Thinking of dusting off that bike in the garage and going for a spin? That’s what I did a few years ago. I fell in love with bike riding all over again, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
I rode my bike all during my childhood. But as a busy adult juggling family and career, it just fell off my radar and our bikes mostly sat unused. It took a vacation and an injury to bring me back to my cycling roots.
We were preparing for a stay in Ocean Isle Beach, and my husband decided to fix up our old bikes and take them with us on vacation. I’m so glad he did. We rode around the island every morning. It made me remember how much joy bike riding gave me as a kid.
But another reason I was happy about this is because at the time I was having some issues with my feet. I was six years into my healthy living transformation, and power walking was still my primary exercise. But 24 miles a week had taken a toll. I realized that I needed to give my feet a break from the treadmill and the road. So I decided to replace the walking with cycling for the rest of the summer, and see how it goes.
It was a success! My feet improved, and I enjoyed the change in routine. And while today I cross-train with a wide variety of exercises, I’ve kept cycling in the mix.
In the past year, many others have rediscovered the joy of bike riding. The pandemic shutdown created a bike boom. In 2020 there was a 121% increase in adult leisure-bike sales and a 59% rise in children’s bike sales compared to the year before (Washington Post), and some supply shortages.
Benefits of cycling for exercise
The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) reports that cycling is a great type of physical activity for many reasons, including:
- It’s an excellent cardio exercise. Since you are engaging large muscle groups in the legs, it really gets your heart pumping. Cycling benefits your overall health, and improves endurance and fitness. Plus, it’s a workout you can easily scale up or down.
- It builds strength. Muscles that get stronger with cycling include the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. Even your abs benefit: To stay upright and on the bike, you have to engage your core.
- It’s gentle on the joints. Cycling is a low-impact activity, compared to running or aerobics classes. It helps build strength around the knee joints in particular and is a good workout choice for anyone with joint pain, notes ISSA.
- It torches calories. The number of calories depends on your weight, speed, effort and time spent biking. According to Harvard Health, a 185-pound person will burn 420 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous bicycling (14-15.9 mph).
- Helps relieve stress and enhance well-being. Feeling stressed or upset? A ride can help you burn off steam, and being outdoors is soothing. My favorite times to ride are sunrise and sunset. It’s beautiful to see, and a wonderful, peaceful way to start or end a day. I’m also more alert and creative on the bike. I get some of my best ideas while I’m riding.
- Cycling is fun!
Gear to get going
Start with what you have. If you have a bike that’s been sitting unused, a bike shop with a maintenance technician can help you get it ready to go.
If you’re in the market for a new bike, do some research on what kind would be best for you. Different types of bikes include road bike, mountain bike, hybrid (a combination of road and mountain), a “cruiser” or comfort bike, electric bike, and recumbent bike.
After using my old leisure bike for a few months, I found an awesome gently-used hybrid model in an online classified ad. Wow! What a difference it made in my ride.
Your most essential accessory is a bike helmet, for safety. In North Carolina, the law requires those under 16 years old to wear an approved bicycle helmet when riding. Even though I mostly ride in my neighborhood and I’m well over the age, I take safety seriously. All it takes is one bad fall or crash to result in a head injury or even death. If I’m on my bike, I’m wearing my helmet.
Other gear worth investing in include padded bike shorts, a gel seat cushion, cycling gloves, lights and a mirror. For details on these and other helpful items, see this post on my blog, “My Must-Have Bicycle Accessories List.”