There may be a cycling fan in your life—the streets are teeming with them every weekend. With their pointy helmets and sporting the latest gear and a gleaming smile, they seem up for climbs that you wouldn’t even attempt on foot. Okay, so nobody’s saying you should turn into a rabid rider but maybe it’s time to give cycling a try, right?
While you’ll never compete in the Tour de France, you will be getting a nice bit of exercise. After all, there must be some reason why so many people enjoy riding a bike.
First of all, cycling is an extremely relaxing—but demanding—exercise. So it’s better to take it easy at first. It exercises lower body muscles without too much pain (as long as you use your gears properly, otherwise your knees can become overstretched), and it is also great cardio training.
Where to ride?
Why not at home or the gym, for starters? A controlled environment can be very reassuring when trying this type of activity for the first time. While you won’t be enjoying the outdoors, you will be able to prepare quietly and get in shape at your own pace. And you will be deciding the intensity and duration of your session. When you feel ready, go out for a spin on the street (or in the woods)!
You can use bike lanes or accessible paths in parks to cycle in the city. It’s safer and usually more pleasant than navigating between cars. And whatever type of biking you choose, invest in some equipment:
- Helmet—A must-have, whether you’re a road warrior, a mountain biker, or a leisurely rider enjoying the greenery. So wear one! You never know when it might save you in the event of a spill or crash and, most importantly, you’ll be setting a good example for your kids. Excuses such as “it messes my hair” simply don’t hold.
- Padded shorts—They’re not that attractive, but after ten minutes or so on a bike, you won’t care as much.
- Stiff-soled shoes to maintain pressure on the pedals. Various road biking models allow cleats for attaching the shoe to the pedal.
- Glasses to protect the eyes from debris and insects.
- Bright coloured clothing, with reflective bands if you’re riding at night.
- Gloves preferably padded to prevent injury to your palms.
When to ride?
Whenever you want! In fact, there is no appropriate time to speak of. The best time is when it suits you. Early morning in the summer, before it becomes too hot, for example. Avoid cycling during the hottest hours of the day, when it becomes harder to ride and pollution is greatest.
What should my cycling pace be?
Start moderately. You should be able to have a conversation while you exercise. Ideally, your bike outing should be fairly intense, but not painful. Some professionals recommend starting with 10- to 20-minute rides, and increasing gradually, say 10% per week. You’ll begin to feel the benefits beyond the half-hour mark.
When you become truly comfortable, you should vary your routes, distances and speeds. Ride on a flat road one day, then make it a little harder the next, sprint for a few minutes then return to your normal speed before sprinting again, etc. The important thing is to try new challenges to forestall boredom.