How to Get the Most Out of Cycling
Sam Walker provides some advice as to how to get the most enjoyment out of your cycling experience.
The bicycle is, in my opinion, is one of the best inventions in the world that has stood the test of time. It is a fun and speedy source of transportation, it provides valuable exercise and fresh air for your body, and the physical activity and speed of the ride helps to relax our often agitated mind.
In many countries, the use of the bicycle was traditionally the primary source of transportation. As a country develops in economic wealth, the common bicycle tends to be replaced with the car. Today we are seeing an increase in the return of the bicycle by more and more people in developed countries as environmental, health and traffic issues become prominent. There are even studies to show that out of the 20 most desirable cities to live in the world, a vast majority of them have well developed bicycle routes and communities.
Whether you do cycling for health, racing, enjoyment, or just as a way to get around, there are a few ways to get the most out of your cycling experience for both your body and your mind.
Ensure Your Heart Gets a Good Workout
Cycling is excellent for the heart. In fact regular biking each day for half an hour will reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 50% and greatly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and other heart problems. However you need to push yourself a little to get these results. Start slow, and build up your endurance. As you get stronger, build up your cardio with a few light hills, longer distances and regular peddling for longer periods. You don't need to go crazy, but regularly breaking into a good sweat during your cycling will do wonders for your heart and your lungs.
Another benefit that comes with pushing yourself past your normal comfort level is that it clears your head. Your energy becomes less focused on the problems of the day and more where it is needed in your body. A clear head means clear thoughts which is a sort of meditation in motion. The long term benefit is that your stress level is greatly reduced.
With that said, use common sense. If you have any health concerns, seek professional advice for any workout routine before you begin.
Have Your Seat and Handlebars Professionally Adjusted
Biking is an all around good sport for your body with very little negative impact. However like all sports or activities that put our body in a regular position on a daily basis, some caution needs to be taken to avoid any long term difficulties. You may want to take your bike down to a bike shop and have your seat and handlebars professionally adjusted for your height and body. This can give some extra support for your back, neck, shoulders and hands, which is helpful for the long term.
Your seat should ideally be level to support the weight of your body and allow you to move around on the seat when necessary. The handlebars should also not be too low or too high, too far away or too close.
Stretching before and after riding also goes a long way to helping your body stay comfortable. If you ride for long periods, take breaks and walk around a little to allow your body to stretch and experience different positions.
Ride With a Friend
Like any sport, doing it regularly can be difficult, especially in the beginning. If you ride to work, it can also be tough to turn that into a routine and avoid the temptation to take a car if you have that option. Once the habit is formed, it becomes a normal part of your daily life that you will likely love. So how do you keep the momentum going until the habit is formed?
Riding with a friend is one of the best ways to enjoy biking and to do it regularly. You get to enjoy good company, a like minded companion, and you both depend on each other to fulfill your goals. In lack of a riding buddy, you may want to look at joining a riding group as that can always be very encouraging and rewarding.
Take Care of Your Bike
Learning to clean, maintain and even fix your bike when it breaks down is a great way to invest in your sport. It gives you a greater understanding of how your bike works and you ultimately feel more ownership towards your two wheeled vehicle. It is not hard to do home bike mechanics if you have the interest. I recommend starting with either a good bicycle repair book, or look online to learn some bicycle repair tips. Learning to clean your bike properly is the foundation for all bike maintenance. You can then begin with minor repair tricks like changing a tire and work up from there.
Good tools to start with are a hand pump, tire levers, set of Allen keys, your basic screw drivers and pliers and if you really get to know what you are doing you can look at chain tools. Investing in a quality bike repair stand will also go a long way to make your cleaning and repairs easier, and can be used to store your bike when it is not in use.
Cycling is a very positive sport for both you and the environment. Adding a few of these above tips into your riding lifestyle can go a long ways towards enriching the experience for your body and your mind.
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About the Author
Sam Walker has written numerous articles on the health benefits of biking and home bike repairs. He freelances as a writer and reviewer for Gear Reviews Online.
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