Why you should get on your bike!

Now "on your bike" is often a British term for "go away" - we like to be passive aggressive about things which is often where our sarcasm comes from. Yet in comparison to other countries like the Netherlands and Japan, the British have a harder time literally getting on their bike. There have most definitely been more bikers on the road since the Tour de Yorkshire last year and the London Olympics 2012, (1) and with the Rio Olympics peeping its head around the corner there may just be another influx of two-wheelers on the road. But if you are still on the fence as to if you should take the plunge, then let me show you some great benefits you'll get if you grab the bike by its handlebars and get moving!

1. Money-saving

Most of us tend to love money; it started from a young age with our piggy banks and has built up from there. So if you could bike to work and save money, why wouldn't you? More often than not, it comes down to us being too tired and we don't want to face the elements that early in the morning. But I implore you to write down how much you actually spend each month on fuel, and then think of other things you could spend that money on. This is also true if you take public transport every day. Those fares soon add up to quite a hefty amount. However, if you do have other responsibilities like dropping your children off at school, then maybe you can just opt for biking to work one day a week and arranging someone else to take the kids instead. This probably won't save your family much money, but it will encourage you to get active and this could have a positive effect on your children to follow in your footsteps. What you do have to keep in mind is that there will be an upfront cost of getting your gear to go biking each day, but you won't have to spend much more for a couple of years after that, if you maintain your bike well.

2. Traffic is a thing of the past

Most of us have had the "lovely pleasure" of sitting in traffic at rush hour on the way to and from work. As much fun as that is, most of us would be happy to cut it out of our lives. Biking makes this possible; you get to breeze by all those stuck in traffic (you could say it's the only queue jumping us British will allow).

If you think that travelling by bike will result in increasing your journey time to work, think again. The average daily commute is probably around 3-4 miles, which takes around 30-40 minutes by road in a city around rush hour. On two wheels it's a different story - you can probably cover that same distance much quicker because you can cut through traffic and take the back streets where cars can't go.

3. No more gym needed

You can stop worrying about how many squats or 50 kg weights you have to do after work; you'll have already done your exercise for the day. Obviously, if you want to build weight or want to reach a specific fitness goal then you may want to go to the gym - and to you I say 'great'! But if you just want to add some exercise to your day and lose some weight, then a bike ride to work or when you get in can be a lot more achievable and less daunting because it's a low-impact exercise. Plus, if you want to work on your legs, why not try an actual bike instead of going all out on a stationary indoor bike in the gym. Fit your gym workout into your commute and you will save so much time.

4. It's a lower impact exercise than running

If you aren't a gym person and prefer getting your daily or weekly source of exercise from running around the block then maybe you too should try out biking. Many runners talk about the "runner's high" but you can also find this with biking. But unlike running, cycling is a lower impact exercise, which means you can go for longer and also avoid knee, ankle and leg pain you might get from running. This, in turn, will help to reduce any joint pain you might experience from high impact exercises.

5. You don't have to be fit

Another great thing about biking is that you don't have to be fit to do it. All you have to be able to do is ride a bike, and most of us learnt that when we were younger. You can choose how much you push yourself or how far you ride and you can fit cycling in your life to suit your schedule.

If you haven't ridden a bike for a while I would suggest taking it for a test spin in a quiet area which isn't on the road, so you can get the hang of it before tackling traffic-riddled roads. It is also important to brush up on cyclist traffic etiquette.

Like in any exercise, you have to take precautions so make sure you plan your route beforehand and, if you have the option to use a bike lane, do so. To keep safe on the roads it's advisable to wear a helmet that is properly fitted (although it is not a legal requirement in the UK) (2) and check you are visible at all times to other road users. This can be done by wearing hi-Vis jackets and attaching lights on to your bike. It's also advisable to indicate when you are turning a corner on a road signal whether you intend to go with your right or left arm. Generally, to help keep yourself and other road users safe, make your actions as clear as possible to others (3).

So will you be taking your bike for a ride? Leave a response in the comments below.

References:

1. http://www.cyclinguk.org/resources/cycling-uk-cycling-statistics#Is cycle use increasing in Britain?

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet_laws_by_country

3. http://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/changes-and-answers/highway-code-for-cyclists

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Cycling.aspx