10 Reasons to Start Cycling Today
Ever find yourself looking at a cyclist breeze along the cycle lane while you’re stuck in traffic on the way to work? Find yourself getting jealous when you see a mountain-biker hurtle downhill or a road cyclist speed down a country lane?
Then it’s definitely time you started cycling. All you need is a bike (a second-hand cheapie will do), a few basic accessories like lights, pump and lock, and a bit of knowledge about bike security.
Cycling could transform your health, your social life, and your daily commute. Here’s why.
Cycling gets your heart pumping
Cycling is a fantastic cardio exercise. If you’ve ever tried to cycle up a steep hill when you weren’t quite in shape, you’ll know how easy it is to get out of breath on a bike.
That doesn’t sound like a positive, but it is. With a bit of time in the saddle, you’ll be able to get up that hill. Maybe not easily, but at least without feeling as if your heart is about to jump out of your chest. And when that happens, it’ll be because your heart muscle has become stronger and fitter.
That’ll help you cycle up hills, but it’ll also help you live longer.
Cycling keeps you fit without damaging your joints
Lots of cardio workouts involve running, jumping, or both. All that pounding of your legs on the ground can be tough on your joints, with runners in particular prone to knee pain, ankle injuries and shin splints.
Cyclists get injured too, of course, but it tends to be easier to avoid injury as a cyclist than as a runner. The key is to start gently, especially if you have existing injuries, and work up to longer rides. Do that, and you’ll feel your muscles strengthening, making injury less and less likely.
It helps you lose weight
Cycling is a fantastic way to lose weight, burning somewhere between 450 and 750 calories an hour for most people. The amount you burn will depend on how hard you cycle and on your weight.
As well as that very respectable hourly calorie burn, you can keep cycling much longer than you can keep going with most other forms of exercise, doubling the benefits. So a two-hour run or swim would be much too much for most people without a lot of training, but is within reach even for beginner cyclists.
Regular cycling means you start caring more about your health
When you start cycling, you tend to start living more healthily in other ways too. If you know that you’re going to be cycling to work the next morning, or taking on a three-hour country ride, you’re much less likely to drink too much or stay up late the night before.
It also means you tend to think carefully about what you eat, as a good diet helps you get more out of cycling. Healthy whole-grains and lean protein are perfect for fuelling long rides (and even an end-of-ride cake doesn’t cancel out the goodness).
It’s easy to fit cycling into your everyday life
You don’t need to be out climbing hills every weekend to be a cyclist. Just a half-hour commute to work is enough to see a real difference in fitness – that’s an hour a day of heart-healthy, waistline-busting exercise. Not many people get to the gym for five hours a week, but it’s easy to clock up the hours cycling.
Cycling doesn’t usually take much longer than driving or taking public transport and can often be faster, especially if you live in a city with lots of traffic and good cycle lanes. Use Google Maps to compare travel times for cycling and driving – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Cycling helps you explore places you wouldn’t usually see
Cycling is a great way to explore the countryside around you. The average cyclist travels at around 12 mph, so you can cover the same ground in an hour that would take you three hours on foot. That opens up lots of possibilities for days out. If you live somewhere with a local train route, even better. You can cycle out as far as you can and then simply hop on the train home.
You might also find you get into the idea of cycling holidays. From gentle trips touring rural French vineyards, to crazy climbs up the Alps, to exploring the back roads of Asia. Whatever your dream destination, there’ll be a way to see it on two wheels.
Cycling is sociable
Cycling clubs aren’t always about packs of middle-aged men in lycra (though if you are a middle-aged man in lycra, you’ll have plenty of clubs to choose from!) But if that’s not you, look for women’s cycling groups, beginner groups, family rides, and off-road meets. Most cycling groups are friendly and welcome new members, so don’t be afraid to get involved.
If you don’t fancy joining a group, see if you can get some of your friends out cycling. Lots of people have a bike in a shed they’d love to dust off – ask around and you might just be surprised. A weekend ride followed by a pub lunch is a fantastic way to catch up with old mates.
Cycling saves money
Cycling isn’t free, as you’ll need to buy and maintain your bike, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can shell out for a top-of-the-range carbon-framed racer if you like, but you definitely don’t have to.
Look for a bargain second-hand bike that’s been refurbished by your local bike shop – you should be able to pick up a good quality starter bike for around £100-150. Add another £50-100 for accessories like a lock, lights and helmet, and you’re set up for years. Given that the average motorist spends £70 a month in fuel alone (and many spend much more), that makes cycling a steal.
Cycling is good for the environment
Cycling is emission-free. So you can travel as far and as often as you like, knowing that all you’re leaving is tyre tracks. You’ll probably find that the fitter and more into cycling you get, the more often you’ll decide to leave the car at home and jump on your bike instead.
Cycling will make you feel amazing
Cycling is one of the best feel-good exercises out there. From the joy of mastering a big hill, to the sheer fun of hurtling down it after, to the post-ride cake. You’ve really got to try it to know just how good you’ll feel after a ride.