EXERCISE – CYCLING
As a form of transportation, the bicycle is hard to beat. It’s non-polluting, human powered and it takes up little space. Beyond simply getting from ‘A’ to ‘B,’ cycling can be a wonderful leisure-time activity. Or ride a little harder and it’ll offer an excellent workout.
Whether you’re into commuter, leisure or fitness riding, the following points can make it more effective.
Mountain bikes are particularly popular, but there are also road or racing bikes to choose from. If you’re in the market for a new bicycle, pick one that suits both your wallet as well as your needs. The popular trend in bikes may not match your type of riding, so be sure to get a bike that is right for you.
A good bicycle shop will help you get the right setup. The handlebars, seat and other parts can be adjusted to make your ride comfortable. Seat position is particularly important. Make sure the seat is horizontal (to minimize stress on the lower back) and at a height that allows a slight bend in your knee when the leg is extended.
Sit so your weight is evenly distributed over the seat, handlebars and pedals. Pedal at a comfortable and steady speed, changing gears to adjust to hills, wind conditions and your level of fitness (and fatigue).
If you’re a real beginner, take it easy! Avoid big hills at first. Severe breathlessness or tired and sore legs means you’re building up too quickly. Three or four rides a week – of 15 or 20 minutes each time – are enough to begin with.
Be Aware. Be defensive. Be predictable. Be visible.
Night riding calls for lights, reflectors and bright clothing. Remember that road and traffic regulations apply to bicycles. And always wear a helmet (it’s required by law)! Look for one with a seal of approval from the relevant Cycle Helmet Safety Standard. The helmet should have a hard shell and a foam liner and feel snug and comfortable.
Beyond fun rides with the family or short trips to the shops, a bicycle is great for commuting, fitness riding and touring.
With comfortable clothing and cycling shoes and gloves, you’re ready for action.
In addition to providing health benefits, cycle commuting saves fuel and parking costs and wear and tear on your car. If you have a considerable distance to travel, you could get a bike rack for the car and do a drive-ride combination. Look for quieter safer routes if traffic is a concern.
The bicycle offers big environmental benefits, especially when replacing short car trips.
If you want to ride for fitness, you’ll need to ride further.
The best way to increase your distance is slowly, gradually, and patiently. As in other sports, training plans can help you improve your technique.
But as you progress, don’t lose sight of the simplicity and freedom of cycling. If you want to ride in the company of others, inquire at your local bike shop or sports trust about cycling clubs in your area.
The enthusiasm and energy of a group can add much to your riding experience.
If you move on to touring, ease into it. Start with 5 kilometers for a while, then 10 and so on. It could be months before you’re ready for the longer rides. Your legs need to grow “cycling fit”, and you have to get used to the bike seat for longer periods.
Take it a step at a time. Enjoy the outing and the day.
- Tyres _ in good condition and properly inflated
- Wheels _ no broken spokes, clean rims
- Brake _ operational and braking effectively at whatever speed
- Chain & Gears _ properly adjusted, lubricated but clean, in good working order
- Handlebars _ set correctly in relation to the seat
- Seat _ horizontal and at the correct height
- Bearing sets _ (in which the handlebars, axles and pedals turn) professionally lubed.
It makes good sense to have your bicycle checked once a year by specialists for safety and road readiness. Should you want to do minor repairs and maintenance yourself, check out courses available through schools, community college, and some bike sho