Cycling is a favorite of mine. Growing up, I spent hours zipping around neighborhood roads on my purple bicycle with a basket up front. It was the mounting speed and feeling of freedom that was the draw. On the leg-powered, pedal-driven vehicle, I would follow my two big brothers on their adventures, explore the area with my best friend Maria, travel to the nearby tennis courts to play a few sets or just plain ride for the sheer joy of it. It was relaxing, it was exhilarating and it was pleasurable.
Today, I have added four bikes to my collection; one mountain, two road and one stationary while my beloved purple bike remains safely stored at my parents’ home. I’m also shopping around for a new race bike to help increase my speed during the cycling leg of tris, my most favorite stretch of the event. Yes, I still find riding relaxing, exhilarating and pleasurable. The biggest difference is that I no longer ride for hours or as frequent. This is not because of my schedule constraints, but more due to my own body composition and how quickly the fast twitch muscle fibers in my quads react and build from this resistance-filled workout.
There is no doubt that riding a bicycle, may it be stationary or on a path, is an excellent form of exercise. For starters, it’s simple, easy on your joints and is great for people of all ages and all fitness levels. You can make it low or high impact, break a sweat or ride with ease, take it to the mountains, ride a road or bike inside. It can also help slow down the aging process and help you sleep more soundly at night.
Bike riding is one of the best cardiovascular workouts available. Those who ride regularly are at a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight gain. It reduces stress, anxiety and depression, and depending on your intensity, can burn about 500-600 calories per hour. Riding also improves your balance and flexibility, increases your endurance and stamina and your leg strength, and enhances your overall cardiovascular fitness level.
When it comes to riding outdoors, there are an assortment of bikes to choose from including road, mountain, BMX, hybrid and good old-fashioned casual. A road bike is great for long distance riding with its light frames, thin tires, curved handle bars and 10-20 gears. Mountain bikes are perfect for riding off the beaten path and are typically made with a light to medium heavy frame, knobby tires, a low straight handle and over 20 gears. BMX bikes are to ride all sorts of terrain, such as dirt, street, and ramps. They have a heavy-duty frame, thick knobby tires, raised handlebars and just one gear. Hybrid and casual bikes are a cross between road and mountain bikes with a medium frame, thin tires with small nubs, a straight handle bar and 0-24 gears. Both are perfect for riding leisurely.
There are three different types of stationary bikes when riding indoors: upright, recumbent and spin. The first two typically have numerous levels of resistance and various preset programs built right into the bike to personalize your workout at your fitness level. The biggest difference between the two is the seat. A recumbent bike places you in a reclining position with your legs straight out. This reduces strain on your spine. The upright and spin both sit like a traditional bicycle with the spin bike more true to road bike as it also allows you to clip into the pedals. Spin bikes are usually just available during spin classes where you will typically ride to heart pumping music and under the direction of a very motivating instructor for a hard but exhilarating indoor ride.
Bicycling is nearly a life-long activity. You can go solo, ride with family and friends or compete in an event. Any way you choose, it’s a great way to get fit and stay healthy. So get out there, get moving and get riding!
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.