I’m not talking about sitting on a stationary bike in a dark, pungent room and getting yelled at by someone in a sweatband while electro pop drones on in the background. I’m talking about real bicycling. (No offense, spin fans).
Cycling, which started in the 1800’s, led to the inclusion of pants in women’s wardrobes, and changed the way humans get around. Some may call it a fitness craze or a hobby, but I consider it a lifestyle choice. (Feel free to roll your eyes here).
Now I’m not the most experienced cyclist, and I’m definitely not the flashiest, but ever since taking up the practice in Australia, I’ve been hooked. In fact, I’ve even considered selling my car once I’m back in the States because I feel so devoted to biking now. It’s not just trendy, it’s a great method of transport and physical activity.
Although I could go on forever about how great and beneficial biking is, I’ve narrowed it down to a few key reasons why you should hop on a bike of your own.
1. Natural HIIT
Obviously, biking is a great way to stay fit. It tests your cardiovascular capacity and endurance. But what you might not know is that it may be one of the healthiest forms of physical activity. It naturally follows a pattern of HIIT (high intensity interval training).
This is where you exhibit short bursts of high-energy movement (pedaling hard up a hill, for instance), followed by moments of lower intensity (like coasting downhill or on flat roads). This sort of exercise is great for boosting your metabolism and keeping your endocrine system in balance. Additionally, biking is easier on your joints than other high-intensity exercises like sprints or jumps- one more reason why it may be one of the best ways to get moving.
2. Sense of independence
When you’re travelling by bike, you can come and go as you please. You have complete autonomy. No waiting for public transit, or sitting in traffic behind the wheel. If you want to ride at a leisurely pace and take in your surroundings, you can. If you’re in a hurry (or are full of energy, or just love the feeling of wind in your face), you can speed it up.
It is also an amazing and indescribable feeling to be riding down the road amongst the cars, fueled by pure (wo)manpower. It’s a sign that you’re not afraid to push boundaries or sway from the norm. Sure, bike commuting has been popular for a long time, but there are still a lot more people driving. By choosing to cycle instead, you become dependent on one fewer machine in a world full of them.
The more you bike, the less you drive. The less you drive, the less gasoline you use, and the fewer carbon emissions you emit into the atmosphere. A European study shows that switching from driving a car to bicycling takes off an astonishing 92% of your carbon emissions. Assuming you stick solely to push bikes (no motorcycles here), you are using nothing but your own energy to get around. And it’s renewable, nonetheless! This means you can transport without the guilt of contributing to climate change.
In cutting gas use, you not only save vital non-renewable resources, but also cold hard cash. Biking costs nothing except the price of the bike, a helmet and maybe a tune-up here and there. Gas and public transportation costs add up, so a bicycle is an investment that pays for itself in no time. You can also save money that you would otherwise spend on a gym membership or fitness classes. I’ve found that biking around town is such a great workout, I don’t even need to include other scheduled fitness anymore.
5. Connects you with others and your environment
When riding down the street. I instantly feel a bond with other cyclists. We exchange smiles and knowing glances. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I think we feel camaraderie with one another. Biking is also an awesome social activity in general. Riding with a friend is free, makes the ride seem easier, gets you both out in nature, and the list goes on. You and your partner must work with each other to find a similar pace and share the road. You can even join up and get a tandem bike to further test your compatibility and teamwork skills!
I’ve also found that biking gives me a much greater awareness of my surroundings than when I drive. I notice things I never would have otherwise- especially when I’m able to go at my own pace without a strict agenda. I feel and smell and see what’s around me on such a different level. It allows me to rediscover settings I once thought were familiar.
Do you cycle already or would you consider starting? What benefits does it provide for you?
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Photo: Khánh Hmoong and fixedgear, both via Flickr