SEVEN REASONS TO RIDE A BICYCLE

KEEP FIT

Being fit means having a healthy, strong heart and being able to exert muscles for an extended period. It means having some strength in muscles but, depending on what exercise you do, it doesn’t necessarily mean strength in all of them. To have a healthy, strong heart, you have to get it working and then let it rest. Working at half your heart’s capability is good, but exercising it at 70 to 80 per cent of your is when you start making a real difference.

Cycling is one of the best kinds of exercise for keeping fit. It always raises your heart rate, and you can vary how much your heart works simply by how fast you go or the kind of cycling you do. After you’ve been riding for a while, you find you can do certain things more easily — maybe ride over a hill or chase after someone on a road bike. You’re less out of breath and don’t feel so exhausted after such activities. This change comes about because your heart becomes stronger, delivering more oxygen-filled blood with each beat (or pump), and your muscles have grown, too, and can now do more work.

Gaining this extra strength and experiencing less suffering with exertion is all a part of fitness. When you become fit, you can produce sudden bursts of energy — perhaps running for a bus or fleeing from a rhinoceros — without any bad effects. So, the more you ride your bike, the fitter you get and the less likely you are to be caught by mad rhinos.

Being fit gives you feelings of both mental and physical confidence: it makes you feel good. When you get fit, you can feel proud of the efforts you’ve made and the level of fitness you’ve achieved, you feel more in control and your body is able to relax more when you’re resting. You keep feeling better all the time — and all you have to do to get this feeling is ride your bicycle.

HAVE FUN

Everyone needs to have fun, but having fun isn’t just about idle merriment. The more fun you have when you do something, the better you’re likely to do it. If you don’t have fun, you become alienated. If you don’t have fun at work, you won’t do your job as well. Fun is one of the most important aspects of your life. It turns ordinary activities into things you can enjoy. Fun is pleasure with excitement.

And one thing anyone who rides a bike will tell you is that cycling is fun. Cyclists start riding a bike and enjoy it — it amuses somehow and continues to do so always. So enjoy the pleasure of cycling.

MAKE FRIENDS

Cycling is not like driving. Riding a bicycle is a happy pursuit. It puts you in a good frame of mind, open to ideas and ready to meet people. When you ride on your own, perhaps humming a happy tune, and you find yourself rolling along next to some other contented pedaller going your way, if you don’t speak first, that other cyclist is bound to speak to you.

Like hikers meeting on a country path, the natural human response is to greet another person and pass the time of day. Most cyclists do it, and saying ‘Hello’ is not just a cute, rustic thing — you know you’ve got something in common with this other person so you’re already off to a good start.

If you don’t happen to make friends when out riding, joining a cycling group will certainly expand your social sphere. Once again, you’ve all got a shared passion, but with a specialised cycling group, this passion becomes more than just riding bikes. If you join a group that does some particular kind of riding, you start off with even more in common. It may be riding along country trails, riding fast on roads or hurtling through narrow gaps between trees, but you all love it — and what better way to bond?

SEE THE WORLD

Travel around the planet at high speed and you tick off an awful lot of places — but ride a bicycle and you see and experience far more. When you practise a bit and build up your fitness, you can cover long distances on a bicycle. All you need to see the world is the right bike, a map and time.

Bicycles can go practically anywhere. They aren’t terribly good in deep water, but bikes can take on just about any kind of land. And as you ride along, you see all the little details that make up a real world. You see how people live and work. You see what plants are growing, and your quiet progress may enable you to slowly creep up on timid animals and shy birds.

Travel to the great cities of the world and you see bicycles everywhere. And as you pedal past them all, you’ll know that when you went out to see the world, you really did — because you saw it on a bicycle.

SAVE MONEY

The price of fuel is going up and up. During the recent global financial crisis, oil prices reached record highs. And the government is slowly but surely increasing duty on fuel to encourage the use of more efficient vehicles (and to raise lots of tax). Unpredictable — and not so unpredictable — events can have a terrible effect on your personal finances if you rely too much on fuel.

Saving money now by using your bicycle instead of your car whenever you can is a great idea. If you start to replace several car trips a week with bike rides, it won’t be long before your fuel bills are down £20 or more. And if you’ve got a reasonable distance to get to work, you’ll see even greater savings when you start your bicycle commuting.

And you save elsewhere, too:

  • If your household has two cars and you get rid of one of them — because you’re using bikes more — you save all the registration and insurance on the second car.
  • If you don’t own a car and are used to relying on public transport instead, you can still save substantial amounts of money (and cut down on frustration caused by cancellations and delays) by swapping your ticket for a bicycle.
  • If you spend half an hour to an hour on your bike getting to work every day, you don’t need to be a regular at the gym anymore. You get plenty of exercise and become very fit just riding your bicycle and you can ditch the gym membership.
  • Unless you’re very disciplined (unlike most people), when you go to the supermarket to buy 2 specific things, you probably come out with 20. But if you ride your bike to the supermarket and all you take is a small backpack or pannier, the amount you can carry is very limited and your overspend will be less.

So when you go to the bike shop to buy your new two-wheeled transport, think about the money you’re going to save straightaway. Very quickly, your savings will add up to the price of a good bike, so that’s what you should get — treat yourself to whichever one you like.

PARK WITH EASE

People who drive to work or the shops often complain about the difficulty of finding somewhere to leave their cars all day. One of the wonderful things about travelling by bicycle is the very direct way you arrive — if you’re going somewhere, that’s where you go. You don’t have to divert at the last minute and burrow your way into one of the ugliest of human environments — a car park. And you very rarely have to pay for your spot.

Many planners make a point of making bike parking facilities clearly visible from the building entrance, but if no one has taken the trouble to provide suitable racks, you can always find a bench, lamppost or fence to tether your bike to.

BE COOL

Madonna does it with her bodyguard. Surprisingly, Johnny Depp does it in quite an old-fashioned way. Angelina Jolie does it with pouting lips. Bob Dylan still does it, even though he’s getting quite old. These guys are pretty cool anyway, but they’re even cooler when they get on their bicycles and pedal. They’ve all been hooked by the allure of cycle-chic.

When you ride your bicycle, it doesn’t matter whether you’re going faster or slower than anyone else. It doesn’t even matter what you’re wearing. Riding a bike just has something that sets you apart, above and beyond. It gives you a style that’s hard to define, and it inspires admiration and respect. It’s the ‘awesome’ factor, and it lies in your lap when you slip into the saddle.

HaVe a GrEat HoLiDaY !