Cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to older adults. It is also fun, cheap and good for the environment.
To be fit and healthy you need to be physically active. Regular physical activity can help protect you from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Riding to work or the shops is one of the most time-efficient ways to combine regular exercise with your everyday routine. An estimated one billion people ride bicycles every day – for transport, recreation and sport.
Cycling for health and fitness:
It only takes two to four hours a week to achieve a general improvement to your health. Cycling is:
Health benefits of regular cycling:
Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level.
The health benefits of regular cycling include:
How to Start Cycling: 6 Need-to-Know
1. Choose the Right Bike
Of course, you can’t get started without a great set of wheels. While we’re big fans of all types of bikes, we’re specifically talking about bikes suitable for the road here. This is the most common and accessible form of cycling for beginners, and the lightweight bikes—with skinny tires and efficient riding geometry—are designed to help you navigate paved bike paths and city streets.
2. Get Geared Up
Finding the perfect bike is only half of the equation. There’s also some essential gear you’ll need. A new helmet is the most important and should be worn at all times while riding. Helmets have a shelf life, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and buy a new one instead of reaching for that old one hanging in the garage. New helmets meet the U.S. safety standards, so try them all on and choose one that best fits your head, your style, and your budget best. The more you love it, the more you’ll want to wear it.
Not quite ready to look like a Tour de France rider yet? No problem. There are plenty of brands that make cool cycling apparel for recreational riders, like the Bike Style collection from Pearl Izumi. If you do aspire to look like a pro, we’ve got you covered there, too. A cycling kit (a jersey, matching padded bib shorts or bike shorts, and socks) is more aerodynamic and comfortable on the bike than other athletic clothes. The material wicks away sweat and helps regulate body temperature; the form-fitting cut reduces chafing; and the padded seat (chamois) protects sensitive areas from road vibration. Jerseys are available in race or relaxed fit and endless colors and patterns.
While we suggest starting your cycling journey with standard flat pedals and athletic shoes, eventually you may want to transition to road bike shoes and clipless pedals. This shoe-pedal combination secures your feet in place to improve pedaling efficiency and bike handling. Unclipping can sometimes be tricky, so be sure to practice in a field until you get the hang of it.
Other important items include some tools (tire levers, a mini pump, spare tubes, and a multi-tool) and a water bottle or two. You can also opt for a cycling computer, which comes in handy for tracking mileage and navigating routes.
3. Create a Habit
Your first few rides might be tough—your body is adjusting to the stress of a totally new activity. But like all things in life, real progress is made when you stick with it for the long run. The first step to make riding a habit is to be realistic. Don’t expect to magically become a morning person just because you have a new bike, or plan to ride 100 miles too soon. Start small and grow from there.
No matter when you choose to ride, lay out your kit, fill your bottles, and pump up your tires ahead of time. Prepping and deciding to get on the bike is sometimes the hardest part—doing a little preride preparation will prevent excuses from getting in the way.
Setting a long-term goal is a great way to stay engaged and track progress. You can aim to ride a certain number of days a week or look for a local charity ride, gran fondo, or create your own long-term mileage goal.
4. Stay Safe
We’ve already mentioned how important wearing your helmet is while riding, but there’s more to staying safe on your bike than just protecting your noggin—especially during a global pandemic. CDC guidelines have recently been updated to recommend “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
When riding alone, always carry a basic multi-tool, a form of identification, cash (dollar bills can also be used as a tire boot), and your phone in case of an emergency. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes not all rides go as planned—don’t find yourself stranded on the side of the road after a crash or with an unfixable mechanical with no help.
Always follow local traffic laws while riding—this includes coming to a complete stop at all stop signs and red lights (even on group rides), and using appropriate hand signals when making a lane change or turn. Also, don’t assume the car coming up behind you knows you’re there just because you’re in their lane. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more you can anticipate any drivers not paying attention or hazards out on the road.
5. Find Your Ride Style
As you spend more and more time in the saddle, you’ll learn more about your personal riding style and preferences. Maybe you love riding non-competitively with a group, or you prefer heading out on solo adventures. Maybe you find yourself yearning to race, or simply using your bike to commute to work every day. There are endless ways to ride and enjoy riding—it just takes a little trial and error to find yours.
Eventually, you may also find that your body type and talents will naturally lend itself to a specific type of riding. If you find yourself breezing uphill faster than your friends, climbing may be your cup of tea. If you can pull away on a “race” to the town line during the Thursday night group ride, sprinting is likely your forte. Being a well-rounded cyclist is always the goal, but fostering your strengths (or what you enjoy most) is a surefire way to keep cycling fun. Plus, it’s part of the sport—professional cyclists generally specialize in one style, whether it’s sprinting, climbing, or time trialing.
6. (Eventually) Find a Group
There’s something to be said about finding the internal motivation to ride regularly, but sometimes a little positive peer pressure goes a long way. Cycling is uniquely both an individual and group sport. You can certainly ride and accomplish goals solo, but once social-distancing is lifted, riding with a group can make it physically easier (you can draft off each other for less wind resistance) and more motivating.
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