Cycling is one of the most efficient and easy to learn forms of exercise. It’s an ideal activity for at least two reasons. First, people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from hopping on a bike. And second, bicycles do double duty as cheap, healthy transportation. Think of it as getting from point A to point B, with an extra dose of daily exercise as your payoff.
- Choose safe roads in your neighborhood. Traffic-clogged streets and impatient drivers can be a potentially lethal combination for cyclists. For obvious reasons, avoid roads with potholes, sewer grates and railroad tracks
- Whenever possible, use bike paths. The open space and absence of cars and smelly trucks creates a safer and more relaxing environment. Designated paths also allow you to cycle continuously without frequent stops for traffic lights and stop signs. If you have bike paths in your, area your local city hall or municipal offices will have a cycling path map often free of charge.
- A bike is a vehicle too, so follow the rules of the road. Ride with the traffic, obey all signs and use hand signals to alert drivers to your intentions. Equip your bicycle with a headlight and reflectors to improve your visibility at night. A bell or horn is also a good idea and is law in some provinces.
- Do not pedal in high gear for long periods. This can increase the pressure on your knees and lead to overuse injuries. Shift to lower gears and faster revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees. The best cadence for most cyclists is 60 to 80 revolutions per minute.
- Helmets: Always wear a helmet. Choose one that is approved by the Canadian Standards Association, the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards Institute. If you have an accident that damages your helmet in any way, replace it immediately. Damage to the shock-absorbing polystyrene core may not be noticeable. When you buy a helmet, look for the same features for yourself and your children. Ask the sales staff about the shock absorbency, comfort and fit, impenetrability and security of the straps and buckles.
- Clothing: Padded cycling shorts help reduce pressure points and chafing on the insides of the legs. If you’re not comfortable with the skintight style try the regular shorts version with concealed padding. Padded gloves are also a good idea. They will protect your hands in the event of a fall and will also help prevent calluses from forming on your hands.
- Locks: Unfortunately, a determined bicycle thief can break just about any type of lock. The U-shaped locks seem to be the safest bet, if only because thieves need more sophisticated tools to break them.
- Tool Kit:Carry a basic repair kit containing: an inner tube or patch kit, a pump, tire levers, Allen keys, wrenches and a chain breaker. Remember that the tools won’t help you if you don’t know how to use them so be sure to ask at your local bike store for some help. Carry a basic repair kit containing: an inner tube or patch kit, a pump, tire levers, Allen keys, wrenches and a chain breaker. Remember that the tools won’t help you if you don’t know how to use them so be sure to ask at your local bike store for some help.
Even if you ride mainly for fun you probably know how important eating and drinking are in order to keep pedaling. If you’re a weekend warrior or racer, you’ve likely experienced how quickly you can run out of energy on hilly, demanding and/or long rides if you don’t stay hydrated and fed, and how badly it can make you feel. On rides less than 90-minutes long, you can get by drinking good-old plain H2O, which is usually all you need to stay hydrated. Ideally, you’ll replace the water you’re losing through sweat no faster than your body can absorb it because too much water can leave you feeling bloated.
While you do burn some fat cycling and during other types of aerobic exercise, your body can actually demand more energy than it can get from burning fat, which is where carbohydrates (essentially sugars), come in. On rides less than 90-minutes long, your body uses the sugar (glycogen) stored in the muscles and liver for the energy to keep you pedaling. These stores of energy are more readily available to your muscles than fat and anything digesting in your stomach.
When you ride for over two hours, or when it’s hot, you can lose a detrimental amount of electrolytes through sweat, including sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride. Low levels of these vital minerals can cause muscle cramping and headaches. It’s actually the amount of these electrolytes, not water, that determines whether or not you’re hydrated. The trick is to keep your intake of water and electrolytes balanced, especially on long rides and on hot days. Because consuming too much water can cause bloating, and excess electrolytes cause fluid retention, which making it harder for your body to cool itself. Some sports drinks and gels contain carbohydrates and electrolytes as an all-in-one way of replacing what you’re using when you ride, and there are separate electrolyte supplements as well. Again, read those labels to know for sure what you’re getting. The amount of electrolytes you lose will vary by your level of exertion, adaptation to the environment and rate of sweating.
Mountain biking is an excellent way to stay healthy and fit. It doesn’t stress the bones and joints as with the constant pounding of running or aerobics. It builds lower-body muscular strength and endurance and hones your agility and balance with the bonus of interesting surroundings and exciting terrain. As with any exercise, the more vigorously and regularly you work out, the more benefits you will realize. However, part of the beauty of mountain biking is that you can ride fast or slowly, on steep, technical terrain or gently rolling gravel roads, and still feel the benefits. It’s so much fun your “workout time” will fly by whether you ride for a half hour or all day long.
Often people find an exercise bike a convenient and enjoyable way to workout whether it’s due to their fitness level, physical restrictions or for the sheer love of the sport. However, using a bike is not considered a weight-bearing exercise, which is important in the fight against osteoporosis.
Consider these key points when buying an exercise bike:
- Probably the most important feature of an exercise bike is the seat. If it’s not comfortable you’ll start to dread getting on it for any length of time. An extra large padded and contoured seat will ensure comfort.
- Front rolling wheels will allow for ease in moving the exercise bike.
- Computerized programs help to keep you motivated during your workout by adding different intensity levels. However, depending upon your fitness level, you may not need all the programs which will affect the price of an exercise bike.
- Look for safety features such as locked seat adjustments, handle grips and solid footings to avoid tipping.