Whether you live in a rural area or urban cityscape, bicycling is a popular way for people of all ages to get around. With the rise in bike shares and bike lane construction, it’s become easier and easier to hop on a bicycle, be it to commute, get some exercise, or just take a leisurely ride. If you haven’t already given cycling a shot, here is what you need to know to get started.
The Health Benefits
Unlike other aerobic exercises like jogging, biking is not hard on your joints. Rather than putting pressure on the legs and knees, the weight is focused on the pelvis, which is less impactful. The pedaling motion works the hamstrings, hip flexor muscles, gluteus muscles, abs, arms, shoulders, thighs, and calves. It also gets your heart rate up, which adds bonus points for heart health.
Getting Geared Up
Smart biking requires more preparation than other sports. First of all, you must have the right equipment. The initial step would be going to a reputable bike shop. Most employees in these stores are serious biking enthusiasts and enjoy sharing their expertise.
Basic bikes fall into four categories:
- Road bikes, which are lighter and made for use on roadways.
- Mountain bikes, which are durable and made for off-road biking.
- Hybrid bikes, which combine the values of road and mountain bikes.
- Electric bikes, otherwise known as e-bikes, which give you an extra boost for hills and speed.
Hybrids are good for pavements and dirt roads. Prices for all three can run from a couple hundred well into the thousands, If you’re just starting out, it makes sense to not overspend. You can always upgrade later.
It is important that the bike is fitted properly. The seat and handlebars should be at the right heights for the rider.
A knowledgeable salesperson can also help you with the accessories. You’ll need a strong helmet (required in many municipalities), padded bottoms, and other apparel designed for the sport. Cushioned gloves, bicycling glasses, shoes, and water bottles are a few other items you’ll need. Having a small GPS device on the bike to keep you from getting lost and to track your miles is also recommended.
The ABCs of Bicycling
Many active adults prefer to ride solo but beginners should contact a bicycling group to get started. Aside from sharing safety rules, these groups allow newcomers to practice and learn all the ins and outs of this sport. Groups like Cynergy Cycling Club in New Jersey’s Burlington County categorize their group rides into A, B, and C (even including subgroups such as B- and B+). First-timers can start in a C or D group, which can average around 10 mph on flat terrains. As riders get stronger, they move up. The fastest groups can ride at over 20 mph.
There are many groups like these all over the country. In Florida, it is easy to find a group by visiting FloridaBicycle.org or checking out the Florida Cycling Association. Along with the support and camaraderie these clubs provide, they are a great way to meet other 55+ bicyclists. Many sponsor holiday parties and other social events. They also participate in fundraisers and biking events, like Bike MS, which benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Make Safety a Priority
A bicycle is a vehicle and riders must follow safety precautions when on the road. Before getting started, make sure you check all your equipment. Tires should be properly inflated, front and rear lights should be on, and the brakes should be tested.
All bicyclists should wear helmets for their own safety while respecting other bicyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles that are sharing the road. Knowing how to use hand signals and how to conduct yourself at stop signs and red lights makes everything safer for all those around you. Taking the time to perfect these skills will make you a better biker. It will allow you to spend quality time outdoors while boosting your health and happiness. Ride on!