Most people remember all too well their first attempts at riding a bike: being lovingly helped along by mom or dad, the thrill of moving faster than you ever have on two wheels, and that feeling of accomplishment once you realise there’s no longer an adult’s hand on your back helping you balance.
The thrill of riding a bike continues for some of us well into adulthood, but the fact is, most adults ditch the bike in favour of a car as soon as they’re able to drive.
But that’s a real shame for so many reasons. In fact, there are so many good reasons to get back on your bike, we’ve listed 20 of them right here, and I’d like to add one more: now that the weather is decent, getting a bike will get you in the routine of riding, so come the winter, you’ll be so pleased with your fitness and financial gains, you’ll keep pedalling, snow or shine!
1. Get A Sense of Accomplishment
One day you’ll look ahead of you at that dreaded hill that always kills your legs, put your head down, pedal as far as you can, and then walk your bike the rest of the way, just like you always do…except this time without realizing it, you’re already going down the other side, and you didn’t even notice. Oh, and there’s no better feeling in the world than the day you weigh yourself and you realize you’ve lost weight.
2. Spend Quality Time with Yourself
Nobody said you had to do everything with your family. Everyone needs their space. It helps keep us all sane. Sometimes all you want to do is burn your way down a favorite trail, or hit the open road on your own. And why not. Being active and spending time on your own can be really good for you!
3. No Parking? No Problem!
One of the best things about using your bike to go places is the way is the way you can park just about anywhere. Which means you’re more likely to be on time for meetings, rather than wasting time searching for a parking space.
4. Teach Your Kids to be Healthy
Children are influenced greatly by the behaviors of their parents. This is as true of exercise as it is as teaching them to read. If you ride on a regular basis, then they will too. If you can get them to enjoy their time in the saddle as a youngster, they will be more likely to be fitter and more active in the future.
5. Get Fit Without the Boredom
Riding a bike is so much fun and often has a purpose (i.e. getting from A to B) so it’s a lot easier to pass the time whilst pedaling–new scenery is passing by; you need to be alert to traffic; you’ll enjoy the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Not sure the same can be said for pedalling a stationary bike in the gym.
6. Save Money, Big Time
If you choose to commute by bike, not only will you save a fortune on gas, and bus fares etc but you’ll also get fit without having to spend a fortune on gym fees.
7. It Saves Time
Going to the gym means finding the time to get there; changing; doing your workout; showering; changing again; getting home. Riding a bike means getting on, going somewhere, and coming back. Viola! Time saved, workout achieved.
8. It Saves the Planet
Cycling is not only really good for you, it’s also really good for the planet. You can justifiably ride your bike and know with each pedal stroke you’re helping save the world. Did you know 70% of all car journeys could be made on a bike in less than 20 minutes? That’s nuts! In the USA, 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from motor vehicles. Plus, the environmental impact of motor vehicles in colossal when compared to the production of bikes. If you travel under your own power, you’ll be decreasing the overall reliance on harmful nonrenewable fuel sources.
9. Cycling is Better Than Running
Well, you can’t argue with the science. A 2014 study showed that riding a bike is actually better for you than running. Runners of every ability are more likely to suffer long term damage and suffer from inflammation and soreness after doing the equivalent work running as they would have done on a bike.
10. You Can Exercise Longer
The same study as the one already mentioned above drew this conclusion from their results. The scientists noted that the low impact nature of cycling meant there was less chance of injury and joint pain and thus people on bikes could train longer before having to stop.
11. You Breathe Better on a Bike (even in rush hour traffic)
Seriously, you do. It may seem counterintuitive, but the quality of air you suck in on a bike while riding through traffic jams is better than they commuters sitting in their cars. Cars’ AC systems suck in the exhaust fumes of the vehicle in front of them, meaning you may as well suck on that tailpipe directly. AC is fine on the open road, but in traffic, it’s a slow suicide. All that bad air gets sucked into the enclosed cabin of the car and has nowhere else to go other than your lungs. It is thought this may be due to the fact that cyclists breather more air in and out due to their level of exertion, and also the fact they are more likely not to be in the direct line of exhaust fumes. It’s something to think about anyway.
12. Get a Natural High
Everyone’s heard of the ‘runner’s high‘. The great news is you don’t have to be a runner to experience it–you just need to be relatively fit, and ride for a while. Once you’ve experienced it once, you’ll want to hit it again and again and again. The runner’s high is hard to describe in a meaningful way to someone who’s never experienced it. But essentially, it’s euphoric feeling that may well be wired into us at a genetic level.
When you reach a certain point in your ride, the brain releases all these feelgood chemicals into your bloodstream, and you feel fantastic, like you could go on forever. The runner’s high rocks, if you can find it.
13. Get to Actually Know Your Town
When you cycle, you’ll find yourself trying to find a way to stay off the roads. You’d be amazed how much opportunity there is to just explore your local surroundings, or how much of it there actually is when you’re not in your car. You might find a river you don’t know existed, a café that sells the best mocha latte in the northern hemisphere. Most people never truly realize just how much there is so close to us, and maybe you’ll learn to appreciate your local community all the more for it.
14. Live Longer and Better
Getting regular exercise means you will be less likely to get chronic diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and even cancer. “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study—normal weight, overweight, or obese” says Steven Moore, a leading author on an extensive study carried into physical activity. So even if you’re not very fit or are overweight right now, you can reasonably expect to live longer just by getting out on a bike today. You don’t have to take part in Endurance mountain bike races or train like an athlete to get the benefits of cycling. 20 miles a week on a bike can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50%.
15. See the World Like a Local
Anyone can whizz from place to place in a car or a plane when they go vacationing. But isn’t the point of travelling to see more of the world? Cycling tours offer that opportunity. Of course you don’t need to travel with your bike, necessarily–many cities, including London, Paris, Barcelona, Milan and Amsterdam (to name a few) have schemes that make it easy to rent a bike for a few hours no matter where you are. And you’ll get to see a lot more of those places than you would if you were to take the underground!
16. Increase Vitamin D
Unless you spend your weekends and evenings on an indoor bike to get fit, then it will come as no surprise to know that a lack of sunlight can have a major impact on vitamin D levels. This is even more of an issue during those long cold winter nights when all of us would rather be soaking up the latest box set on Netflix than taking your life in your hands by cycling in the dark. But not getting enough sunlight can have a negative effect on your mood, and perhaps more concerning, a lack of Vitamin D has been linked to heart disease, cancer (especially breast cancer), and can affect you at a genetic level…So grab some decent sunblock and get on your bike.
17. Increase the Lifespan of Your Car
If you use your car for short journeys, you could be shortening the engine’s life. Driving your car only a short distance then turning off the engine means the engine oil doesn’t heat up to the right temperature and fails to lubricate the moving components and can cause unnecessary wear and tear on your car. Riding a bike instead of driving will minimise mileage and maximize the resale value of your ride, too.
18. You Can Take Your Pet!
Fido or Fluffy will love getting a front-row seat to the exciting sights cycling offers in a nice secure basket. There are even custom made pet seats now! Well, Fido will love this. Fluffy may freak out a bit–probably best to leave the cat at home.
19. Boost your Immune System
Riding a bike and getting some moderate exercise can boost your immunity, meaning you’ll get fewer colds and minor infections than the average couch potato.
20. It’s the Way We’re Meant to Be
Human beings were designed by evolution to be physically active most of the time. In geological terms, mankind’s shift to a sedentary lifestyle happened a second ago. Your butt was not designed to wallow in an office chair all day–it was meant to move! And there’s hardly a more fun way to do that than on a bike.
Image of “Maltese with Short Hair in Bike Basket” by Pwnsey/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons