With spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern hemisphere, now is the perfect time to get into the cycling habit.
Whether you are pedaling down a quiet country lane, taking a gentle circuit of your suburban neighborhood or really pushing it down an off road track or dedicated cycle track, cycling should give you a tremendous sense of freedom – even if you have not cycled for years.
The cost of gas makes cycling instead of driving an attractive option
Of course it is always safer to use dedicated cycling tracks but this is not always possible.
1. Avoid busy streets as one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they start biking is to take the exact same routes they used when they were driving. It's usually better to take different streets with fewer and slower cars. If you learn your routes well, you'll find that in many cities and towns, you can travel through neighborhoods to get to most places, only crossing the busiest streets rather than traveling on them.
2. If you need to cycle before sun up or after sun down, make sure you have headlights and rear lights. Modern headlights use LEDs so the batteries last ten times longer than the old fashioned kind.
3. Take the whole lane when appropriate as it is often safer to do this than hug the curb. Cars at intersections ahead of you will see you; you are less likely to be hit by someone suddenly opening a car door; and you avoid cars passing you too closely. When you are cycling in busy areas, you need to be aware and proactive for your own safety. There are risks to both riding close to the curb as well as taking the lane. It depends on the conditions of the road you are on.
4. Always signal your turns as you are less likely to get into trouble when your movement doesn't take motorists by surprise. Let them know you're about to turn or move left or right by signalling with your arm. Depending on whether you are in a left hand drive or right hand drive country, be sure to check your mirror or look behind you before signalling.
5. Re-think music players and mobile phones when cycling as it is more important to hear what's around you. When you're mixing with car traffic, the fewer distractions the better. Also, you'll want both hands free in case you have to brake suddenly.
6. You always want other road users to see you when you are on a bike so that is why you should wave to motorists whom you think might be about to pull out in front of you, and why you should be lit up like a Christmas tree at night. Remember that in many cases you'll need to take the lane, in which case you're counting on motorists to see you.
If you can keep safe and visible, your health will definitely benefit
1. Cycling gets our hearts and lungs pumping, strengthening the cardiovascular system. A short cycle ride 4 times a week can improve our aerobic fitness by 11% in just 6 weeks. Remember that physical activity reduces the risk of many chronic conditions such as diabetes and certain cancers.
2. Cycling can also have a positive effect on our mental health by improving symptoms. When we are out and about, breathing fresh air and enjoying the natural beauty of our surroundings, this can only have a noticeable protective effect on mental health.
3. Cycling can boost our immune system as research has found that cyclists take fewer sick days and can live up to 14 months longer than non cyclists.
4. Cycling gets rid of our excess weight as just 30 minutes a day can burn over 11 lbs of weight annually.
5. Cycling helps the environment as we will be doing our bit to ease traffic congestion, reduce our carbon footprint and lessen or eliminate our fuel expenses.
6. There is a social benefit too. As a leisure activity, cycling gives us the opportunity to spend time with friends or the chance to meet new people and discover new places.
While it is true to say that you never forget how to ride a bicycle, you might still need to practice somewhere safe first before you venture out just to err on the side of caution. Modern bikes are all about gears and such like so you could come unstuck if you fail to understand how these work before you set out on your first cycle ride. My husband did and ended up in a rose bush full of thorns!
Whether you use a trusty old bike or decide on a new set of wheels, remember that the better the bike, the more comfortable and enjoyable your ride will be.
Worldwide, more countries than ever are catering for the safety and comfort of cyclists.