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Ride Your Way to Fun And Fitness

Bicycling offers something for everyone.

If you think getting fit can't be fun, you haven't tried bicycling!

Bicycling offers something for everyone. If you're a nature lover, wooded trails await you and your mountain bike. If travel is your passion, you can pedal your way through historic cities and scenic country sides. If competing gets your heart pumping, triathlons and bike-a-thons abound.

Or maybe you're into multitasking - getting your exercise and business out of the way at the same time. No problem! You can use your bicycle to commute to work or run errands. Not only is bicycling a cheap and healthy form of transportation, it doesn't hurt the environment.

Fun For All Ages

Because bicycling appeals to all ages, it's also a great family activity - something you can do with your children or grandchildren that will get everyone moving and having fun, says Patrick McCormick, a bicycle enthusiast and spokesman for the League of American Bicyclists.

Bicycling gives you a low-impact, aerobic workout that strengthens your legs, including your knees. It also can help you lose pounds and stay a healthy weight, according to McCormick. A 150-pound cyclist pedaling 12 miles an hour can burn off 410 calories - about the same number in a McDonald's Quarter Pounder.

Choosing A Bike

The kind of bicycle you buy depends on what you want it for. If you're into off-road cycling, for example, you'll need a sturdier mountain bike with thicker tires for dirt or gravel roads. If you want to race, a lighter-weight bike with skinny tires is best.

Maybe you're just looking for a standard, run-of-the-mill bicycle. This kind of bike would be slightly more upright than racing bikes but not as heavy duty as mountain bikes, according to Randy Swart, director of the Bike Helmet Safety Institute. While you can spend up to thousands of dollars on a bike, a department store special might suit your needs just as well.

Paying more for a bike doesn't necessarily make it better or safer, says Swart. But sometimes cheaper bicycles aren't assembled right. Just make sure that you can take your bike back to be fixed if there is a problem.

Comfort Counts

When you shop for a bike, think comfort. You won't want to spend much time on a bicycle that's uncomfortable. A good salesperson can help you pick a bike that's the right size and style for your body and needs. Things that will affect your comfort include:

  • height and angle of the handlebars and seat
  • height and size of the bike
  • shape and style of the seat

Some bicycle gear can add comfort to your ride. Cushioned bike seat covers and biking shorts add extra padding, and cycling shoes can make pedaling easier. Eyeglasses and protective clothing like gloves and windbreakers can also improve comfort.

Biker Safety

Ready to roll? Don't set your wheels in motion without learning how to stay safe.


A helmet is your most important piece of gear and a must for cyclists of all ages. Bicycle-related head injuries send about 17,000 people to the hospital and 500 people to their death each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You should wear a helmet whenever you're riding a bicycle.

By law, all helmets must now carry a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker, so even the cheapest ones provide you that protection, according to Swart. When choosing a helmet, look for one that:

  • sits level on your head
  • fits snugly all around and won ' t come off or move more than about an inch in any direction (try tugging at it) after you adjust it
  • has enough ventilation so it ' s not too hot
  • is brightly colored so it's easy to see
  • has extra foam thickness

Extra foam can soften a blow if you happen to fall, says Swart. This is especially important if you're older because, like other parts of your body, your brain gets more brittle with age.

Rules of the Road

Follow these basic traffic rules from the League of American Bicyclists:

  • Follow traffic signals and laws (stop at red lights; follow stop, yield, and other traffic signs, etc.).
  • Always ride on the right and with the flow of traffic so cars can see you.
  • Use hand signals when switching lanes.
  • Avoid riding on the sidewalk. Crossing driveways, streets, and intersections is more dangerous because cars aren ' t expecting you and can ' t see you as well.
  • Avoid turn lanes. If your lane turns into a right-turn-only lane, change lanes before the intersection.
  • Stay alert. Be on the lookout for anything that can cause an accident: doors opening on parked cars, animals, other bikers, joggers, walkers, and motorists who might be in your blind spot.


Other Safety Issues

Here are some other important safety issues to keep in mind when biking:

  • Stay visible. It's important to stay visible at all times when you're on a bicycle. Wear bright clothes. If you must ride at night, make sure you have both reflectors and lights, says Swart, including red, blinking lights on the back of your bike and a front headlight.
  • Be prepared. Carry a portable repair kit and know how to use it if something goes wrong with your bicycle.
  • Take care of yourself. Biking can be strenuous exercise, especially on hills and rough terrain, and in extreme heat or bad weather conditions. Make sure you drink enough water before you set out and carry some with you. Protect yourself from the sun and wind, and dress for the weather if it's hot or cold. If you get overheated or feel dizzy, shaky, or nauseous, stop and rest.


If you're serious about biking, consider taking a bicycle education class. It will teach you about bike safety, maintenance, and repair, and increase your enjoyment of the sport, says McCormick. There also are cycling groups and clubs that offer helpful information in addition to organized trips and races.

So get ready, strap on your helmet and start peddling - you might not want to stop!

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