That old saying is literally 100 percent true. You really never do forget how to ride a bike. And riding has some fantastic benefits you just can’t ignore. These reasons should be enough to make you go out to the garage and sweep the cob webs off that bike of yours.
BOOSTS YOUR MOOD
Cornell University researchers have found that blue moods make people eat more and more of the high-calorie, high-carbohydrate stuff that packs on pounds. But as little as 10 minutes of cycling can improve your mood, according to a study from Bowling Green State University. Other research shows that just 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity, like cycling, three to five days a week can significantly improve depression symptoms.
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And it’s never too late (nor are you ever too “unfit”) to start! Don’t wait another minute.
REDUCES YOUR APPETITE
Riding a bike can make you eat less. The same dopamine that gives you a greater sense of energy also improves your mood, pushing aside the need for other mood boosters like ice cream and potato chips. In addition, British researchers have reported that 60 minutes of vigorous exercise, brisk bicycling, for example—lowers the release of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates appetite) and increases the release of peptide YY (a hormone that suppresses appetite).
GIVES YOU ENERGY
Tired of feeling tired? Hop on a bike. A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that bike riding improved energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent. Though scientists are still studying the energizing effects of exercise, they suspect that dopamine is behind the boost. Cycling triggers your brain to release more of this energy-linked “feel-good” brain chemical. The best part: You don’t need to push the pace to enjoy this perk. Those who pedaled at an easy pace reaped the biggest rewards.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t be a little rusty or that you can’t benefit from a few pointers. Especially if the last time you rode a lot, it was on a pink bike with a banana seat and streamers. Try these tips to get rolling the right way.
Ease Into Riding
We’ll be honest. If you’re brand new to biking, or if you haven’t rode since you shelved your disco glitter, your butt will be tender at first. Riding shorts will help a lot, as will riding just 20 to 30 minutes to start. That soreness should subside within a week or two.
If it doesn’t, look into changing your bike saddle (also known as a bike seat. Your saddle should support your seat bones in the back without placing too much pressure on your sensitive tissues. You’ll find women-specific models at your bike shop.
Another note on butt comfort: Riders of all shapes and sizes sometimes suffer some chafing when the tender skin of their butt rubs against the inside of their shorts or against the saddle. Head off unwanted hot spots by applying a gliding cream like Chamois Butt’s to the padding in your shorts.
Get the Right Equipment
For those new to cycling or getting reacquainted with this favorite childhood activity, you’ll probably want to put some equipment on your shopping list, especially if you’re I planning to make a habit out of this oh-so-good for you activity.
Rack it up. If you’re lucky, you live in a neighborhood where you can set off from your: front door (or garage) and ride away into the sunrise. But alas, many of us can’t. We live on busy urban streets, hilly, curvy lanes; or unsafe, narrow roads that just aren’t conducive to everyday riding. Don’t let this stop you! Bike racks for your car have become cheaper, stronger, easier, and more versatile. We recommend a removable model that holds the bike at the rear of your car. Straps hook to the top of the trunk and to the bumper and are easily tightened for safety and then easily loosened for removal. Throw your bike on, drive to the local park or to a trail, and away you go! Great for taking your bike on car vacations, too. Look for models from established companies like thule.com or yakima.com. A removable, two-bike rack will start at around $100.
Protect your head. No matter how superior your cycling skills are, you absolutely must wear a helmet, even on the shortest bike rides. All kinds of things can cause your brain to hit the pavement—dogs that suddenly race into your path, careless drivers who fling car doors open, or unseen potholes or road debris. These days’ helmets are a high-tech affair: Smart materials offer incredible protection in case of a fall and streamlined designs allow lots of air vents that both reduce weight and keep your noggin cool. Focus mostly on fit: Have a professional adjust all the straps so the helmet is I-barely-feel-it comfy, but with minimal wiggle. Pick white or a bright color for visibility, and avoid extreme shapes and thin straps. Since 1999 all helmets must conform to federal safety standards mandated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: make sure that your helmet has a CPS C sticker inside.
Get a comfy saddle. The prices are reasonable, and replacing them is easy, so don’t be intimidated about changing the seat on your bicycle for one that’s softer, wider, or fits your body better. Some seats contain layers of gel across the top, body-friendly con touring, and shock- and vibration-absorbing materials. A comfy saddle can make all the difference between a joyous bike trip and a miserable one.
Dress for success. If you’re planning to really go the distance, you might want to dress for it; bike clothes can make the ride more comfortable. Padded shorts are practically a must if you’re serious about the sport they’ll help cushion your nether region and keep you rolling longer. Cycling jerseys, made from special wicking materials, help keep you dry and comfortable. They’re also equipped with a zipper in the front for cooling off when the going gets hot, and convenient pockets in the back for stashing your cell phone, some cash, your keys, a snack, or whatever else you might want for the trip.
Slip on gloves. Cycling gloves that cushion, your hands are a smart purchase, especially for longer rides. Since your hands support as much as 50 percent of your body weight, you’ll be surprised at how your arms and hands can get tired over time. Gloves help ease the pressure, and keep your hands feeling comfortable.
Ride for Fitness
While you’re unlikely to have forgotten how to ride that bike, you may need to brush up on technique to make sure you get the best possible workout while you’re on the road. Take these tips into consideration.
Just keep pedaling. Keep your coasting to a minimum to burn maximum fat. Sure, there’ll be some descents and some gradual stops for which coasting is necessary. But make an effort to use your gears to keep power going into your pedals on 90 percent of your ride.
Stay in your comfort zone. A little huffing and puffing on hills or during some purposefully fast pedaling is great for strengthening your heart and burning extra calories, but aim to keep your breathing deep and rhythmic for the majority of your ride so you can go longer without tiring. You should be able to hold a conversation while you’re riding. If you can’t, you’re exerting yourself too much; shift to an easier gear and slow down. The goal is to balance the work of your legs with that of your lungs. They should both be putting out pretty equal efforts.
Shift often. Your bike has gears. Use them. Often. New riders mistakenly believe every pedal stroke should feel hard if they want to burn fat fast. In reality, you’ll just fatigue (and quit) fast. You want to keep your pedals spinning at a comfortably brisk.
BEGINNER RIDING PLAN
Follow this plan and after two months you’ll be able to rack up 100 miles in one week Miles for each day of the week are listed, along with an approximate weekly mileage. For the first four weeks, maintain at least a 10 MPH average. After four weeks, try to bump up that average to 12-14 MPH. cadence—at least one revolution per second. The purpose of bike gears is to help you maintain that pedaling rate, whether you go up, down, or flat. So shift often. Try to feel and anticipate the grade. As you feel the pressure on your pedals increasing, whether it’s a small rise or a stiff headwind, shift down to an easier gear. When you feel your legs start spinning too fast because of a slight downhill or tailwind, shift up into a harder gear.
Gets your heart pumping. After warming up for 10 or 15 minutes, pedal very hard for one minute. Ease up for one minute. Repeat five to 10 times. Then finish the rest of your ride at a moderate pace. New riders can expect to pedal along at about 10 MPH, working up to 14 or 15 MPH.
Add intervals. After riding for about a month, it’s time to step it up a little with intervals. Here’s how:
- Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then do the following:
- Ride briskly for 2 minutes.
- Pick up the pace to very brisk for 1 minute.
- Pick it up a bit more and go as hard as you can for 30 seconds.
- Ease back to very brisk for 1 minute.
- Ease back to brisk for 2 minutes.
- Ride along at a moderate pace.