I actually made my way into cycling via a slightly convoluted route – I began running to lose some university blubber, was quickly injured, and took up triathlon after spending months swimming and cycling my way through the injury.
After a year or so of triathlon, I fell so in love with the bike that swimming and running rather lost their shine. Though I still dabble in the odd run or swim, and as of late a bit of yoga, here’s a look at why I think cycling tops the rest…
Secret velo culture initiation
Velo culture is all espressos and upturned peaks on cycling caps. It’s the little things, from knowing there should be no gap between warmers and clothing, to placing glasses OVER the straps, to practicing N+1. It’s non-serious in a slightly serious way – easy to mock but fun to be a part of.
It’s equating marmalade sandwhiches to Graeme Obree, and naming your pets after Merckx and Hinault. It’s cafe rides on recovery day, hours spent drinking in Look Mum No Hands! and lending CO2 to strangers at the roadside.
You’re not yet initiated if the term “Rule 5” doesn’t mean anything to you, or if you’ve still got hairy legs (unless your making some sort of statement). Velo culture unites all cyclists, some of it’s just fun, and some of it is based on history and a respect for the greatest riders of all time.
No sharing of public facilities required to cycle
(Image of local leisure center in January)
Purchase bike – ride. Though of course cycling does require ownership of a bike, it doesn’t require the user to frequent public facilities. (Unless you count Box Hill).
Public facilities operate opening hours, which can conflict with other plans; and the cost of using these on a regular basis can mount up, too. Oh – and they contain other people.
I love swimming – and I enjoy swimming with a club, where everyone is doing the same thing at the same pace – but public lanes? If it’s not super speedy tickling my toes every length, it’s breast-stroke-mc-sloweyson hogging the fast lane at 6.30am on a Wednesday morning, or the super pro person who is still slow when doing a kick set and should just get in the damn slow lane. And everyone knows that every gym in the country is inhabited by at least one “gym creep”.
Cycling doesn’t mess up your joints (too much)
Cycling isn’t weight bearing – unlike running, where your joints get a less than healthy pummelling unless you stick to off-road routes. Though a sudden increase in frequency or intensity of any physical activity can often result in an overuse injury, cycling is a safer bet.
I’m a bit of a sucker for routine – I want to do my Wednesday session on Wednesday and so on, and I hate skipping a planned bit of training. Over-cycling isn’t good for your form and won’t make you faster, but it usually just results in tired legs, not injury. Over-running, however – often results in days to weeks to months of hobbling. Runners need the discipline to say “I’m not running today”, and well – who likes discipline anyway?
That said, the lack of weight bearing exercise means cycling doesn’t strengthen bones and protect against Osteoporosis, like running does, so of course it’s good to be active in other ways, too…
(Cycling can result in other injuries – eg massive bruises/road rash)
Cycling can be used as a quick and efficient mode of transport
(Of course, you could be transporting yourself from Redhill – Portsmouth – Canes – Dieppe – Newhaven – Redhill..)
I’ll admit that I am aware there is such a strange and mythical group of people known as “run commuters” – but my argument is that it takes them longer to get to the same destination, so once again cycling wins.
Riding to and from work is a fantastic, time efficient way of keeping fit. It’s likely, unless you work from home, that you would otherwise spend the time you spend riding on a train, in a car or going by bus – so it makes sense to use the time to get some miles in the legs instead.
And of course, you don’t just have to ride to work, you can ride to explore .
All the cool gadgets and accessories
Football – needs spikes and a ball. Netball – needs a ball. Hockey – hockey sticks and a ball. Running – trainers. Swimming – cap, goggles, costume, and floats if you’re feeling adventurous.
Cycling is a sport that feeds the minds and souls of the techy, engineering types. Perhaps it’s the weave of your super puncture resilient tyres that ticks your boxes, or maybe you’re enjoying accessorising your bike with nifty lights that make patters as you ride. For speed freaks, there is a never ending library of research to be read regarding wind tunnel testing and integrated components.
There is endless variety
Bored of urban cycling and want to cast your net outside the daily grind? It could be easy to get bored of doing the same ride daily, but there is far too much variety within cycling to get bored of the activity altogether.
Over summer, there are miles and miles of road to explore, and certain 10, 25, 50 and 100 sections to be timed over. If you enjoyed that sprint over a set distance, track might be an option, but if you wanted to get there quicker sitting on someones wheel, it’s all about the crits.
In winter, rain makes friends with earth in a holy meeting that creates the perfect cyclocross conditions. If that’s not your thing, MTBing is the next step up. Whatever your ‘usual’, there is always something ‘unusual’ to try on two wheels.
Do you enjoy cycling as well as other active activities, or do you love cycling too much to sacrifice time on the bike?