One of the things I’ve been getting more into recently is riding my bike. You might have gathered that from my post of
4 March 2013.
Yes, of course there are environmental benefits from riding a bike. These include things like:
- Cycling puts out way less pollution than driving or riding a motor vehicle – just a little CO2 compared with a lot of CO2 and other pollutants
- Making a bicycle takes way less resources and energy than making something like a car or bus
- Much less land is needed for each cyclist than for each car. (Check out this great picture:
It’s the Canberra Transport Photo. It was taken on 9 September 2012 and recreated a world-renowned photograph taken more than 20 years ago to demonstrate the advantages of bus and bicycle travel in congested cities. The project used 69 people, as this is the capacity of a standard Canberra bus, and 60 cars, as this is the number occupied on average by 69 people. It’s a good example of why roads are so crowded and getting worse every day.)
- And cycling is much cheaper than driving or travelling by public transport (unless your public transport is free, or nearly so! ;))
All of that is really good…and it makes me feel so good that, by riding my bike, I am doing the right thing by the environment and by my hip pocket.
BUT…what makes me feel really good is…actually riding my bike! And for quite a while – say the whole next day – after riding my bike. 😀
That’s because riding a bike is really good for your body.
- Cycling gives you a good aerobic workout (especially if you live on a hill like I do ;)) – great for your overall health but especially for your heart, lungs…and losing weight! 😉
- Riding a bike strengthens your leg muscles (and conversely, other thigh-strengthening exercise makes it easier to ride)
- And it’s really good for your balance (remember learning how to ride a bike?) and for your brain’s working
Now, I know it can be a bit daunting returning to your bike after a long absence. (Boy, do I know – in my case it was nearly 20 years!)
That’s why it’s so important to take it gradually.
First, make sure that your bike is in good order. There are plenty of bike shops now that can help you with this.
Second, ensure that you have the right personal gear.
The most important piece of cycling gear is a helmet. It helps protect your head if you do fall. And helmets really work. That’s why they are compulsory for anyone riding a bike in Australia.
And in case you’re wondering just how much a helmet protects you, let me give you and example. I fell off my bike (ironically trying to avoid another accident!) on New Year’s Day 1982. I was wearing my helmet, an older style one comprising a hard outer shell with polystyrene inner shell and foam pieces for better fit. The main parts of me that hit the ground were my arm and my head. I took a nice chunk out of my arm because I was on a country road (country tarmac tends to be rougher than city tarmac) and it was summer and I was wearing a T-shirt. 😉 But…my head only showed a small bruise. It was very much protected because I was wearing my helmet. Even then, I still got a bruise – imagine what damage I would have sustained if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet!
Third, take it easy when you are resuming cycling. Start out on a flat, quiet road or carpark or playing field. See how your balance is. See how your legs go. Try a short ride and gradually – over several days, weeks, months – build up to longer and more strenuous rides.
It’s amazing how fast you can progress, especially if you are doing other leg-strengthening exercise in between rides. I found I made tremendous progress after I started walking up and down the hill on which I live.
Fourth, if you are riding where there are cars, keep your wits about you and ride a safe distance from cars…about 1 metre is considered the minimum.
In many (most?) places where motor vehicles dominate transport, drivers tend not to look out for cyclists – especially when opening their doors. That is certainly the case in Australia. (Do you? One trick is to open your door with the inside hand and step out first with the inside leg – that way you have to look sideways and backwards.)
But take heart that the relationship between drivers and cyclists is improving, particularly as more people are cycling.
So, get ready, get set…on your bike!
I’d love to learn of your experiences.
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Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!