On Your Bike! It's Time to Get Serious About Cycling

There's nothing quite like getting some fresh air, feeling the wind in your hair and taking in gorgeous views when you're out on your bike. If you've not been cycling since you were a child you're seriously missing out, it's the perfect way to get some exercise and have fun in the process. If you're looking into taking up cycling, here's how you can go about it.

Buying a bike
If you don't own a bicycle then your first step is to get your hands on one. While this can be a large cost up front, once you have everything you need you're then able to exercise for free. It will last forever if you look after it well and so makes a good investment- check out discounts for sports shops and bike shops as you may be able to snap up a bargain. Choose a bike that's the right height, you will need to go into a bike shop and sit on a number of different models to work out what feels the most comfortable. Another thing to bear in mind is the saddle, female cyclists can often struggle as for many of us, our 'sit bones' are set wider than lots of bike seats causing pressure and discomfort. Luckily you can buy wider seats cheaply on places like ebay making for a much more comfortable ride. Don't forget to invest in a helmet, safety is of the utmost importance so you need to protect your head.

Planning your routes
Once you have your bike and you're ready to go, your next step is planning your bike rides. If you want to go a little further out than your local area, make sure your bike fits in your car- otherwise you might need to invest in roof racks or a roof box. Look online for trails, many will give advice about the difficulty, terrain and fitness levels you need which can be useful. When you're first starting, it's advisable to go with an easy route and work your way up. Apps like Komoot are brilliant, these allow you to program in your own route, and the app will give you information about how long it's likely to take you, the gradients and difficulty level. When you start cycling again for the first time in a while, you might be a little unstable and so a quiet trail without too many people around can be your best bet.

Health benefits
Cycling provides so many health benefits. It tones and strengthens muscles, particularly in the lower body but also in the back, core and even the arms. It improves cardiovascular fitness meaning your lungs and heart work more efficiently, and you boost your endurance. As you're seated it's low impact so good for those with joint issues- cycling actually strengthens the knee joints so is useful for protecting against future problems that a lot of people can suffer with as they age. As with any cardiovascular activity, cycling will cause your brain to release 'happy chemicals' which can boost mood and help with mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Cycling is suitable for most fitness levels, if you start on flat trails you can build up your endurance. It's a great way to get back into exercise if you've been inactive for a while, and it's equally great for those who are already super fit. Simply adjust your routes to suit what you can do, and then build it up from there.

Do you cycle regularly?