Over the last decade, cycling has become much more popular, both as a form of exercise and as a competitive sport. People have been paying much more attention to major races like the Tour de France and Olympic cycling events, and they have also been more interested in cycling to work and going on long rides to get fit. The popularity is well-justified, too. Cycling is much easier on the joints than running, it’s accessible to all ages, and there are tons of fun events to train for. If you haven’t tried cycling yet, it’s easy to start riding and improving your health.
Getting Started: Unless you plan on sitting on a stationary bike in the gym, which any cyclist will tell you isn’t really cycling, you’ll need to take a look at bikes and find the right one for you. The major choice you’ll need to make is whether to get a mountain bike, road bike, or hybrid bike, which is sometimes known as a commuter bike. If you’ll be on anything other than smooth roads, a hybrid is a good bet, although it won’t be quite as fast as a road bike for races. Get measured to make sure your bike is a good fit, and take it to a bike shop to get help putting the saddle in the right spot. You’ll also need a helmet, shoes, and bike shorts and shirts to be ready to hit the road.
Training: If you’ve never cycled before, start slowly by going out for just a half hour each day, or up to an hour if you’re feeling good. Paved bike trails are the best place to ride if your area has them because of their smooth surface and protection from vehicles, but you can also just hit the roads or, if you opted for a mountain bike, find some nature trails that allow cycling. Another idea is to start by taking local spinning classes during the cold months so you can start to get in shape, and then head outside when the weather warms up and road conditions are better.
Gathering With Others: Cycling is a lot more fun when you are with others, although you can’t necessarily talk much while you’re actually riding. Find a riding buddy to help you stay motivated and push your pace or look for a riding club in your area that goes for rides at your level. Achieving your fitness goals and pushing yourself to get stronger and faster is much easier with the support of a group. Plus, it always helps to have others around if you get a flat tire or have another problem!
Racing and Cycling in Events: Signing up and training for a race or other event gives you something to work toward, just like runners work toward a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon. Look for a race that you think would be enjoyable and take the plunge of signing up. You can find one-day races and events, like RAIN (Ride Across Indiana), which are ideal if you can’t take time off work for something longer. If you have the time, consider something like the week-long BAK (Biking Across Kansas) with daily rides and nightly camping.
Through all of this, remember that you’re cycling for your health, not necessarily to be a top-notch athlete. Although the competition side can be motivational, you’ll be successful if you get out and ride on a regular basis. You’ll likely notice stronger leg muscles, better endurance, and improved cardiovascular health within just a month or two!