Cycling is an excellent warm-weather activity because the speed ensures air-cooling. But safe and sensible cycling does require compliance with some specific guidelines.
Cycling is an excellent warm-weather activity because the speed ensures air-cooling. This is particularly important and much appreciated on hot and humid summer days.
Of course, the speed enables you to cover many more miles and enjoy much more scenery than is possible during an equal time of walking or running.
Safe and sensible cycling does require compliance with some specific guidelines. These include:
- Always wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet.
- Using appropriate footwear such as pedal-securing bicycle shoes.
- Wearing appropriate clothes such as bicycle shorts and bicycle gloves.
- Carrying a water bottle on the bicycle frame.
- Storing a few first aid supplies and tube changing tools in the seatbag.
- Cycling only during daylight .
- Riding on the right side shoulder of streets and roadways.
- Obeying all traffic signs and signals.
- Avoiding busy intersections and on-street parking areas whenever possible.
- Always riding within your ability level.
Regarding the last recommendation, it is typically an advantage to ride with other cyclists. Small group rides provide an extra margin of safety by making cyclists more visible to motorists and providing assistance in the event of an accident.
The social aspect is also a reinforcing aspect of group rides, but be sure to cycle with people of similar abilities to avoid stressful situations and pushing harder than you should.
It is to your benefit to purchase a well-designed and properly fitted bicycle from an experienced cycle dealer. In addition to correct frame size, the distance from the seat to the pedals and the distance from the seat to the handlebars must be appropriate for your body dimensions.
Although a good cycle may cost several hundred dollars, when averaged over a 10-year period it is a very reasonable investment, similar to buying a new pair of running shoes every year.
Start with a relatively level out-and-back course between 6 and 8 miles in length. When this ride feels short and easy, progress to a 10-mile ride with a few small hills. Once you can comfortably complete 12- to 16-mile rides, you are in a good training range. I try to do two 16-mile solo rides during the week, and a longer ride with friends on the weekend.
In addition to providing excellent cardiovascular conditioning, cycling offers a great workout for hip and leg muscles. In fact, the lower back, torso, arm and neck muscles are strengthened by supporting the upper body throughout the ride.
This renders cycling a more comprehensive conditioning activity than running. And unlike running, cycling does not require repetitive landing forces, thereby reducing the risk of certain overuse injuries. Nonetheless, doing too much of any physical activity can be problematic, so it is important to approach cycling with gradual progressions to longer distances and faster speeds.
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., and adjunct instructor of exercise science at Quincy College.