Fitness Feature: Cycling

Posted on Jul 26 2017 - 7:31pm by Samantha Clark
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When we’re younger we’re pretty much encouraged from an early age to get on a bike and learn to ride. But when you’re able to drive, it no longer seems convenient to cycle, especially if it’s just running a quick errand. It’s something many of us still enjoy doing I am sure but actually something we need to make time for, like everything else. But of course there are ways to incorporate cycling into our lives without having to make much accommodation at all.

For starters, cycling is an incredible athletic activity. Not only does it strengthen your legs and improve muscle mass but as a cardiovascular activity you’ll be giving your heart a good workout, improving lung capacity and health, and as a low-impact sport it’s considerably easier to do and is overall less stressful for the body and puts less strain on your joints. Instead of going for a morning run, why not pull the bike out the garage and do twice the distance.

Buying a bike is also considerably cheaper than signing up to a gym or attending regular classes; you could pick up a basic bike for around £100, which based on the average cost of a class, you could ‘work of’ in just 5 classes with the rest not costing you a penny.

The summer is similarly the perfect opportunity, when we’re not faced with constant down pours, to hop on your bike and let out your inner child. It’s just a case of looking at every opportunity as a chance to get out on the bike; need something from the shop, heading out to dinner, going swimming, looking for something to do, a way to entertain the children, go on a picnic- just hop on the bike.

If it’s at all possible, cycle to work or meet friends. Not only will it get you to where you need to go but it’ll count towards your required exercise for the week which you’ve fitted around the day but you’ll also be helping to reduce your carbon footprint. It’ll be hard to distinguish which is releasing the happy hormones! We appreciate though that if it is causing a bit of a sweat, especially if you’re pushed for time, that there isn’t anything worse than having to stay like that all day.  But look for the opportunities with some steely determination and we’ll bet it’ll be fun.

Tools:

Let’s Ride is an excellent site that lists a number routes that you can go on which have been risk assessed so you can get some confidence in the direction you go. In addition, you can search for events in the local area which is ideal if you’re looking for some motivation; these rides are likely to be a little challenging, but you’ll not be short of encouragement along the way. They’ve also provided a lovely guide on finding family-friendly routes.

Sustrans is the organisation that signpost (those blue and white plaques) the traffic free and quiet on-road routes so if travelling in a group, especially with younger ones, their website is a must to review. The routes they’ve mapped out will be incredibly long so it’ll be up to you to determine how and where you’ll pick it up and leave the designated path but it’ll give you peace of mind that it will be a safer route to go through.

Whilst Cycle Route map out long cycle routes with varying difficulties, this one could take you across the world. Why not set yourself a challenge and do a ride for charity?

Safety first

As always safety should be at the forefront of what we do. If you’ve not got out in a while it would be beneficial to review the Highway Code for cyclists, there are laws that we must abide when cycling on any main road, and the Highway Code is a combination of advisory points and mandatory (stipulated as MUST).

  • It is advisable to wear a helmet which will protect your head if you fall. This should be securely fitted, square on the head with no more than 2 fingers in wiggle room under the chin.
  • Avoid clothing that may get caught in the chain
  • You must not cycle on pavements

When it comes to riding at night:

  • Wear reflective clothing
  • Ensure your bike is equipped with a white light in front and a red light in back.

It would also be advisable to do some bike safety checks before heading out on your bike, particularly if you’re going out for a long period:

  • Squeeze the sides of the tyres- if they’re a little soft, pump them up.
  • Check the brakes work by trying to push the bike forward with the breaks on
  • Turn the handlebars from side to side to make sure they’re not loose
  • Ensure it is at the right height for you- your leg should be straight when the peddle is at the lowest point.

If it’s been quite some time since your bike was last looked at, it would be worth booking it in for a service. The NHS has some additional tips when it comes to checking the safety of your bike which is worth reviewing.

The Kit

Picking a bike isn’t as simple as it sounds but thankfully Let’s Ride have put a quick guide together on choosing the right bike for you; so whether you’re considering a mountain, road or a hybrid, this guide will make that process a little easier to help narrow down your search.

In addition to a bike, we’d recommend the following:

Cycling kit

Bike lights

Reflective belt

Helmet

Reflective trouser clips

Raincoat

Backpack

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