Cycling as a recreational activity has certainly become a big business over the last ten years. The advancements in technology, aerodynamics, and sports nutrition at the highest levels of competition have seen success come thick and fast for British athletes, inspiring generations of people at all levels of ability to don the lycra and get in the saddle.
Whether for commuting or leisure, there are many health and environmental benefits to cycling. Could this be a ‘wheel revolution?’ Read on to find out…
The daily grind
Cycling to work (and back) is a great way to book-end the day without having to sit in traffic and feel your energy leak away. It doesn’t have to be every day, either. Three times a week is enough to build up a decent mileage and increase your base cardio fitness. It’s cost-effective, time-effective, gets the joints moving after hours of sitting or standing in one place, and if you spend all day looking at a screen, cycling home can help the eye muscles readjust by focusing on longer distances.
Many workplaces now participate in a cycle to work scheme, positively encouraging employees to embrace two wheels since cycling contributes to improved performance and a healthier workforce. Try varying the route you take, too. By joining the National Cycle Network you could discover new bike-friendly paths that bypass the heavier traffic.
Something for everyone
Whether you’re a data-gatherer or a trailblazer, weekend warrior, or electric wizard, there is a vast range of bikes and equipment available on the market to get you started on your cycling journey. From the basic to the bespoke, there will be something in your price bracket. An expensive bike isn’t necessarily the best. Research, try out, get a fitting (highly recommended), and enjoy the experience of moving at your own pace, under your own steam.
If the weather takes a turn, there’s always the option of indoor cycling. With an extra bit of investment in the kit, you don’t even have to leave your living room to get the miles in. A collection of data published by Garmin recently highlights the global increase in indoor cycling as a fitness activity during the lockdown.
Health and wellbeing
There are several health benefits associated with cycling. Here are just a few:
- Achievement: Reaching the top of that hill without having to get off and push!
- Alertness: Reading the road, watching for hazards, reacting to obstacles. They all help to keep the mind alive.
- Balance: If your first bike had stabilizers, can you remember the feeling of excitement and satisfaction that came from pedaling without falling over when they were removed?
- Cardiovascular (CV) function: frequent exercise, especially cycling, can help to reduce the risk of CV diseases by strengthening the heart and improving blood circulation.
- Energy: Believe it or not, expending energy on a bike in the short term increases general energy levels in the long term.
- Low impact: Cycling is easier on the joints than, say, running.
- Stress relief: Getting outdoors and interacting with nature is an instant mood-booster. Take in the trees, breathe in the oxygen, absorb the Vitamin D. A short ride on the trails can have a positive effect for many hours afterward.
Cycling improves physical health, mental wellbeing, and reconnects us with our surroundings.
Swapping the car for the bike just a few times a week, whether for commuting or for leisure, will have a positive impact on fuel and maintenance costs, improving the health of both your bank balance and the planet.
We may be a long way off the bike freeways of The Netherlands, but Green initiatives across the country are ensuring that provision for cyclists is included when changes to infrastructure are made. Investment at the local government level suggests that cycling is being taken seriously to reduce emissions in the urban environment.
Of course, there are always safety aspects to consider when cycling, especially if you are using the roads. Local authorities have been increasing the provision of cycle lanes in most towns and cities, but these are often either shared with buses or end abruptly at junctions where cars may have to turn off (potentially cutting across the bike lane). It pays to be seen, so choose clothing that is highly visible, especially in winter, and always make sure you have fully functioning lights on the front and back of your bike, even in summer.
One of the best ways to safeguard against any potential incidents is to read the latest version of the Highway Code. Make yourself aware of the responsibilities of all road users, not just cyclists. Know what to do with regards to signaling, right of way, and safe distancing.
If you’re new to cycling, check out Bikeability, a nationwide initiative offering a range of training courses to help improve confidence and proficiency on two wheels.
Help in the event of an accident
Accidents can (and do) happen, with cyclists being particularly vulnerable to injury compared with other road users. If you are involved in an accident, the Cycling Injury Team at Osbornes Law can offer support and guidance through any subsequent process. Osborne Law is an award-winning practice that has an additional level of expertise due to its place on the legal panel of RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims.
The new way to travel
So, is this a fad, or could it be that cycling really is the new way to travel? With all the investment in cycle routes, new technology, clothing, and nutrition, there is an economic benefit to ensuring cycling remains popular. It does not have to be all about the gadgets, though. Sometimes an impromptu, tech-free pedal on a nearby trail is enough to blow out the cobwebs and put the wind in your sails. Liberate yourself from the grind occasionally, (just try not to grind those gears).