Bicycling is one of the best ways you can enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you are rolling along an open road or a windy back road, or pedaling “off road,” nothing matches cycling for a breeze washing across your face as you cover more than a few miles in a workout.
A variety of bicycle designs await the recreational cyclist. A typical road bike tends to have narrow tires and puts the rider in a more aerodynamic riding position. This position does cut down on wind resistance; however, it puts additional stress on your neck area when you tilt your head back to see the road in front of you.
Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are designed so you sit in a more upright position, which puts less stress on the neck and back. The position also allows the upper body to control and stabilize the bicycle over rough terrain. For the recreational cyclist, I prefer the design of the mountain bike.
Bicycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, especially when you pedal up a few hills. The primary muscles gaining strength are the quadriceps or front thigh muscles. The buttocks or gluteal muscles and calves also get a workout. If you clip or fasten your shoes to the pedals and pull up on the pedal, you then work your hamstring or back thigh muscles. Back and abdominal muscles assist in stabilizing your body while you cycle, and will receive some secondary gain.
Cycling is a smooth, low impact sport that offers the advantage of also being a mode of transportation. The ideal form of exercise incorporates itself in a person’s lifestyle and daily routine, and cycling can fit right in.
The most common injury seen in cycling is a fall off the bike. Broken bones, bruises and strains are typical of a cyclist pushing to the limit. If a fall causes an injury to your “seat bones,” or ischial tuberosities, or to your tailbone (coccyx), you may experience difficulty sitting on the bike seat. When you find the need to adjust the pedals or have trouble sitting on the seat, it may indicate that your pelvis is out of alignment. See a physical therapist if this condition doesn’t correct itself in a week or two.
Safety precautions for cycling include wearing a helmet and reflective clothing. Choose bike routes that allow for safe riding with traffic and watch out for sand or wet leaves in your path. Be sure to drink plenty of water along the way and consider carrying a cell phone for emergencies.
Then, get out and enjoy the ride.