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Riding a bike outdoors is one of life's simple pleasures. But it takes on greater significance when it's incorporated into a program for improving physical fitness. Bicycling is an effective, relatively stress-free way to exercise your body, and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
While you are cycling, you are conditioning your lower body as well as improving both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, without the high-impact, injury-prone pounding that plagues runners.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of bicycling is that it can take you long distances, past interesting scenery. Looking forward to reaching a destination and having interesting things to look at along the way, make bicycling quite pleasurable, especially for people who are quickly bored by the monotony of other activities. Cycling is further enhanced by its appeal to the whole family. Children can also participate, making it a great group activity.
It requires expensive equipment, specifically a well-tuned bicycle and assorted accessories that are recommended for bicycling. Bicycles can be troublesome to maintain and can malfunction during a ride.
Cycling also requires access to long stretches of well-paved roads or trails, which presents the risk of injury from falls and collisions. A certain skill level is necessary in order to bicycle competently. Foul weather can hamper your efforts to stick to a regular cycling program; for safety reasons, it's best to avoid bicycling in rain, ice or snow.
Where to Participate
Ideally, you should start out on relatively flat, paved roadway where traffic is minimal. Hilly terrain can be added as your fitness level increases. For all-terrain cycling, begin on trails that aren't too steep or uneven. Ask bicycling clubs or bike shops in your area to point you to popular cycling spots. Many clubs offer group outings that you may want to join.
Recommended Equipment, Attire
Safety helmet -- Get one that is approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Make sure it fits properly!
Road or touring bicycle --
Get a bike that has 10 gears or more and is fitted properly to your body proportions.
All-terrain bike or mountain bike --Use this bike for off-road cycling
Padded cycling gloves will protect your hands.
Padded shorts --
Padded cycling shorts will protect your inner thighs and groin.
Shoes -- Cycling shoes will increase your pedaling efficiency.
Cyclometer -- Used to measure distance, time and cadence.
Riding pack -- Pack should include a patch kit, tools, first aid, emergency phone numbers, etc.
Pedal at higher rates and lower gears for maximum power and minimum fatigue.
Choose the gear that best allows you to maintain your cadence and keep your heart rate within its target range.
Shift gears so that your exertion level and cadence remain constant over varying terrain.
Change your hand position often on long rides to avoid neck, lower back and wrist soreness.
For the first few weeks of your cycling program, cycle on terrain that ranges from level to gently rolling for 20 to 30 minutes three times per week. Keep to a cadence of about 55 to 60 revolutions per minute (rpm), which should allow you to ride in low to moderate gears without straining.
As you improve, increase your cadence to about 70-90 rpm, but always start out in a low gear at a steady 55 to 60 rpm to warm up.
For variety and increased challenge, try climbing long or steep hills.
Interval training can be added as you progress. For three- to five-minute intervals, increase your heart rate to 80 percent of its maximum, followed by rest periods where you pedal easily in a low gear for five minutes. Repeat this sequence four or five times. Limit interval training to twice a week.
Your intensity level should be lower when touring since the duration is longer than with regular workouts. Brief periods of coasting can help you stay fresh; extended coasting, however, breaks your rhythm and may induce muscle stiffness.
Glossary of Terms
ATB -- All-terrain bike; also called a mountain bike.
Bicycle touring -- Day-long outings on a bicycle that range from 50 to 100 miles or more.
Cadence -- Pedaling speed. To determine your cadence, count the complete pedal strokes of one foot for 15 seconds and multiply this number by four.
Coast -- To move on a bicycle without pedaling.
Drafting -- Trailing closely behind another cyclist to cut down on wind resistance.
Gearing -- Shifting to lower or higher gears to maintain a certain cadence.
Mountain biking -- Bicycling off roadways, typically on steep, rugged terrain.
Paceline -- Also called drafting, the paceline is a training technique that allows a group of riders to protect each other from the effects of wind resistance by forming a closely-packed, single line.
Streamlining -- Positioning your body low in the bicycle to minimize wind resistance and increase speed.
The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No one should act upon any information provided in this website without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician.