The Cure for the Common Cold

10.4.2005 | 5:10 pm

I’ve had a cold for about a week now. I’m cranky. I’m sore. I’m muddled. I’m always tired.

"Yes," I hear you quip, "But how is that different from the way you’re usually cranky, sore, muddled, and tired?"

To which I reply, wittily, "Shut up." After which I add, "It’s different because now I have a legitimate reason. Plus my nose is runny."

I’ll let you in on a secret (or it would be a secret, if I hadn’t spoiled it by using it as the title of today’s post), though: I know how to get over my cold any time I want.

I go out on a ride. It’s really as simple as that.

I expect to be contacted by the Nobel Peace Prize folks shortly.



Last Friday, I felt miserable — so miserable, in fact, that I didn’t get out and ride at all. However, I had talked with John about going on a Saturday morning ride, and — since it’s not easy to get people to ride with me — I didn’t want to back out.

When I woke Saturday morning, I still had the cold. It might have been worse. I looked out the window; it was raining. I had my out. I called John and said, "It’s raining pretty hard. Do you still want to do this ride?"

(As an aside, you’ll notice that I did not say, "I want to back out of this ride." That’s one of the rules in the Alpha Cyclist’s Handbook: "If you don’t feel like riding, try to get the other guy to cancel.")

John said, cheerily, "Yeah, it doesn’t look bad to me. Let’s go." Not only had John not backed out, he had failed to give me an easy out. Clearly, John had been reading the Alpha Cyclist’s Handbook as well. With my graceful exit blocked, I suited up and drove over to John’s house, ready to suffer through a miserable ride in the rain with my miserable cold.

And then I had a great time. As soon as I had been on my bike for a minute or two, my head cleared up, my body stopped aching, my headache went away, and the skies parted, becoming instantly sunny and blue.

Just kidding about the "skies parted, becoming instantly sunny and blue" part. It rained the whole time, sometimes just a little, sometimes really hard. But I didn’t care, because for the first time in three days, I felt good. I probably wasn’t as fast as usual, probably didn’t climb all that well, but for the two hours I was on my bike, I did not have a cold.

(Also, I learned a new riding tactic I plan to include in the next edition of the Alpha Cyclist’s Handbook: "Don’t use fenders." You see, John did the nice thing and rode his rain bike, which is all set up with fenders and rain flaps. I have no such setup. So, after the first time I took a turn pulling — and thereby spraying a muddy rooster tail up his frontside — John made it clear that I would not pull the rest of the day. Free ride for the Fat Cyclist!)


Corroborating Evidence

This is not the only time I have noticed this effect. In fact, any time I have a cold, but manage to somehow overcome inertia and get on my bike, I feel so much better. I’ve talked with other cyclists — two of them, I think, which should be plenty for any scientific paper — and they’ve noticed the same effect. When you’ve got a cold, go out on a ride. You’ll feel better.


Side Effects

Alas, once you get off the bike, it’s likely that you’ll get another cold within a few minutes. Note that I do not say "the symptoms of your current cold will return," because that would fly in the face of the premise that your bike ride cures the cold, and I frankly am not willing to entertain such unscientific jibberjabber.


Today’s Weight: 162.0 lbs.


PS: There was a frog bigger than my fist on my back porch when I got home from that rainy ride last Saturday. Here’s one of the twins (the one who always wears pink), checking it out.

You can tell she’s my daughter by the way she cleverly hid her eyes in the photograph.




  1. Comment by Unknown | 10.4.2005 | 5:17 pm

    i would take this a step further. riding cures everything. in fact, i will step out of character for just a moment. riding cures EVERYTHING.not that, as you so cleverly point out, everything won’t return when you get off your bike. but if it does, just get back on. try it. it’s like magic, but without the cheezy costumes. wait, i guess it does involve cheezy costumes, but still.

  2. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.4.2005 | 5:23 pm

    dug, that’s an excellent corollary. i believe that may merit a mention in the aknowledgments page when i submit my application for a nobel peace prize.another important corollary i should point out: the way you can cure a cold (or EVERYTHING) permanently is to simply never get off your bike.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 10.4.2005 | 6:14 pm

    Normally I would say that Neosporin has the same effect. It fixes everything. I am fairly certain it would fix a flat tire if given a couple of hours. But for colds, there is no substitute for Zinc. If you can keep from throwing it up, you are good to go in short order. I neglected to tell my wife about the requirement of a full stomach when taking zinc and now if there is even a mention of the word, she shoots me the look of fire.The combination of Zinc and a bike ride would surely fix any ailment, or leave you violently ill beside the road.

  4. Comment by a | 10.4.2005 | 6:33 pm

    Your cure certainly sounds healthier than mine… Usually a 12-pack of beer and a pack of cheap menthol cigarettes gets rid of the cold permanently. Of course, a few weeks later this dosage may need to be repeated on a new cold that is usually a little worse than the first, and the whole cycle repeats itself until the weather warms back up.Maybe I’ll try your remedy on my next cold … if I can master smoking while I ride…

  5. Comment by Unknown | 10.4.2005 | 6:34 pm

    Chicken soup for the cyclist’s soul. Or something mocking you about this post.Except for the photo. I wouldn’t mock that. That’s cute stuff.

  6. Comment by pete | 10.4.2005 | 6:43 pm

    That is a serious frog! Although I may be getting confused about the scale: how big is your daughter?dug, I feel one ailment that may not stand up to your theory is a broken leg. Or two broken legs.Anyway, the past two weeks have seen me get back out on my machine regularly. Why do my calves (among other things) hurt?Cheers, Pete

  7. Comment by agreenmouther | 10.4.2005 | 7:09 pm

    I had always noticed this same phenomenon with regards to swim practice. My explanation is that the chlorine kills your cold germs for awhile and flushes out the system. But way to go and ruin the secret! Now no one will think you’re hard-core for riding through the cold anymore.

  8. Comment by Robert | 10.4.2005 | 7:57 pm

    If I go on a ride while the cold is coming on, riding makes it worse. But if I’m on the down side of recovery, riding accelerates recovery. I just thought I’d write something really boring in your comments. No problem.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 10.4.2005 | 8:10 pm

    bob, you must be at the apogee of a cold right now, and i fear your head is so stuffed with mucous that you’re in danger of having it run out your ears.only this could explain both your dunderheaded comment, and your dunderheaded, seriously, you’re coming to fall moab 05, right?

  10. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.4.2005 | 8:19 pm

    nikared – amazingly (unless you’re the same person) i got an email message this morning from someone who’s putting on a "cigarette and beer 50" event. it sounds like just your kind of thing. check out – a couple of days ago, the whole family had a vote about who was the best person in our family. you still win, but your margin is narrowing. watch yourself.cosh (sorry, you are still just one of many coshes) – the frog is even bigger than you had originally thought, because that girl is nine feet tall. kids run tall in my family. oh, and the reason your calves hurt is because you’ve been riding with 2 broken legs.ccm – you SWAM with a COLD?! that’s just gross. i mean the swimming part is gross. the cold part has nothing to do with it.bob – i just cherish the fact that you took the time to write, man. also, you are the only person i’ve ever met who managed to mistake a moderately bad cold for a 18 months of chronic fatigue syndrome.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 10.4.2005 | 10:47 pm

    Warning! extremely dry, boring, and probably inaccurate comment about to be written by a de-lurker…Me too! Me too! I have the sniffly, sneezy, coughy, wheezy thing to such a degree right now that my coworkers are treating me like I have the plague. And my cold IS cured by exercise — my hypothesis — you body produces epinephrine and norepineprhine in response the the exercise (natural analog to the pseudophedrine in sudafed and other cold remedies) which constricts the blood vessels in the congested nasal mucosa and makes you feel better. Or maybe it is just the absolute agony of working out that distracts one from the ongoing cold symptoms…

  12. Comment by James | 10.5.2005 | 12:36 am

    You guys are nuts. Pardon me, that was insensitive. You people are nuts. Riding while sick is miserable, though slightly less miserable than laying around moaning about how I’m not riding. Saturday, in the midst of getting over my own cold, my nose dripped and my heart pounded just getting out of the driveway. The club practically had to bungee me home. This morning I felt better but still managed to blow big balls of snot while climbing the local torture hill – I swear my gloves were half a pound heavier at the end of the ride. I also recorded a season-high heart rate, and that was while the old guys on touring bikes were passing me. The only thing riding while sick cures is the delusion that I’m well enough to ride.

  13. Comment by Susan | 10.5.2005 | 12:36 am

    Hey guy just wanted to drop by and say hi.Your caption under the pic of your daughter was very funny and also very true!Sue

  14. Comment by Ariane | 10.5.2005 | 12:57 am

    Riding cures colds. It even cured my concussion. But what is less known is that it’s really the bikes that do it, not the riding. They possess powerful magic than can cure anything they touch, even non-human inanimate objects. For example, a while ago, the TV was on the fritz. In a rage, I sling-shot a punctured tube at it. Immediately upon impact, it started working perfectly. Amazing.

  15. Comment by Graham | 10.5.2005 | 1:11 am

    This technique also works for a hangover! I tried this on Sunday and it worked like a charm.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 10.5.2005 | 2:13 am

    Well, since everybody is posting a caveat – it’s just great to post here, Fatty. Thanks for taking my comment. Long time reader. First time mucous commenter, big fan. Mega mimeographs. I’m grinding through a headcold right now and riding every day on my vacation. Six days into my first effort to ride through one, and so far, I’ve averted the usual bronchitis that comes with my fall cold. [Warning: Seriously Grotesque Mucous Comment to Follow]. So far it’s clear stuff (instead of the commuter jersey green mucous that signifies a bad infection), and the clear stuff flies out during the first 10 minutes of every ride. When I get done riding, the throat still itches and the nagging cough is still there, but I feel better and can breathe for several hours. I am taking the asthma inhaler, the slow acting steroid one (no Fatty, it doesn’t help my biking performance at all, dammit) and that seems to help keep the lungs clear. [Serious Moment Follows]: I’ve been told by a number of docs, coaches and trainers, that if it’s in your head, work through the cold, but don’t do max effort, do only a moderate and shorter than usual effort, keep well hydrated, and get dry and warm and well rested afterwards. In contrast, if it’s in your chest (e.g. chest cold, bronchitis, pneumonia) don’t train, and rest as much as possible, and maybe see a doc. I’m not a doc, I’m just some guy living in a van down by the river, so your mileage may vary.

  17. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.5.2005 | 3:40 am

    spinecho – yes, that’s it. epinephrine and norepineprhine were the words i was looking for. they just briefly slipped my mind, that’s all.james – whatever you say, man. just hurry up and feed me another winner of a premise for some fake news. i’m supposed to have given cyclingnews something three days ago, but nothing i’ve started deserves to be finished.sue – the only way i can tell which twin that is is by what she’s wearing. Katie wears every color; Carrie wears nothing but pink.a.toad – ah, i see you come from the gabriel garcia marquez school of bicycling. nice.graham – if it worked like a charm, wouldn’t it just be easier to use a charm?al – steroids didn’t help me at all, either. just made me balloon up to clydesdale weight.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 10.5.2005 | 4:28 am

    That is a seriously cute picture of that little princess, even if she does do your witness protection moves. The frog looks seriously charmed, also, as he should be.Hope you’re feeling better! I use zinc lozenges to kill the germs in the mouth and throat and strange as it may seem, it helps to bubble your ears with peroxide, for about a minute each. I know… I know… it sounds nuts but there is some doctor who says that germs get a foothold in the ears (now THERE is some mixed metaphor!) I’ve tried it twice, it worked both times, and you have to know my immune system sucks. I’ll try most anything that doesn’t involve leeches or bats.

  19. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.5.2005 | 9:20 am

    Everyone has a theory on what fixes the cold. Why should I be any different…Maybe exercise allows you to breathe deeply through a overloaded mucous filter, thus removing significantly more pollution from your air than normal. Increased volumes of clean air generate accelerated recovery. As soon as your nose clears up, you stop filtering and start to poison yourself again with every breath and become sick all over again.The_Cosh… check with your chiropractor or acupuncturist maybe the aching calves are caused by some hitherto unidentified link between the lower leg and the sinus gland.BIG Mike (skinny on the inside)

  20. Comment by shannan | 10.5.2005 | 10:48 am

    Sounds like a good cure. If you don’t get the prize for finding one, maybe you should get it because there was no ‘government funding’ wasted.Shannan

  21. Comment by Fat | 10.5.2005 | 1:28 pm

    I’ll have to give this a try next time I have a cold. That’s a great picture by the way, thanks for sharing.~ Fat chick

  22. Comment by Robert | 10.5.2005 | 2:21 pm

    Dug, yes I’m going to Fall Moab 2005. Nov. 4-6, right?Oh, I just remembered a time when I felt a cold coming on, but I rode Tibble Fork anyway. (We went an extra loop, remember dug?) I ended up with mononucleosis. I’m telling you, some sicknesses shouldn’t be messed around with. I’ll draw up a chart.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 10.5.2005 | 3:32 pm

    Fatty–normally I think your postulations are hooey-filled jibberjabber. That said, the pink one IS cute, as is he other one, and let me add my high science to the pile (now you have three) that the ride thing does help a head cold, at least for the moment. I am most interested in your comment to newbrooklyner about the family vote and the best person thing. A note of caution–never let your oldest sibling know that newbrooklyner’s approval rating is higher than her own. What you don’t know is the replacement teeth are really fangs and she is not afraid to use them. I must know where she landed in the approval ratings.

  24. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.5.2005 | 4:38 pm

    rockhead – oh, did i say lori’s tops? i meant to say kellene’s the most popular one. sorry for the confusion, and please tell kellene not to beat me up.

  25. Comment by Unknown | 10.5.2005 | 5:00 pm

    bob, you have the dates right, and i am delirious with happiness at the news you are coming.mononucleosis. you didn’t get that from riding a big tibble, you got that from kissing elden while riding tibble.

  26. Comment by Carolynn | 10.6.2005 | 6:38 am

    I saved the picture of your daughter. What a cutie!


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