Cycling is the third most popular sport in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bike each month.
The number of cyclists in London has increased by 91% since 2000, according to Transport for London (TFL).
As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal. From toddler to pensioner, able-bodied or disabled, practically everyone can enjoy cycling, provided they have the right equipment. The Everyday Cycling website has advice for first-time bike buyers (see Useful links).
Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine as it can double up as a form of transport. That means it saves you money, gets you fit and contributes to a cleaner environment.
It’s a low-impact exercise and therefore easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities, but still helps you get into shape.
For example, someone weighing 80kg (12.6 stones) will burn off more than 650 calories with an hour’s riding as well as tone their legs and bottom. If you go up hills or off-road, you’ll also work your upper body.
The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on the bike is to consistently ride twice during the week and then do a longer ride at the weekend. You will soon feel the benefits.
The Everyday Cycling website (see Useful links) is aimed at recreational cyclists. It has help and hints on everything you need to enjoy cycling whether you’re a commuter, mountain biker, mega-fit road rider or cycling for the first time.
The site includes a national leisure cycling calendar listing everything from charity events to multi-day challenges, and advice on training, maintenance and improving fitness.
It also has suggested routes for you to ride in your area and a function where you can map where you’ve ridden, log the miles you’ve travelled and rank yourself against other riders.
To take your cycling one step further, you could join a club in your area where you can go on organised bike rides. To find a club, visit the British Cycling website (see Useful links).
If you want to turn your hobby into something a little more competitive, there are around 2,500 races registered with British Cycling, the sport’s governing body, each year. There are all sorts of different bike races including BMX, cycle speedway, cyclo-cross, mountain bike news, road and track.
Visit the events section on the British Cycling website to find a race near you to either watch or take part in.
Wearing a cycling helmet will significantly reduce your risk of serious head injury in the event of an accident. For a proper fit, the helmet should fit snugly and shouldn’t allow any sideways movement.
Before you head out on your bike, it’s important for you to check you have the right kit, and that your bike is in good working order.
Make sure your tyres are pumped up and test out your brakes before you get on to the road.
Check that your saddle should be at the correct riding position for your height. If your saddle is too low, it will make it more difficult for you to pedal and you’ll tire quicker.
To get the right height, adjust the saddle until you can stretch your leg out and comfortably place the ball of your foot on the ground. This means that when your pedal is at its lowest position, your leg should be slightly bent.
If your leg is completely straight when your pedal is at the lowest position, your saddle is probably too high.
If you’re cycling after dark, it’s important to make sure you can be seen by other road users. Wear reflective clothing and make sure the lights on the front and back of your bike are both in working order. You should also use your lights when the visibility is low, such as in bad weather.
For expert advice on cycling equipment and correct riding position speak to the staff at your local bike shop.