Why You Should Ride a Bike by Matt Stephens

By Matt Stephens

Okay, it’s true. The couch is a comfortable place to be sometimes. But, I assure you, it’s even more agreeable when you’re basking in the warm afterglow of a bike ride. Plus, you’ll be happy in the knowledge that you will have undoubtedly done yourself some good. So, if you were inspired by the Tour de France but can’t bring yourself to throw your leg over the saddle, or you have an old bike gathering dust in the garage, here’s why it’s time to get out there and ride!

Cycling has many health benefits. It’s great for burning excess calories, so it’s therefore an effective way of losing weight or fending off weight gain. It’s a non-weight bearing activity, which basically means it’s good for people with joint problems; the bike supports the majority of your body weight, unlike running for example. Cycling is also a fantastic way to work on improving your cardiovascular system, specifically your heart and lungs. Regular cycling can also reduce the risk of strokes, diabetes and heart disease. It’s also a great stress buster and motivator and it can even alleviate mild depression when carried out regularly as part of a routine. The mental health benefits of cycling are now well documented.

You don’t need an expensive, super-light carbon-fibre bike like the ones ridden by the pros to start out. Any bike will do, as long as it works and it’s safe to ride. Go on, pop into the garage or shed and give the old bike that you haven’t ridden for years some TLC! Give it a clean, pump some air into the tyres, squirt some lubricant on the chain and away you go. If you are in any doubt about your machine’s road-worthiness, it’s worth taking it to your local bike shop for a once-over service.

There are plenty of bike shops out there and the choice is vast; Road, MTB, Gravel, Adventure, Hybrid, Commuter, Fixed, to name but a few. There’s also plenty of cycling advice available online (including of course on ‘We Love Cycling’) but my advice when buying a bike is to speak face to face with the experts at a local independent shop. They’ll be able to give advice and tips relating to correct frame size and fit, the type of bike you’ll need depending on the type of cycling you’ll be doing and selecting the right bike for your budget.

Mountain bikers
The mental health benefits of cycling are well documented. © Profimedia

If you’ve not ridden for a while, the key is to start out steadily and then build up gradually. Perhaps cycle instead of using the car for that short trip to the local shop, or try riding to work once or twice a week. You’ll save money, get to work less stressed, do your thing for the planet and you’ll be getting fitter. Many employers in the UK for example offer the ‘Cycle To Work Scheme’, which is yet another good reason to consider that commute. If you aren’t feeling overly confident about using the roads, it’s worth finding out where your nearest cycle paths are too.

How about cycling to school? This is a fantastic and enjoyable way to get children more active. Obviously serious consideration needs to be given to your route to school from a safety perspective, but in many towns and cities there are alternative routes to main roads. Accompanying younger children on the school run is also an opportunity for parents to ride too, making it a family affair!

In addition to the health, economic and environmental benefits, cycling will also open you up to a completely new, vibrant and fresh world as well as offering a new challenge in life. What could be more invigorating and stimulating than riding along your local country lanes, alone or with family or friends, taking in the scenery and places that previously just went by in a blur? You can stop when you wish to reflect, ride at the pace you want, choose to ride on the flat or tackle the local steep hill. It’s all entirely up to you.

It doesn’t matter how far or how quickly you ride. It might be that you’re happy just occasionally riding a few kilometres locally or to work, or perhaps you may hold more ambitious objectives; perhaps a 100-kilometre ride, your first Gran Fondo, or even a race! The road ahead is as open as your imagination and rolling hills and mountains at home or abroad beckon. The roads of the Tour de France and beyond are there to be ridden by you if you choose. What other sport or activity offers you the opportunity to ride in exactly the same environment, on the very same roads or trails as the world’s best? Cycling gives you an innate sense of freedom and elevates your mood. It’s fun, challenging and dynamic and it will get you fitter and healthier whilst you gain a new set of skills and even friends. And, here at ‘We Love Cycling’ we’ll help you along the way with tips and advice on whatever you want to achieve. So, what are you waiting for!? Explore and have fun!