Bicycle riding combines fitness and fun

People ask me all the time if I “ride.” I assume they’re asking whether or not I ride road bikes or mountain bikes, as my husband avidly does both. I know how to ride a bike. I’ve known how to ride my bicycle since I was a kid. However, it’s a little more complicated these days.

There’s such a variety in biking today.  Consider that bikes are now sport specific — road bike, racing bike, mountain bike, beach bike … and the list goes on.  Bikes are made of the newest materials, so they’re as lightweight as possible. The components are created to ensure the bike is ergonomically correct to fit the rider. There are more efficient gearing systems. Computers measure just about everything the rider does, including mileage, cadence and heart rate.

Don’t forget the clothing bicyclists wear. The basic helmet remains the No. 1 safety item for every kind of biking. There are clip-in shoes, padded shorts, moisture-wicking jerseys, gloves and helmet mirrors.

Why has biking become such a widespread sport? For a number of reasons. Biking is great exercise. It’s fun. It can be both a spectator and participant sport. It can be social. It can be individual. It can be performed inside and outside.

The biggest benefit of bike riding is that it improves your cardiovascular level by strengthening your lungs and heart. Your legs, arms and core also benefit by strengthening these muscle groups. As a calorie burner, bike riding aids in weight loss.

Still another benefit of bike riding as a form of fitness is the fun and social aspects. Exercise that becomes a hobby and passion is easier to stick with and perform. Going on a bike ride not only offers great exercise, but also provides a sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed your ride.

The key to biking is finding out which type you enjoy.  When beginning, start at your own pace. A great way to learn how to bike and build up your strength is to take an indoor Spin or group cycling class. Since weather and limited time schedules could keep you from outdoor riding, try to stay consistent with indoor training. Start slow and work your way up.

Biking can be enjoyed not only as a participant, but also an observer. Enjoy watching a downhill mountain bike ride or road race. There are so many events that one can be a part of, from local charity rides to Ride the Rockies to the world event that is the Tour de France.

Biking has come a long way. As an observer during the Ride the Rockies this year, I stood at the side of the road to take photographs and imagined being one of those riders. I have the padded shorts, a nice jersey, matching gloves and shoes. Next year, I’ll say, “Yes! I ride!”