail it to me if so. Twitter continues to work for positive things!

Super stoked on this offer, I took him up on it and a few days ago Heft on Wheels arrived.  I had only done a quick search to see what the book was about, Ed told me very little other than it was a gritty, fat guy to skinny guy story.  Amazon has this to say,

a 255-pound, pack-a-day 40-year-old who’s desperate to get his life back into shape. And he chooses the challenge of cycling to achieve that, largely because of its total lack of mercy.

I’m not a reader, I’ve admitted that before, but I was stoked on this book.  Ed told me this isn’t so much of a story about a fat guy and how he got skinny, rather one’s struggle with getting thin.

I blew through just over one third of the book in my first sitting, finishing the entire book in 3 days, Mike Magnuson’s writing style is a bit odd, coarse and seems to be filled with a tad too much ADD if ya’ know what I mean.  Mike was an average guy who was always a little chubby and through years in college and then becoming a professor in college got himself up to a 100% full fledged drunk, seven days a week.  Teaching creative writing in college often led him to the bar with his students until 2am at which point they would go back to someones home and drink till 5, 6 and sometimes 7 the following morning.  This helped lead him up to a whopping 255 pounds, smoking more than a pack a day and overall, not feeling like the man he should be.

The book starts off with Mike talking about getting hit by a truck while riding, then goes on to explain what got him there.  If this was a movie, it would say Present day under that part and 4 years earlier where the story picks up.  In a nutshell, Mike realized in his mid 30’s that something needed to be done, and by the age of 38 he was pretty disgusted with himself.  It was that birthday he quit smoking, drinking and got back onto a road bicycle, a Trek 5200 that he raves about heavily in the first few chapters.

Ed was right, this isn’t a how-to book, this is more of a journal, a journey to be more correct, of a man’s struggle with himself.  To speed the diet, Mike consumed nothing more than water and three 400 calorie protein shakes for months.  He talks about being the slowest, weakest rider in the group rides he does at his local bike shop, about buying XXL cycling gear and about his love and passion for the sport.  Outside of the time-line jumps he does fairly often, this book really kind of grabs ya.

The interesting part is that Mike almost seems to punish himself, he looks for pain, he traveled to North Carolina to climb the highest hill east of the Mississippi, he rode what many consider to be the toughest American road race in a total downpour.  He rode 12 months a year, in the dead of winter and in the searing heat of summer.

For this, he not only became a thinner man, dropping his weight down into the 170’s, he became a better teacher for his students and a better writer, penning several books and many magazine articles.  It wasn’t until the last few chapters of the book that I started to question the relationship with his family.  Throughout the book Mike talks about these epic rides, 100-150 miles a day, 450-550 miles per week, often waking early to ride before work and riding into the night after.  Right around the time my mind was questioning his family, of which he has a wife and two children, he addresses them, and apologizes for not being there enough.

The book is part inspiration, part entertainment and all Mike Magnuson.  Mike seriously beat the crap out of himself, in ways that were more than likely not healthy, he makes no lame excuses for his drinking problems or for how he ended up so fat.  He simply writes out a two year journey of his life and what he went through to get there.  It also deals heavily with friends he had, friends he lost and friends he made during cycling and training.

Bringing the story full circle, the end meets up where the beginning started, with the crash.  I won’t ruin the end, but it’s not a sad one.

Heft on Wheels appealed to me not only as someone who’s interested in cycling, but because Mike went through something I have, being fat and out of shape to thinner and in shape, it was easy for me to see the similarities in that.  While I don’t drink and don’t smoke, there is a lesson to be learned in here.  The only flaw with the book is Mike’s obsessive use of the term Trek 5200, an all carbon fiber bicycle that I know he must have been proud of but comes off as an advertisement after the 35th mention of it.  The scatter-brained writing style bothered me at first, as Mike often skips ahead 3 months in the first half of a chapter and then goes 2 months behind within the same chapter to better explain the story.  I learned to like it, and I think it actually helped me get through the book faster.

During the Twitter conversation Ed and I were having, Brad, who follows both of us had said he heard of the book and was interested in hearing more about it when I was done.  After a quick discussion with Ed, he said the best thing to do with the book would be to give it to someone else who could appreciate it.  So, it will be in the mail shortly Brad!  I hope it brings you the same enjoyment as it did Ed and I and you in turn give it to one of your readers.

If you’ve just read a book that blew your doors off and think I should read it and write a review, Contact me for my shipping address, maybe we can turn this into a huge book-passing thing.  Since this whole thing more or less started because of DailyMile and Twitter, follow me at:

Special thanks to Ed for mailing me the book to read in the first place!