Looking for a new hobby to take up that will get you out of the house more and help you keep fit?
Cycling has many benefits on many levels. We look at the health, social, well being, environmental, a few general and fun benefits of getting out and about on your bike.
Our list is also super useful if you need to justify to your partner or friends why you have been bitten by the bike bug. Reel off a few of these health and well being benefits and you’ll probably have a few more cyclists joining your rides.
1. Easy to get started
Getting started with cycling is easy. All you need is a bike and a helmet.
You don’t need any fancy lycra shorts and carbon fiber wheels.
Just a bike, a helmet and somewhere to ride it.
Find a local cycle route and get going. Start with a few miles out and a few miles back, or simply cycle to work when the weather is nice.
2. Cycling is Fun
Cycling is good fun. It’s one of the few sports where you can be ‘doing it’ and still have a chat at the same time. There are cycling clubs up and down the country that do group rides on the weekend, and in the evenings in summer. Check out the British Cycling Club Finder page https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/clubfinder
Cycling and Health
3. Low impact
If you are worried about your joints, or are suffering impact injuries from running or a sport that involves running such as football – cycling will be great for your body.
As most of your body weight is supported on the saddle through your butt or your arms on your handle bars – ankles, knees and hips are not bearing load. There is also no impact on these joints as you propel yourself along.
If you’ve had to give up running because of injury, cycling is a great cardio form of exercise. If you do still want to run, cycling will help strengthen muscles around your joints that will help build against injuries.
It’s no surprise that cycling on a stationary bike is often part of a recovery routine prescribed for people who have knee and hip operations.
4. Good for weight loss
Cycling is great for weight loss!
When you exercise you do so at various zones related to your heart rate. Everybody’s zones and related heart rates are different, so you’ll need to calibrate yourself to each zone.
Zone 1 – Very gentle exercise eg walking
Zone 2 – Moderate exercise, still able to talk without getting out of breath.
Zone 3 – Challenging but doable. Out of breath, able to maintain for 30 mins or so.
Zone 4 – Big effort. Only able to maintain for 1-2 minutes eg sprinting.
A lot of cycling is in zone 2 – which is great news as this is the fat burning zone. Other forms of exercise may quickly take you into zone 3, but everybody can gently cycle along in zone 2 and have a chat with a friend.
Zone 2 is when your body will metabolize fat as fuel, so help with reducing your overall percentage fat of body weight.
It’s not an instant effect, you won’t immediately lose that annoying belly fat. But plenty of cycling in zone 2 will help you lose weight.
5. Great for stamina
Stamina is the ability to sustain prolonged physical effort. Cycling will quickly help you build up your stamina, which from above we’d consider being effort in Zone 2 or 3.
Going along at zone 2 is quite an easy effort so it’s something you can continue to do for a long period of time without putting wear and tear through joints and especially knees and hips.
Zone 3 is the kind of effort you’d need to put in going up a hill. Don’t be afraid of hills – they are good for your health! And remember what goes up, means the fun of coming down…
6. Decrease stress levels and improves mental well being
There are many studies that closely align improved well being and reduced stress with regular exercise. As with sleep, it could be considered a bi-directional relationship where if you do not exercise, your stress level and mental well being decreases which in turn reduces the chance of you exercising.
So if you are feeling a bit ‘meh’ – force yourself to get out and do some exercise and start a positive cycle (ha!). Getting into the routine of commuting means you’ll regularly be getting your endorphine hit and also de-stressing from a days work on the ride home.
7. Builds muscle
Cycling will certainly help build your leg muscles, specifically your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. It won’t make your legs bulk up however, it is lifting weights at the gym that will do that. Cycling will get your legs more toned with better muscle definition.
8. Eat without guilt
As you cycle more and are able to cover more distance, you’ll burn a lot of calories.
This means you can tuck into your favourite cake without the feeling of guilt! Cake might even make up part of your re-fueling strategy. Cyclists are well known for coffee shop breaks and a helping of cake.
9. Good lung health
Regular cardiovascular exercise will not only give your legs and heart a good workout, but will also give your lungs a good test. This includes the muscles involved in the breathing process around your diaphram. All of this increases the amount of oxygen your body can use from each breath and helps make your lungs and body more efficient at doing what it needs to do to keep you cycling along the road.
10. Cut heart disease
The British Heart Foundation report that around 100,000 fatal heart attacks could be avoided each year in the UK if people kept fit. Cycling just 20 miles a week is reported to half the risk of heart disease compared to those who do nothing.
As we’ve already said, cycling is great for losing weight – which is also great for your heart.
11. Cut cancer risk
There are plenty of studies that relate lack of fitness and being overweight to an increased risk of cancer. A long term study in Finland found that men who did 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day were half as likely to develop cancer.
We all live busy lives, and even with those stats it can be hard to exercise every day, but a commute to work can be a good way of getting it in.
12. Sleep better
If you exercise each day, you are going to sleep better at night. Both the amount of sleep you get, and the quality of it. Recent studies have also shown it is a bi-directional relationship – so if you sleep badly, you are less likely to exercise. This is certainly a vicious circle that needs to be broken!
If you are finding your sleep quality isn’t great and you wake up feeling tired, we know it then takes more motivation to get out on the bike and exercise. But knowing a good pedal will break this vicious circle will hopefully give you the extra jolt of energy to get it done.
13. Brain health
Studies have shown that regular exercise can also keep your brain healthy and improve memory and thinking skills.
As we live longer and survival rates from physical issues such as heart disease and cancer improves, we want to be looking after our brains when we are physically active so we can be mentally alert into older age.
Exercise has been shown to directly improve brain health by reducing insulin resistance, inflammation, and stimulate the chemicals in the brain that help the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the survival of brain cells.
Indirectly, as we have already covered, exercise helps improve sleep quality and reduce stress – both of which contribute to positive brain health.
14. Boost immune system
Studies have shown that regular exercise helps keep an immune system healthy and functioning correctly, giving your body the best chance of fighting off diseases such as the common cold.
The study by Appalachian State University (ASU) in North Carolina reports that fit and healthy people are affected less by the severity of the symptoms, than people who do no exercise.
15. Live longer
As we have seen from the last 6 points – by exercising regularly, you can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, improve your lung health, sleep, brain health and boost your immune system. These all add up to the probability being in your favour of living a longer and healthier life.
Regular exercise needs to be something that you can go on a frequent basis. Cycling is a form of exercise that can be done without leading to stiffness and muscle soreness – so it’s more effective at being something you can do every day!
16. Get an endorphin high
When doing exercise your body releases endorphins which reduces your perception of pain by reacting with the receptors in your brain. Endorphins are similar in structure to the drug morphine!
As well as reducing the feeling of exercise induced pain, endorphins also make you feel happy and give you a ‘natural high’.
17. You can train indoors
Indoor training has come a long way for cycling. Turbo trainers and rollers have been a thing for a while, but they are pretty boring. With the advent of smart trainers and apps such as Zwift, virtual cycling makes the time whizz by and racing online is great fun.
18. You can race indoors
Racing online can become quite addictive. Zwift is the default platform to try first if you want a go. Most Zwift races have 4 categories which are based on power and weight. This means you can race against fellow cyclists of a similar fitness rather than category 1 road racers – unless of course, you already are a category 1 road racer!
Zwift races get off to a frantic start, as you can spin your legs quickly as the countdown to the race start so you launch off rather than beginning from a standing start. This means the race almost start at a sprint effort!
Eventually, if you start off too quickly, you’ll find yourself in a group of riders who go at a similar level. This is really good fun! You feel part of a real peloton each taking a turn on the front.
19. You can be competitive at any age
If racing or competing against the clock is your thing you’ll find many events have various age categories. This allows you to be competitive whatever your age is – young, or old.
20. Save your knees
If you have been into running, or a sport such as football or rugby that involves a lot of running, it may be that you are worried about your knees as you get older. You may even have an old injury from football such as acl injury that still gives you issues?
The good news is cycling generally won’t put any stress on your knee joints. As it isn’t a load bearing form of exercise, and there is no twisting and turning, you should be able to cycle without any knee problems as long as you stretch regularly!
If you do suffer from any knee issues when cycling there are a couple of things to look at:
- Bike setup – it might be worth getting a proper bike fit done, especially if you are using clip in pedals. Having your saddle position wrong can lead to knee pain, as well as having the pedal cleats in the wrong position.
- Flexibility – if your quad muscles (the large muscle at the top, front of your legs) are tight this can lead to some pain which feels as though it is coming from underneath your knee caps. Lots of stretching and foam rolling are the cure.
21. Increase hydration
As you begin to get out on your bicycle and exercise more – you’ll feel the need to drink more water. Hydration is really important for us, but the general population do not drink enough each day. A recent study estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
Staying hydrated helps your recovery time from exercise, as well as improves your cognitive ability.
After each ride, you’ll learn the more hydrated you are the quicker you’ll recover. Knowing this encourages you to drink more, which will improve all areas of your body and mind.
22. Recover from injury
As we’ve already covered, cycling is good to help with joint, muscle and bone related injuries as it isn’t a load bearing exercise.
It’s a great way to keep exercising while you recover from injury to stop you putting weight on and losing cardio fitness.
Social and well being
23. Build self confidence
Cycling is more than just sitting on your bike and peddling. By getting out and about on your bike you’ll be developing many new skills
- Mechanics of looking after your bike
- Navigating around and plotting routes
- Getting use to chatting to fellow cyclists as you meet them out and about
You’ll also be getting plenty of fresh air – a well known way of improving well being.
Learning new skills and doing new things helps build self confidence.
24. Push your limits
As you cycle more you are going to extend the distances you cycle and each longer ride will push your limits. You will surprise yourself how quickly, with regular riding, you can be cycling longer distances.
Pushing your limits and beating your own distance records will really help build your self confidence that you can go further. Not just with cycling, but with other areas of your life.
The best way to push your limits is to enter a sportive event distance that is further than you have cycled before.
Cycling gives you time to explore where you live.
We often rush around our lives in the car, with places to go, that we often forget to explore the areas where we live. Cycling lets us explore these areas with a full sensory experience and at a much slower speed.
When you go on holiday or visit a new place, take or hire a bike. Check out Strava for common cycle routes or pop into the local bike shop and ask for advice on where to go.
26. Social activity
Cycling can be a very solitary hobby if that is what you want from it, but with cycling clubs based out of most cities and towns you will likely be able to find a club near by.
Cycling clubs offer regular rides at the weekend and evenings during the summer. They often have different groups go out together, based on fitness and speed – so you’ll be sure to ride with a group of similar fitness to yourself.
Even if there is no official cycling club where you live, pop to your closest local bike shop and have a chat with them. We can guarantee there will be groups of people who meet up at regular times during the week to go out for a ride together.
27. Improve navigational skills
I remember the days before sat nav with dad driving, and mum trying to navigate using the massive AA road map!
With sat nav and Google Maps, being able to map read isn’t such a required skill – but it is still useful nonetheless. I am not suggesting you’ll be riding along with a map flapping around on your handle bars (they do make bike specific GPS devices!) but you’ll need to be able to use maps to plan your routes before you set off.
After a while you’ll get familiar with the types of roads that are less busy, which ones go up steep hills, and where to plan breaks for lunch and refreshments.
28. Family activity
Children absolutely love cycling!
From a very young age you can get them on a tricycle, then a bike with stabilizers, and before you know it they’ll be whizzing around on two wheels.
It’s a great way to get them outdoors and burn off some energy!
If they are super young, consider getting them a seat that fits your bike, or a trailer.
29. Cycling holidays
When planning your next holiday do some research to find out how bike friendly the place is.
Many European countries have much better facilities and laws for cyclists (think France and Holland) if you are planning to go broad, but there are also plenty of safe destinations to make the most of two wheels such as Centre Parcs.
30. Think creatively
Stuck on a problem? Get out in the fresh air. Research has shown that changing your situation, and engaging other senses, creates new pathways between neurons in the brain that help think up new solutions problems.
Ever wondered why good ideas come in the shower? That’s because you are engaging different senses in different ways. The same can be said for cycling – sound, feel etc are different each time you ride.
Get some exercise and get creative!
31. You can off-road!
The great thing about cycling is it can take many forms. If you fancy a bit of a change, why not head off road and get muddy!
Mountain biking is great for improving your bike handling skills. Also because you need to keep your bum on the saddle when pedaling uphill so your back wheel doesn’t slip it can really help improve your pedaling technique.
31. Join a cycling club
Most major cities and towns will have a cycling club. A quick Google will help.
Cycling clubs aren’t just about getting on your bike. Many organise other fitness activities such as circuit training and social events.
32. Inspire others
As you start to get the miles under your belt you’ll start to shed a few pounds. In the summer you’ll also start to get a nice tan (although be careful of hiding/disguising your tan lines!).
As you start to look and feel better, people will start to pass you compliments, they’ll be intrigued and interested when you mention cycling is your thing. Invite them out for a ride, be their mentor if they haven’t ever done any cycling, and lead a group of friends on a journey to fitness and health.
33. Support charity
Big challenges such as sportive events (think Ride Across Britiain, or Ride London) give you the opportunity to raise money for charitable causes that are important to you.
When it’s cold and wet outside, and you need to get a training ride in, knowing you will be raising money for a good cause is extra motivation to get you out and get that training done.
34. Explore new places
Cycling is a fantastic way to explore new places whether visiting on holiday or business. A lot of major cities now have their own rent a bike scheme such as London’s Boris Bikes, although we would recommend taking and using a helmet with one of these.
35. Learn new mechanical skills
Buying a bike can be a big investment so you are going to want to look after your new wheels once you have them.
Keeping your bike clean and well looked after will make the components such as the chain last longer, but a clean well looked after bike is also safer and more road worthy.
You’ll get used to changing inner tubes, tyres, and components as you spend more time riding and these mechanical skills (and the purchase of a decent toolset) will come in good use in other areas of day to day living.
36. Great for the environment
Reducing your car usage is a great way to do your bit for the environment. Not only is it the direct pollution that comes out of the car exhaust, but tyres, brakes and other components that need replacing on cars cause pollution during the manufacturing process.
37. Avoid pollution
Getting out of your car is actually the best way for you to avoid pollution as well.
Sitting in a car, you are right behind other cars exhausts and those fumes are drawn into your car via air vents. Cars do have pollution filters fitted, but these cannot stop vehicles being the worst place to be for a dose car exhaust pollutants.
38. Don’t get stuck in traffic
Use the cycle lane, or carefully overtake stationary traffic. Either way if there is any kind of congestion you aren’t going to get stuck in traffic.
39. Save on Parking
If you work in a city centre you will probably have to pay for parking your car when you get there.
Thankfully there are no charges for locking your bike up, and companies often provide secure bike storage to encourage team members to cycle in. Some even offer cash incentives!
40. Become a better driver
You can feel quite vulnerable on a bike compared to the enclosed safety of a car.
You are much more aware of the traffic around you when cycling and always expecting an unexpected maneuver from a car without any indication.
Realizing what a danger vehicles can pose to cyclists, pedestrians and even motorcyclists will make you a better driver when you are back in your car.
41. Cycling is accessible to all
Cycling can be enjoyed by all ages and all abilities, especially when using safe cycling paths. Using an adopted bike is also a great way for people with a disability to gain independence and a sense of freedom.
Recently eBikes have gained huge popularity as battery technology has improved to make them smaller and last longer. eBikes make it much easier to get up hills, which can mean you can keep cycling as you get older, or even get into work less sweaty on your daily commute.
42. It doesn’t have to be expensive
As much as we can write about how good cycling is for you, your family and the world in general – there are still people who will spend a load of money on gear, and then not do it.
There loss, is your gain, as you’ll find huge amounts of nearly new items available at great prices on eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
43. You can buy a bike through Cycle to Work Scheme
In the UK there is something called the Cycle to Work Scheme that is there to encourage people to buy a bike and cycle to work. With this scheme you can save money on the purchase of your bike, clothing and accessories. You can also spread the payment of these items over a 12 month period.
44. Learn shortcuts
As you cycle around you’ll see roads that you always wondered where they went. When you are on two wheels you are always looking at Google Maps and Strava for new route inspiration and finding yourself riding down those roads you have never driven down.
This is great when there are road closures and diversions. You will know all the alternative routes to get home!
45. Men have a reason for shaving their legs!
If you have ever wanted to have silky smooth legs, but not really had a good reason to do it – become a cyclist.
Admittedly you need to be verging on pro-level for this to be acceptable, amongst non-cyclists at least, but if you feel it will make you go faster get the shaving foam and razor out!
46. You will become best friends with your local couriers
Once the cycling bug bites and you find yourself ordering online, your local courier service dropping off parcels will become a common occurrence. You’ll certainly get on first name terms with the delivery man, although you might need to both work out a way for parcels to be delivered without your other half realising how much you are spending on cycling gear!
47. You’ll have plenty of magazines to read
Start a new hobby, go and buy the magazines and start reading.
That is what I do at least. If you are super committed take out a subscription straight away.
48. Useful gifts at Christmas and Birthdays
Fed up with pants and socks for Christmas? If you let everyone know cycling is your new thing at least you might get some nice cycling socks!
There are loads of stocking fillers available for cyclists. You just need to make sure people know about your new hobby.