So You're Looking For a Bike...
Feb 07 12:14 AM

So You're Looking For a Bike...

Feb 07 12:14 AM
Feb 07 12:14 AM

I may be a little bit biased, but I think riding a bicycle is one of the best ways to get in shape. It’s low-impact, not particularly complicated, there are lots of ways you can do it, and you can do it just about anywhere. But, don’t take my word for it. Instead, take my friends’ words for it.

In this post, I gathered some of my riding buddies, some of whom I’ve known for many years, and asked them to weigh in on the subject of riding a bike for fitness & exercise. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about:

  • Why you should consider riding a bike
  • What kind of bike you should ride
  • How to work on your bike
  • Must-have accessories

For now, let’s stick with the benefits of riding a bike. Of course, you know all about me and my story, but you’ll also hear from my friends Scott Walker, Jeff Holder, and Doug Walker. Hopefully, this post will give you some inside information on the world of cycling and perhaps even pique your interest.

Why a Bike?

Ford Baker: It was an easy choice for me, since I have spinal stenosis. Years of carrying around extra weight puts pressure on your lower back and causes a lot of pain as the nerves in your spine are pinched. The solution? Leaning forward and relieving some of that tension!

I used to walk with a cane, not because I’m elderly (though Doug would disagree) or because my legs are weak, but because it allowed me to lean forward without falling over. Riding a bicycle has the same effect, which is why I picked a road bike over a comfort bike. Being in an upright position doesn’t really help my back pain, but leaning forward sure does.

Ultimately, riding a bike is a long-term solution for my goals. Of course, your rear end is going to be a little sore, but at least you won’t be complaining of back pain.

Jeff Holder: Biking is a very good long-term solution for cardio exercise. Unless you are a lightweight, mechanically efficient runner, sooner or later you will have aching knees, hips, or back pain. One of the things that makes biking so much fun is that you see so much more of the outdoors on a ride, plus you’ll go much further than you would on a run or walk. Once you catch the biking fever, it’s easy to incorporate into so many different daily tasks...going to the store, commuting to work, etc. All of that is good for you, good for traffic, and good for the planet.

As a lifelong runner, I tried this as a change of pace because I was having knee problems. I still run today, but I’m running better than I have in years, largely due to the cross training and less wear & tear on my joints. My weight had actually plateaued as a runner...but pounds fell off of me when I started riding. I attribute this to the fact that while running is more intense, biking takes longer and burns more calories. Plus, having your heart rate up for a longer period makes a big difference.

You’ve also got to factor in the “addictive” factor of biking, because it appears to the gadget geek in all of us. Once you’re hooked, you’ll spend hours in a bike shop looking around. It’s also a learning sport, because things like cadence, body position, safety skills, group riding skills, etc can really improve the whole experience.

Doug Walker: It has two wheels and it’s fun! It’s very true that cycling is low impact on your body (particularly your knees). This is something you can do the rest of your life, and the added health benefits will likely extend your life.

Exercising in the outdoors is also a huge factor in making me want to cycle. You can enjoy the weather and the season, and you see the changes around you.It can get you where you need to be, and home from many places that would take someone else's time. If you have to drop off a car for repair, you can ride your bike home — even if the repair shop is a great distance away.

And if you have to run an errand, riding a bike instead of driving will not only benefit you, but it would also benefit the environment. I’ve also found that I’m able to do a lot of thinking when I ride and really focus my mental energy. It’s a wonderful time to work things out in your head.

Moreover, I’ve found that I tend to focus better in other parts of my life as a result. Probably from all those Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred rides with Ford.

Scott Walker: Biking is the only type of exercise that I have been able to sustain for long periods of time. While I love sports and being active, biking offers a unique opportunity to exercise and enjoy nature on many levels. And you can bike by yourself anytime and anywhere you want.

You can ride with friends, family, for charity, for raising awareness, or you can join clubs and go on nearly any level of group ride. You can sign up for a grueling challenge (like the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred) that, if you finish and survive, will be talked about amongst your non-riding friends for years. Hopefully. You can be competitive to any level you desire.

When we were kids, a bike was freedom to go anywhere that felt too far to walk — it still is. We would race anytime, anywhere at the drop of a hat, “race you to the corner” — we still do. In a way, riding connects me to my childhood, and yes, I am still a kid.

I can’t skip over the health benefits, either. I’ve had asthma and allergies my entire life, so I noticed several things from the world of biking that benefit me. I believe that by riding as little as 2-3 times a month, it helps my body react to the changes in the air quality as the seasons change.

An allergy shot basically puts a small dose of the things you are allergic to into your body so that your body learns to fight it. Though I don’t think this is scientifically proven, I believe that while deeply breathing in to get more oxygen, I am taking in more of the pollens and molds in the air. In a way, it’s like taking an allergy shot. I also seem to notice that my allergies act up more when I’m not getting in at least one ride per week.

Lastly, the “lung workouts” I get when trying to stay with a fast group or while pushing myself are greatly helping my endurance.

Anything Else?

There you have it, the definitive answer to why you should choose biking as your form of exercise.

Or, you’ve now got the opinions of some men who sometimes complain about each other when they ride, but who all agree that they’re all the better for it.

Next time, we’ll talk about which kind of bike you should consider. Don’t miss it.

Read Part II!

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