This summer could be the perfect time to get on your bike – losing weight, boosting your fitness and saving money.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a 200 per cent rise in the number of people taking advantage of cycle-to-work schemes to get discounted bicycles.
And Brompton, the UK’s largest bike manufacturer, has seen online sales increase fivefold since the start of April.
Paul Tomlinson, cycling director at Halfords, said: “With public transport heavily reduced and social distancing measures likely to stay in place for some time, cycling is the obvious answer.
“And with talk of a huge increase in cycling lanes, and fewer cars and buses on the roads, it’s safer than ever.”
As far as health is concerned, cycling is a mainly aerobic activity – meaning your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a good workout.
You will breathe more deeply, perspire and raise your body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level.
The health benefits of regular cycling also bring improved joint mobility and a lowering of stress levels.
Here Andy Wadsworth , elite cycling trainer with specialist bike advice experts bwcycling.co.uk, explains how to get your wheels working for you.
Your muscles take time to adapt to any new regime, and if you overdo it you can suffer joint problems, a bad back and a range of other ailments.
Try incorporating short rides into your daily routine, mixed with occasional longer ones, taking in some hills when you can to push yourself.
And don’t forget some simple stretches after each outing.
For a simple 8-week couch-to-30-mile training plan, see redbull.com/gb-en/beginners-cycling-plan-training-guide
Fuel up, stay hydrated
Whether you prefer a water bottle or a hydration backpack, make sure you pack some fluid whenever you’re heading out.
You can nearly always find somewhere to refill along the way. And avoid the dreaded “bonk”, where your body runs out of fuel and you grind to a painful halt.
Carry some energy gels, cereal bars or a banana.
Finish longer rides with a recovery drink: 300ml milk, one banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter and some honey, all whizzed up in a blender.
Use your gears
Unless you’re riding a “fixie” (one gear, no freeriding potential), gears are your friend.
Try to maintain a high, regular pedalling “cadence” – how often your legs make a single revolution.
You should be aiming for 70-90 per minute, or three every two seconds.
If you’re grinding too hard a gear, your cadence will drop and power output will tail off.
For big hills, shift into a low (easy) gear as you approach, just before you start to struggle.
And avoid “cross chaining” – if you’re in the largest chain ring, don’t run it with the largest cassette cog (or, smallest chain ring and smallest cog).
This stretches the chain and puts extra stress on the system.
The front brake is much more effective at stopping you than the rear but be careful not to lock up by hitting it too hard and sudden. Modern brakes are powerful, and you don’t want to skid or go over the handlebars, so apply the rear brake a split second before the front.
Try to achieve 60/40 or 70/30 pulling power distribution between front and rear brakes.
When cornering, ensure your outside pedal is at the lowest position, with pressure being placed on it. This will give more grip, particularly in the wet.
Put a lid on it
Wear a helmet. Head injuries are behind 60 per cent of cycling deaths, so consider it cheap life insurance.
It’s easy to find a comfy, light and affordable one – while also meeting safety standards.
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Protect your peepers
Imagine driving a car with no windscreen… Get some cycling sunglasses. They protect your eyes from bugs, stones, sun and rain, and make you safer too.
Some have interchangeable lenses so, if you can, get one lens for bright conditions and one for dull, wet days.
Keep your bike happy
Bike maintenance isn’t a phrase that should frighten you.
Once you know the basics it’s pretty simple (although it’s handy having a friendly bike shop nearby too). Clean and oil your chain regularly, particularly if you ride in bad weather.
You’ll eliminate the dreaded creak cyclists hate, and more expensive parts like chain-rings will wear out less quickly.
Check your tyre pressure for every ride so you get maximum grip and efficiency. Invest in a “track pump” with a pressure gauge – they require less effort.
Clean your bike often with hot soapy water and a sponge.
Use specialist degreaser for the drivetrain (cassette, chain, crankset and so on). Then stop mud and dirt sticking by spraying the bike all over with a silicone aerosol – but avoiding the braking surfaces.
Fill the hole
Learning how to fix a puncture quickly will reap dividends.
Always carry a repair kit (including tyre levers, patches or a new inner tube, and a small pump). For how-to guides, gen up with online videos at cyclist.co.uk/tags/bike-maintenance
Our pick of cycling kit
Best women’s bike; Pinnacle Lithium 2 2020, £390 ( evanscycles.com )
Perfect for a commute or leisurely weekend ride thanks to its light but durable alloy frame. Its slick 40c tyres roll like silk over tarmac, with super-responsive V-brakes so you are always in control.
Best men’s bike Carrera Crossfire Men’s Hybrid Bike, £250 ( halfords.co.uk )
With a lightweight aluminium frame and 21 gears, this is as
versatile as it is easy to ride. And with unlimited lifetime
safety checks offered by Halfords, it’s an excellent choice.
Lazer Compact Helmet Flash Yellow, £25 (halfords.com)
Style and performance on a budget. Adjustable fixtures for a perfect fit and 20 cooling vents.
Rolltop commuter bag, £65 ( columbiasportswear.co.uk )
This 25 litre bag keeps all your stuff bone dry, including a padded section for your laptop.