How to start cycling
As Team GB claims a cycling gold at Rio, there are many of us who wish we could make use of that old bike but don’t have the know how to start cycling.
From suited commuters to hipsters in shiny helmets, a record 3.1 million Brits ride each month. ‘If I’ve a lot on, going for a ride gives me time to sort things out in my head – and exercise!’ says cyclist Victoria Pendleton.
So if you’re inspired to get started cycling after watching the Games, here are some tips for your way into the world of cycling.
Who can start cycling?
‘Age, gender, size, shape and even some disabilities are no barrier to biking,’ says Cathy Bussey, author of The Girl’s Guide To Life On Two Wheels (Ryland, Peters and Small, £14.99). ‘It’s a good way for commuters to escape public transport, help mums get back in shape and have some ‘me-time’ – and good for all women to help them stay active as they age.’
What are the fitness benefit of getting on your bike?
‘Cycling is great cardio, which is easy on the joints and burns loads of calories,’ says Bussey, (around 500 per hour at a pace of 12 to 14 miles per hour.) ‘It’ll tone thighs and bums, especially if you go for it uphill.’ To sculpt your upper body, pick a hill and stand up for half the distance to engage your core and triceps. Even a gentle ride, three times a week can boost energy by up to 20 per cent, found a study in the journal Psychotherapy And Psychosomatics. And, you’ll have better sex, according to a recent survey of British cycling commuters. Bonus!
Where do I start with cycle fitness?
‘The most important thing is that your bike fits and feels right for you,’ Pendleton says. Your knee should bend 25 degrees on the down pedal stroke. If it’s too straight or too bent, pop into a bike shop (try Halfords), where a professional can adjust the seat.
Got your wheels, but a little rusty? ‘Start slow and don’t force yourself to do anything you’re not comfortable with,’ says Bussey. ‘Most local authorities offer subsidised training to help build up your confidence and there are more facilities with closed circuits for people to practise their skills,’ says Bussey – see Bikeability. There are also female-only coaching companies like Revolution Cycling. Ready to hit the road? ‘Ride in a group,’ Pendleton says. ‘This will help you feel more confident sharing a busy road with limited space.’
What are your best tips for getting on two wheels? Tweet @healthymag and tell us how you’re getting on!