Hitting the gym and lifting weights is great. Running on the treadmill is awesome. Sometimes, though, it is the basic items and activities that give you the most benefits. Bike riding is one of those activities. Though professional cycling is a more extreme workout, leisurely rides around your neighborhood has a lot of benefits as well.
Benefits of Bike Riding
There are physical, mental, and relational benefits that can be gained from bike riding.
- Builds muscle
Does Cycling Build Leg Muscle? Most of us have been riding bicycles since childhood, so riding a bike seems really easy. The truth is that it is pretty easy, as long as you continue doing it. If you have ever gone for a long period of time without riding a bike, then you suddenly try again, you will feel muscles burning that you forgot existed.
I stopped riding my bike for a couple of years. When I finally got back on it for a short ride to the store, I honestly did not know if I would make it. Basic activities often work muscle groups that we do not realize need to be worked, mostly because they have been developed since we played as children. Repeating these activities can keep those muscle groups in tip top shape.
- Provides cardiovascular exercise
The need for cardio is a non debated fact. We all know that getting our hearts pumping is absolutely vital to our health and fitness. Without it, we are at much greater risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and more. What happens when you cycle everyday? The answer is while your heart would definitely get a better workout pushing your cycling to the extreme, even simple riding gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing.
- Is cycling good for your joints?
Though it is very important to point out that there are benefits that are more beneficial to treating issues like osteoporosis, such as weight lifting, many who suffer from bone and joint problems have a hard time completing such tasks. As bike riding is so low impact, it is a much more attainable form of exercise for these sufferers. As pedaling builds bone, it does provide a great deal of benefits to all.
- Cycling for Weight Loss
Obesity is a very common problem around this country, and much of it comes from overeating and a lack of overall activity. Cycling can help shed pounds and trim the muscles for a few reasons. The first is that it simply gets you moving. It gets your heart pumping which increases your metabolism and burns body fat.
Do note, though, that exercise is only part of a healthy lifestyle. For maximum weight loss and health, it is also important to improve your diet. The great thing, though, is that you do not have to jump in head first. Start small with both bike riding and healthy eating, and build your way to a healthier you.
- Reduces stress
If you take a look at the treatment plans for most mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and even ADHD, you will see that exercise is recommended. There is a good reason for this. Exercise itself releases endorphins, aka the happy hormone. A release of endorphins have the propensity to shift the mood and mindset. Also, getting out in the fresh air for your bike ride can reduce your stress levels. It really is a powerful activity.
- Does cycling help posture?
Riding a bike works muscles and joints, which all help your body hold itself up as it should. This means that over time, your muscles and joints will begin to improve your posture.
- Make it a family event
Another great benefit is that bike riding can be solitary, or you can make it a family activity. I remember as a child, my mom, dad, and me would hop on our bikes for an hour long ride. My dad would strap my baby brother into the child seat that he had attached to his bike.
It was never about rushing or racing. We simply enjoyed the ride, talking, pointing out things in nature, and simply enjoying being a family. Even though we were not pushing ourselves to the limit, we were in some of the greatest shape of our lives. Make bike riding a family affair and reconnect with one another while getting in shape together.
It is important to be safe while cycling. Hurting yourself on a bike ride is counterproductive to the health benefits you are trying to gain. The following are some safety tips to follow:
- Inspect your bike before your ride
Always check your bike before leaving home. Make sure the tires are pumped up, the seat is sturdy, the handle bars are attached well, and so on.
- Safety Equipment
A bicycle helmet is so very important to your health as it protects your head and brain. It is typically much easier to heal from a broken arm than a fractured skull. And many head injuries can be fatal. First and foremost, if you wear no other protective gear, wear a helmet. Sunglasses or safety glasses can help protect your eyes, as well.
- Reflective gear
Wearing reflective gear while you are riding improves the likelihood of being seen by passing motorists. You can always put reflective items on the bike itself, but it is also a good idea to put them on yourself. This might be a jacket, a safety vest, a belt, an arm band, or any other reflective clothing you can locate.
- Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is extremely important to your health. Keep water or a sports drink such as Gatorade with you on your rides. Take short breaks to stop and drink, though do not drink too much at once or you will make yourself sick.
- Night riding
If you choose to do your bike riding at night time, reflective gear is even more important. Stay on well-lit pathways and trails if at all possible.
- Other Tips
Whether we are out riding a bike or walking to vehicles from the grocery store, there are dangerous people out there with ill will. Take precaution by either riding with someone else or staying on busy bicycle paths, and consider keeping some protective spray with you.
Also, for many reasons, let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Then, if you happen not to arrive at home on time, they know where to look, just in case you have injured yourself.
Choosing Your Bike
Choosing your bicycle can be exciting, but you need to make sure that you get the right one. Below is some information on the different types of bikes you can expect to see.
a. On road and off road biking
Before choosing a bicycle, decide if you will be biking on road or off. Different terrains are better navigated with bikes meant specifically for that terrain. For instance, paved bike paths are typically fine with any bike type, but bumpy dirt paths are better handled with off road bikes.
b. Types of adult bikes to choose from
If you are not aware, consider this a warning that there are numerous types of bikes available to choose from. The following cover the majority, if not all, types of bikes.
i. BMX or trick bikes
You have seen these mens bike before. They are the ones that you see raced on dirt tracks. They are also the ones you see many kids attempting bicycle tricks on. Unless you plan to race or learn said bike tricks, this is not the bike for you.
ii. Track bikes
These are another type of racing bikes that are used on indoor tracks. They have no brakes and no coasting ability. The bike literally starts and starts by the force of the rider. There is an outdoor style of these bikes. They are the ones you see athletes ride with the curved handlebars. Again, unless you plan on competing, or doing some serious bike training, this is not the bike for you.
iii. Mountain bikes
Mountain bikes are used to ride on loose dirt tracks, rocks, and other obstacles. They are built to handle a more rugged terrain than most others. They can, and usually are, also used on regular roads. In fact, this is one of the most common types of bikes available. You can get cheap mountain bikes under $200, but if you plan to do some actual mountain biking, go for those on the higher side. They are better suited for this activity.
iv. Hybrid/comfort bikes
These are upright and built with the riders comfort in mind. The wheels are a little larger yet thinner than mountain bikes, making them ideal for regular roads and leisurely rides.
v. Cyclocross bikes
These are similar to a regular road bike but have dropped handlebars. They are good for actual cyclocross events where riders have to get over certain obstacles. If you have no idea what cyclocross is, you can overlook this bike as well. They are specialized, though if you find one you like, it can technically be used on regular roads.
vi. Triathlon Bikes
Triathlon bikes are the ones you see with really high seats, really low handles, and thicker bars than any other. They are designed for the rider to lean forward to the handlebars, which improves the aerodynamics and, as a result, the speed. They are highly specialized bicycles, so do not purchase these for a leisurely family ride.
vii. Tandem bikes
Tandem bikes are those that are built for two people. You may wonder who would want to use one, but they are actually great for many who normally do not get the chance to ride. For instance, a blind person can sit at the back of the bike and pedal while a sighted person sits at the front and controls direction. Young children can accompany mom and dad on long bike rides. These types of bikes open doors of possibilities
viii. Adult trikes
If you have ever wished you had an excuse to go back to three wheeled backs, now you do. Adult trikes are literally adult size trikes mean for those with balance issues and more. If this is the type of thing you like, go for it and have fun. You just might start a trend with friends and family.
ix. Folding bikes
These are just like they sound- they are bikes that fold. No, they do not fold small enough to fit into a backpack, but they can be compacted into something far easier to take on a subway or pack in a car. Obviously, unless space is an issue for you either at home or while traveling, a folding bike is not necessary.
x. Beach cruiser
You have probably seen this type on TV when some teen girl is enjoying a day on her bike. They have high handlebars- that is the biggest identifying factor. They are great for short rides on flat or smooth terrain, and they only have a few speeds. They look great and can be great for a ride along the boardwalk, but they are not intended for serious bike riding.
c. Kids’ bikes
Kids’ bikes are quite adorable as they are made with fun color, designs, characters, and often embellishments such as baskets, tassels, and horns. The great thing, though, is that they are really functional and safe for kids. Bear in mind, though, that these are still small children with legs much shorter than yours. If you are looking to go on a long bike ride, you are better off either going alone, using a tandem bike, or attaching a child seat to your bike.
d. How to decide on the size you need
The easiest answer to this question is to actually “try on” the bike. Most retailers that sell bikes have space for you to hop on the bikes- on the ground, not where they are hanging up high- and see how you feel on it. You might also try out a friend or family member’s. However, if all of that fails, there is another way.
Here is the thing: you will be sitting on this bike, so if you get one too big, you will not be able to reach the ground from the seat. One that is too short will cause a lot of cramps. Instead, take off your shoes and measure your length from the ground to your crotch area. You will then compare that measurement to the height of the type of bike you want to purchase. Some bike stores will have posters and other guidelines hanging for the specific types of bikes they sell.
Maintaining Your Bike
You want your bike to last and to perform well for as long as you choose to ride it. For it to do this, you must maintain it.
Always check your tire pressure and keep a decent tire pump at home. Like an automobile tire, the ideal psi should be on the tire. You might find that you need to replace the tire’s inner tube from time to time, especially if you keep pumping and the air keeps leaking. You can purchase these at most retailers that sell bicycles, and the instructions will walk you through the simple process.
Storing Your Bike
It is best to keep your bike out of the elements. You can do this with a simple tarp placed over it, push it into the garage or under a carport, or under any other covering that will protect the metal from the rain and subsequent rust.
Getting Rid of Rust
When you find that your bike chain or your pedals are rusty, it is important to clean them up pretty quickly. There is a simple chemical way and a natural way to do this. You can simply spray the metal with rust spray you can buy at your local retailer. This will get your bike moving again, but it will not necessarily get rid of the rust.
You can also mix baking soda and water- equal amounts- together into a thick paste, then put the paste on the rusted parts. After letting it sit for around fifteen or twenty minutes, use a gentle scrub pad to wipe the rust off.
Hanging your bike in your garage
If you have noticed that your bike is taking up too much floor space in your garage, you can hang them up instead. Cyclist have gotten pretty creative over the years with neat ways to hang their bikes, but the most common are:
- Screwing long plastic coated hooks into the wall and placing the bike on the hooks.
- Securing a rod with hooks to the ceiling.
- Using a peg board and metal rods to protrude a good distance from the peg board.
- Purchasing bike gear for vehicles and placing them on the wall instead.
Biking is a great activity for anyone to be involved in, regardless of age, weight, health, or anything else. Some health conditions may require modifications to the regular process though, so always check with your doctor is there are any health issues. Take care when choosing from the numerous types of bikes available, so that you can pick one that will suit you best.