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Biking 101

by Marie Spano, MS, RD

Are you tired of pedaling a stationary bike or an elliptical machine? Are you in search of a little adventure? If so, maybe you’re ready to get outside and try real biking. Don’t worry if several years have passed since you last rode a bike. As the saying goes, “You never forget how to ride a bicycle.” However, although the fundamentals of bicycling haven’t changed since you owned a ten-speed (or maybe a three-speed), many other aspects of this sport have, most of which have made it both more accessible and more enjoyable.

Technology has greatly enhanced bicycles, bicycle helmets, and even bicycling clothes. Biking clubs have sprouted up across the United States, making it easier to find others to ride with. And more communities are becoming more bike-friendly by, for example, establishing bike lanes or separate bike paths, providing bicycle parking areas, and installing bike racks on trains and buses so that bikes can be transported with their riders.

So if you haven’t touched your bike in years, now’s the time to get it out, dust it off, take it in to your local bike shop for a tune-up (very important), and assess whether you need any new biking accessories, such as new helmet, bike lock, or biking gloves, or even a new bike.

Why cycle?
Biking is a enjoyable activity that you can do alone or with others. It can be a good way to explore new places or to simply enjoy old favorites. There is nothing like riding down a bike path or a trail feeling the breeze on your face and the sun on your back. People who use a bike to commute to work or run errands can also have the satisfaction of knowing they’re getting some exercise and not adding any pollution to the air.

Besides being a pleasant activity, biking works the muscles in your legs and arms, increases your lung capacity, and helps you maintain a healthy heart. In addition, all forms of aerobic exercise, including biking, help improve your body’s response to insulin and lower blood glucose levels.

Even if you regularly do some other type of aerobic exercise, varying your routine with an occasional bike ride will challenge you physically and stimulate you mentally. Cross-training of any type works your muscles a little differently, may help prevent overuse injuries, and keeps you from getting bored with your exercise routine.

Trails or roads?
If you already have a bike and don’t wish to buy a new one, the style of your bike will probably determine where you will ride it. If you’re in the market for a new bike, however, you may want to think first about where you intend to bike — on trails or on roads — before buying one.

Biking on roads is convenient since you can usually just hop on outside your front door and go. However, if you have to share the road with cars, biking on roads can be scary and even dangerous. Seeking out quieter streets, back roads, and bike paths may make for more enjoyable and safer bike riding. If you intend to ride on roads, you will want either a road bike with fairly thin tires and a lightweight frame or a somewhat heavier “city bike.” If you plan to commute on your bike, you might even consider getting a foldable bike for easier storage at your home and workplace.

If you prefer biking on trails, you’ll probably need a mountain bike. Mountain bikes have fat, knobby tires and a thick frame, making them both sturdier and heavier than road bikes. They are also much slower on roads than road bikes. Unless you are lucky enough to live near a trailhead, mountain biking usually requires driving to your destination. (It’s worth noting that not all hiking trails are open to bikes, so you will need to research where mountain biking is permitted in your area.)

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Also in this article:
For More Cycling Information
Getting the Right Fit



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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