There are some things that always seem to keep popping up wherever you look in life. Every newspaper or magazine you read, every TV show you watch, people are talking about this thing. Eventually, you find yourself wondering if there is something you're missing. For a lot of us, cycling can be like that.
Watching TV, or reading magazines, you will not have to wait long before hearing of the benefits of getting on a bicycle. When you see these articles, you could be forgiven for thinking you're the only person not currently doing it. And for having the idle thought that you want to take it up - but only "if." If you can settle the question that has been bugging you about cycling.
We all have questions when it comes to taking up a new hobby or fitness routine. "Will it....". "Is it...". "Can I...". Sometimes we just let those questions sit there, and don't do anything about them. So maybe now is a good time to settle them once and for all. Then, you can just get on with it, right?
1. Is Cycling Outdoor Safe?
For any fitness routine, one of the most important questions is that of your own personal safety and physical protection. We all know that cycling has the potential to burn off calories. It can be a way to stay in shape, but is that a worthwhile trade-off if your physical safety is under threat?
It's an understandable question. After all, if you're cycling on the road, you look at the cars, and at the bikes and the people on them. You can't help but notice that in this equation, the cars are large chunks of metal designed to be able to deal with impact. The bikes, for their part, are a lot flimsier. The cyclists? Well, they're just flesh and bone. Who's going to come off best in a collision?
Sure, in a one-on-one collision, the motorist is going to come off better. But that's not the only question you need to ask. Because drivers go at higher speeds, and partly because they are likely to feel a false sense of security, they're more likely to get in an accident. You're safer on a bike than the average motorist in a car.
2. Isn't Cycling For Drug Users?
There is no doubt that cycling has seen a great deal of controversy and bad press over recent years. While Lance Armstrong is the most famous example, there have certainly been others who have been caught doping. The long and short of the question here is clear. "If these professionals need to take performance-enhancing drugs to finish a race, what chance do I have?"
Nobody can deny there is a doping problem in professional cycling. Anyone who thinks it has gone away is deluding themselves. But for an amateur who just wants to get fit, you don't need to put yourselves through what they go through. You don't need to be cycling up mountains and in the saddle for several hours a day. In short, you don't need drugs.
3. Do I Need To Wear Tight, Aerodynamic Clothes?
If you're riding a bike, you don't specifically need to wear any special outfit. However, tighter, more streamlined clothes will allow you to be more aerodynamic and so your efforts will be more efficient. You'll get up to higher speeds, and burn off more calories, by doing it this way. You can calculate the difference using tools like http://www.bicycling.com/training/weight-loss/cycling-calories-burned-calculator.
If you're picturing the often unflattering outfits you see on professional cyclists, then put that out of your head. You can wear much cooler outfits and still get an efficient workout. Providers with a great range of women's cycling outfits include http://retro2ride.com/womens-cycling/, So when you're on your bike, you can still look stylish while burning off the calories.
Another reason it is important to wear the right outfits is that dedicated cycling gear draws sweat away from the body. It then evaporates on the surface of the garment rather than pooling and saturating your clothes. This means you're staying lighter and more comfortable in the saddle. Not only does that work better for fitness, it feels a lot better too!
4. I Heard That Cycling Can... Chafe. Is That An Issue?
Between chafing and saddle sores, someone getting back in the saddle and cycling for a long time might see some unpleasant results. That much is true. But with the right approach and correct aftercare, this does not need to be the case.
The most important thing, if you are going to be in the saddle for any amount of time, is to make sure you are clean before you set off. Particularly, that you have washed well around the saddle area. (I'm being as delicate as I can about this, and hope you can fill in the blanks!). If these areas have any organisms hanging around, a spell in the saddle can encourage them to grow.
Wear dedicated cycling shorts - consider a specific sort known as "bib shorts." These are not unlike dungarees in that they have straps that come up to your shoulders and fit more snugly. The biggest risk from chafing is when you wear standard underwear while in the saddle. This allows sweat to pool and also builds friction. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out the problems with that.
Perhaps more important than any of this is that you take a shower as soon as possible after getting off your bike. If you let sweat dry on your skin, small salt crystals will form which will be hugely unpleasant to deal with.
5. Will An Exercise Bike Give Me The Same Benefits?
For people who don't have the time or storage space to go cycling on an outdoor bike, the alternative of getting on an exercise bike can seem attractive. It's far from a bad idea, certainly - it is a form of exercise that is simple, easy to do in the home and also highly affordable. But is it a substitute for standard cycling?
The truth is that if you have the opportunity to cycle outdoors on a standard bike, you should take that chance. There are various reasons for this.
First of all, fresh air is good for you. As soon as you get up to a certain speed, you'll be breathing more deeply and taking more breaths. As long as you don't find yourself sitting in traffic often, this is definitely a benefit. Your body will get more oxygen, which is important for just about every process it goes through.
Secondly, pelting along at speed allows you to feel a breeze build up which keeps your body cool. It dries the body off, too, which is essential for an exercise that does cause sweat to gather. When you're on an exercise bike, none of this has anywhere to go.
Thirdly and finally, we know a change of scene is beneficial for your mental health. It also makes you more likely to stick to cycling, as you get the chance to see different places. You'll take on more challenging rides as you get fitter and more confident in the saddle. Hill climbs and rides along any beach you have near to you can be particularly exhilarating.
6. Won't Cycling Cost Me A Lot Of Money?
Compared with cycling on a static exercise bike, the truth is that there are additional costs. However, taking up cycling need not be an expensive pursuit. You will need to pay for the bike - that goes without saying. But it doesn't need to cost hundreds of pounds if you know where to look.
As we have noted, the right clothes will make it easier, but they aren't too expensive. In any case, these would be the right clothes to wear on an exercise bike, too. You should also invest in some cycling shoes, to give your feet the support they need for pushing on the pedals. Again, these aren't terribly expensive.
It's wise to invest also in some safety gear. A cycling helmet and some elbow and knee pads will allow you to ride with more confidence. If you come off - and it happens to us all - then you'll be glad you did. These bits of gear are the difference between a few scratches and a nasty injury. For the sake of a few dollars, they're more than worth it.
On the flipside, you need to think of cycling as a mode of transport, and not just a means of getting fit. Instead of driving to places like the store and work, you can cycle.
Sure, if you're getting a week's worth of food shopping, you'll need the car to carry it. But if you are traveling light, then travel by bike. You'll save a lot of money on gasoline. By saving driving for those times when you really need the car, you'll also ensure there is a longer time between any repairs you may need. Overall, cycling won't cost you much at all; it may well pay for itself.