Road biking is a great way to get and stay fit. Choosing to bike rather than drive not only provides for a greener transportation alternative that saves gas, it offers you the potential to build muscle and burn thousands of calories each month!
Get Started on a Path to Fitness!
By Andrew Shaughnessy
A Total Workout
Road biking quickly raises and sustains a high heart rate and gives a somewhat balanced, whole-body workout. While pedaling is a natural way to build the legs (particularly the quads, glutes and calves), maintaining stability and standing while pedaling up hills can work the upper body, especially the core, chest and triceps.
As a low-impact fitness activity, road biking is much easier on the joints than walking or running, putting significantly less stress on the spine, knees and ankles. To maximize this benefit, the knee should be slightly bent at the downward pedal stroke. If the knee is bent too much or is too straight, the saddle should be adjusted.
Consider the following when getting started on this path to fitness.
Establish Good Technique. This is crucial for maximizing the health and fitness benefits of road biking. Push and pull the pedals in a constant, circular motion to engage and tone more and different muscles. Try to be intentional with leg strengthening workouts. Start by warming up, then alternate between easy, medium and tough intervals of 5-10 minutes. Stay hydrated during extended cycling, and incorporate a stretching routine before and after to prevent injury or strains.
Choose the Right Bike. Think through exactly how you will be using your bike. If you intend to use it simply for physical training or for racing, a sleeker road bike may be for you. If the intent is a multipurpose commuter bike, consider getting fatter tires (for better traction and overall toughness), a corrosion-resistant frame and lower gears (to deal with extra weight you may carry on your commute). Your local bike shop can best help you through these choices, and help you get a proper fit to minimize stress on the wrists and neck.
Take Safety Precautions. Bike accidents can cause serious injuries, so why not err on the side of caution? Wear visible clothing and most importantly, a helmet that fits. Follow traffic laws and be alert around cars. Keep your shoelaces tied to prevent them from becoming caught in the chain.
Plan Ahead. Successful biking for transportation involves planning ahead. Be sure you have a place to lock up your bike at your destination. Add saddlebags or wear a small backpack to carry along a cellphone, ID, and, if you’re riding to work, a change of clothes. Finding a good route choice is another important part of planning ahead. Safe, well-maintained roads with bike lanes are always the best bet.
Maintain Your Bike. If you have an older bike or one that simply hasn’t been used in a while, it may be time to get it checked out by your local bike shop. Brakes and tires should be maintained with particular care.
Whether you’re riding for fun or simply looking for a greener commute, road biking can be a fun way to propel you towards new heights of physical fitness. So why wait? It’s time to get started on a path to fitness!
Andrew Shaughnessy is a freelance writer residing in Flinstone, Ga. He is a recent graduate of Covenant College, where he majored in both History and English.