What’s not to love about cycling? There’s no greater pleasure than the freedom you get pedalling on the open road and soaking up your surroundings. And let’s not forget that cycling – whether on an indoor bike in the gym or touring the streets – is the perfect exercise to get your fitness kicks. But there’s more! Here are our favourite reasons to hop on the saddle today.
Reason 1: Keep slim
Want an awesomely fit body? Hit the spin bike! High-intensity spinning classes offer a great head-to-toe toning workout and they’re suitable for everyone – regardless of fitness level. The interval sessions really challenge your lower body and the calorie-burning potential is pretty impressive, too. ‘The most beneficial part of spin classes is the intervals, as they challenge the body so you can get the most out of your workout,’ says Chris Foster, Professional Head of Fitness at Nuffield Health. Looking for a fresh alternative to a regular spin class? Check out BOOM Cycle, a fabulously fun nightclub-themed indoor cycling class that takes place in London.
Reason 2: It’s better for the environment
Nobody wants to live in a world clogged up with unhealthy carbon emissions that wreak havoc on health – so ditch your car and get on your bike instead. A study by the European Cyclists Federation found that Europe could reduce its CO2 emissions by a quarter if its population cycled as regularly as the Danes. In Denmark the average person cycles almost 600 miles annually, while the average Brit logs in a meagre 46 miles each year.
Reason 3: See the world
Whizzing around on two wheels is the perfect workout to take you away from home and out exploring new places. ‘Cycling lets you see the world – whether you want to hit the MTB trails or head out for a ride on the road. You can travel to places that you didn’t even realise existed and appreciate buildings and views that you have only ever bypassed in the car,’ enthuses Wiesia Kuczaj, cyclist and Sigma Sport Team MuleBar Girl.
Reason 4: Add years to your life
Turn your workout into your commute and not only will you cut back on your spending, you could also lengthen your lifespan. A 20-year study by Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg University Hospital found that women who cycled every day at a vigorous pace lived on average 3.9 years longer than slow cyclists. So get pedalling hard, people!
Reason 5: Improve joint health
The low-impact nature of cycling makes it an accessible sport for those who are at risk of joint injury and also enables them to increase the volume and intensity of their riding at a faster pace. ‘Consequently, cycling may help you to reach your health and fitness goals more quickly than is possible in more technical and/or weight bearing sports, such as running,’ explains performance coach James Hewitt.
Reason 6: Boost your mood
A brisk bike ride (riding at 85 per cent of your maximum capacity) sends endorphins flying for hours after. Cycling has been found to triple the levels of the feel-good chemicals circulating in the bloodstream. ‘Even if you’re riding slowly, just three low-intensity bike rides per week can result in significant improvements in feelings of energy,’ says James.
Reason 7: Get fast results
If you don’t have time to factor lengthy exercise sessions into your schedule, cycling is the perfect solution. ‘If improving fitness is your goal, research suggests that just two weeks of 22-minute, high-intensity cycling workouts may be as effective at improving measures of cardiovascular fitness as 90-120-minute, moderate-intensity rides,’ James says.
Reason 8: Improve heart health
Cycling isn’t only a fabulous weight-loss aid – it’s also good for your heart. A 2011 study published in the British Medical Journal found that cyclists who clocked up 20 miles a week were 50 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than non-cyclists.
Reason 9: Cycling kit is cool
Cast your mind back to a decade ago when the only kit available to cyclists was fluorescent cycling shorts and sweaty jersey tops – we’ve certainly come a long way since then! The boom in biking has resulted in an influx of ultra-fashionable yet functional options. ‘Gone are the days of woollen jerseys and questionably short shorts. Cycling, its equipment and its attire has been near the head of sports innovation for a number of years, developing kit that not only works, but looks good, too,’ says Wiesia.
Reason 10: Make new friends
Getting on your bike will help you get your social fix while working out. Cycling clubs are a great way to foster new friendships with like-minded people and improve fitness at the same time. ‘Cycling for many is a great way to catch up with friends. Get online and find your nearest cycling club to join and meet fellow cyclists,’ advises Wiesia.
3 ways to get the best out of your ride
Try James’s performance-boosting tips for better saddle time
1 Set a measurable goal
You’re more likely to stick to a cycling programme if it’s part of a plan to achieve a measurable goal. This could be as simple as getting fit enough to do two spin classes a week, tackle a 20-mile ride or complete a 100-mile sportive event!
2 Size your bike and set your position
Many new riders find cycling difficult and uncomfortable because their bikes are too big, too small or simply not set up properly. Start by selecting the appropriate-sized bike with the help of a trusted cycle shop, then ask them to help to set your saddle height. If you can touch both feet on the floor while sitting on the saddle, it’s probably too low!
3 Get kitted out
You don’t need to look like a Tour de France professional to enjoy cycling, but taking a leaf out of their book when it comes to selecting equipment could help you a lot! Invest in some quality, female-specific, padded cycling shorts. Shorts come in a variety of styles that can be worn on their own or under other items of clothing. They will significantly improve your comfort and enjoyment of the sport.
Did you know?
3 fab facts about cycling
1 Over 40 per cent of the UK population owns or has access to a bike.
2 Cambridge has the highest number of cyclists in the UK.
3 Take up of the Government’s Ride to Work scheme, which enables employees to buy a bike tax-free, increased by 30 per cent following the Olympics.