Ride of Your Life: Make Cycling Your New Gym
This guest post was written by Victor Jimenez, a professional bicycle fitter and technical cycling consultant. Victor is also the owner of Bicycle Lab and co-hosts the popular cycling podcast Cycling 360. The opinions expressed herein are his. To learn more about Victor, visit bicyclelab.com.
I was the first of my friends to get a road bike. At 12 years old, I had to work all summer cutting grass to save up enough money to buy it. It was bright orange, and I rode that bike everywhere I went.
That first bike progressed into a lifelong passion for riding bicycles. I have since ridden and raced throughout the U.S. and Europe in stage races, triathlons, and countless organized rides. I have raced on the track, toured long-distance, and best of all, I’m nowhere near done yet.
Why Ride? — The Need-to-Know
Cycling can be a lifelong adventure. And these are just a few of the reasons to consider getting in on the ride:
- Cycling is for all ages. Typically, people see cycling as something kids do for fun or to get to school. Once most Americans reach adulthood, they drop the bike and head to the gym for exercise. Often that’s when exercise becomes a chore. But cycling is a healthy activity that can continue throughout life.
- It’s fun and freeing. When you were a kid you never thought of riding a bike to be a chore. It was a fun, freeing experience where you could commune with the outdoors. That feeling of the wind in your face and the thrill of speeding down a steep hill just can’t be replicated with an indoor machine.
- It’s an “anywhere” sport. Don't get me wrong, I’m all for people going to the gym to get their dose of daily exercise. But often people forget that they can actually get a great workout outside on a road bike. Even in the heart of a big city you will find cyclists riding to work, training for their next race, and even heading out on a cycling vacation.
- Cycling can be social. Riding with groups can be a great way to connect with friends and meet new people. In my own experience, some of my best personal and business relationships have come about from riding. In urban and suburban areas it is very easy to find a group for just about any type of riding. Some might focus on road racing or triathlon, and others are just about having fun. Can’t find groups in your area? Try reaching out to other cyclists via social media to find out which communities and groups are close by.
Hit the Road — Your Action Plan
Ready to roll? Follow these simple tips for a lifetime of great riding:
- Make sure your bike fits. If your bike is not comfortable, it will not be fun. Most of the time it’s just a matter of having your bike set up properly. Find how-to guides online or seek out an expert who can help get you fitted.
- Buy high-quality equipment. Ask any artist or craftsperson about their work, and they’ll give you a long discourse on the benefits of great tools. When shopping for a bike or cycling gear, make sure you buy the best you can afford. It will be money well spent. (Side note: In my early bike racing years, I drove around in a little $400 Toyota with over $5,000 with of bikes and wheels parked up on the top.)
- Learn about your machine. Unlike other sports, in cycling you have a machine to take care of and keep in good working order. Learn how to perform basic maintenance such as changing a flat tire, lubricating the chain, and doing basic adjustments. Consider asking a friend to teach you, or sign up and take a class online.
- Start out slowly. If you’re new to cycling or getting more serious about your riding, proceed with care. Make sure to start out slow and avoid the temptation of heading out for a long ride before you’re ready. Try starting out with very short rides on familiar roads and slowly progress onto unfamiliar roads as your fitness and confidence improves.
- Keep it fun. It’s always amazing how many people lose sight of having fun. If you want this or any other exercise to stick it has to be enjoyable. The way I have kept if fun is by varying things up with different types of riding. (Note: Most of my friends that I used to race with no longer even ride bikes. I think for them it was about competition and being serious. They forgot that riding bicycles is supposed to be fun.)
Looking back, that orange bike was my ticket to a life long journey on two wheels. It has been a mainstay in my life and has led to a career of working with bikes and teaching athletes about cycling. I even met my wife while training in Colorado. The one thing that has always been the same whether I’m riding down to the coffee shop or riding a high mountain pass is that when I’m on two wheels I’m always having a good time. I have never really thought of cycling as exercise (and it is good exercise!). It’s just plain fun.
What’s your cycling story? What do you do to keep cycling fun? What are your barriers to riding? Let’s get talking in the comments below!
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