Five mental benefits of cycling

mark-dziuban-cycling-mental

Like many fitness-based hobbies and endeavors, cycling can provide a fair amount of both physical benefits, ranging from improved cardiovascular health to increases in leg muscle. However, cycling also holds a lot of potential in terms of its mental benefits. These benefits range from mood enhancements to a spike in general sharpness during the day.

Here are a few of the biggest mental benefits of cycling.

 

Better memory

We all forget now and then, but a cycling lifestyle can keep you above average in terms of remembrance. Cycling, and most aerobic exercise in general, acts as a natural stimulant for the brain, increasing blood flow and supplying oxygen and nutrients. A quick bike ride may be exactly what you need to clear your mind and bring forgotten matters back into the foreground.

 

Better self-confidence

The feeling of accomplishment attached to most sports and fitness hobbies is reason enough to get up off the couch. Cycling, however, holds a unique strand of this positive emotion; it provides the rare chance to push yourself to your aerobic threshold for miles on end, reflecting on the journey later on. This process can maximize your confidence — if anything, take pride in the fact that you are doing something not many other people do, on average.

 

Better all-around mood

Perhaps the most important mental benefit of cycling is that it can positively influence your mood. A little exercise on a regular basis can go a long way in terms of keeping you generally happy and, as mentioned in the previous section, confident in yourself as a physically fit human being. Aerobic exercise has also been linked to improvements in anxiety and depression, making it a powerful natural remedy for potentially crippling mood swings.

 

Better challenge management

Cycling is not always intended to be a highly painful, grueling affair, but it can greatly increase your threshold for pain and physical challenge in general — regardless of the intensity at which you ride. Building physical endurance can translate well into mental endurance by fostering an ability to compartmentalize a pressing or tiring situation (for example, you may take a long ride a mile at a time rather than focusing on the entire intended distance from the start). Building this type of mental muscle memory is a great practice for improving your overall quality of life.

 

Better connectivity

Research has shown that continued practice of the same motor skill can improve connectivity within the brain’s various regions, and what is cycling but a continuous motion over an extended period of time? By pedaling on a regular basis, you can increase the amount of your brain’s white matter, or the parts of the brain that facilitate smooth communication between regions — this will keep you thinking smoothly and clearly.

Tips for beginning cyclists

mark-dziuban-beginning-cyclists

 

Millions of Americans, myself included, ride bikes.  And that number is growing all the time.  If you’re thinking of joining the growing number of people joining the cycling movement, here are some tips for beginner cyclists, taken from a great post I read on the site active.com:

 

Protect your skull

Every year, head injuries are responsible for nearly 60% of cycling deaths in the US, and many of these could be avoided by wearing a helmet.  Many states have bike helmet laws, but law or no law, you should always wear one.  And if you’re cycling with your kids, make sure they do too.  

 

Use your gears

When climbing hills, shift into a gear that will keep your cadence in the right range of rpm’s, so that you can make it without putting undue stress on your knees.  

 

…and avoid pedaling in high gear for too long

A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your cadence between 70 and 90 rpm’s.  When you pedal in a high gear, then it puts added strain on your knees.

 

Get the right saddle

The right saddle makes a huge difference when you’re riding.  The thickest padding won’t necessarily give you the most comfortable ride.  Generally the best type of saddle is a longer seat with a cutout.  

 

Change position while riding

If you keep your hands, arms, or rear in the same position for too long, then they risk getting numb.  To avoid this, make sure you mix things up.  Move your hands around on the bars, and move your rear end around on the saddle.  

 

Don’t ride with your headphones on

A lot of people enjoy listening to music or podcasts while they’re working out.  But that’s not something you want to do when you’re riding a bike.  If you can’t hear an emergency vehicle or other commotions behind you or off to the side because your music is playing too loud, then that can be extremely dangerous.  If you do want music, try for a small clip-on radio with a speaker that you can attach to your jersey.  

 

Know the rules

Ride with traffic and obey all road signs.  They’re meant for bikes just as much as cars!  Keep a close eye on all cars in front of you so that you can try and anticipate what they’re going to do.  

 

Keep your head up

Keep your helmeted head up in front far enough so that you’ll be able to react to any obstacles in the road, or on the shoulder in front of you.  You want to be aware of what’s coming ahead; something like a storm drain grate is very bad for skinny road bike tires.  

The best cycling apps

mark-dziuban-cycling-apps

Like most aerobic fitness endeavors, cycling requires hard work in a variety of ways: commitment to training, planning routes and loops, developing a weekly schedule that works with your unique employment routine, and making sure your bike is regularly maintained for optimal performance.

With so many variables constantly at play, a biker’s life can occasionally be as hectic as it is relaxing and addictive. Luckily, there are a variety of technological resources available to make cycling an easier and smoother process, namely a long list of useful smartphone apps dedicated to the sports’ most crucial fundamentals.

Here are a few of the best cycling apps.

 

Strava

Strava has risen as a household name in fitness-based smartphone app technology. Aimed mainly at cyclists, runners, and walkers, the app records periods of activity and allows users to simultaneously log them and share them with other Strava users. For cyclists, the app is a great tool for monitoring rides and recording time over set segments.

 

Bike Gear Calculator

Simply titled, but infinitely useful, the Bike Gear Calculator app “is a quick way to compare different gears on your bike and on setups you’re considering, and for seeing how fast you’ll be travelling in a given gear at a particular cadence (pedal revolutions per minute).” The app serves as a great measuring tool and foresight resource for upcoming rides and races.

 

Cyclemeter

Cyclemeter’s main strength is its ability to use past and current experiences to contribute to future training approaches. The app implements GPS ride data to store your progress, focusing primarily on speed, distance, and overall time.

 

Garmin Connect Mobile

Like Strava, Garmin Connect Mobile stands as a popular resource among many different types of aerobic athletes. Specifically for cyclists, the app provides an advanced ride logging system through the Garmin Connect database, which can also be shared across Strava, MyFitnessPal, and other leading fitness-based apps. By using this app, cyclists will also have access to other Garmin features such as LiveTrack, which allows others to track you in real time during a ride.

 

Fill that Hole
Fundamentally different than the other apps on this list, Fill that Hole is a unique and quirky app designed to let cyclists report potholes and other road hazards to local authorities. The UK-based service strives to make the hazard reporting process easier and less micromanaged in terms of communication. After all, a roadside direct line of communication is a lot easier to navigate than a weekly municipal government meeting.

Finding the Right Mountain Bike

Mountain Biking Handlebars

Breaking into the world of mountain biking can be a daunting task for someone who wants to buy their first bike. There are a few factors you should consider before you go out and buy a bike at your local department store. Do you want to go fully rigid, hardtail, or full suspension? Do you want clipless pedals or flats? How many gears do I want? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to choose the perfect bike.

Riding Style

The first thing you should research before buying a mountain bike is the terrain where you will be riding. Will you be shredding flowy downhill sections with moderate climbs peppered in, or will you be powering through rock gardens on mostly flat terrain? It could also be a mix of both. If you are going to be riding primarily flowy single tracks with a lot of climbing involved, you will want to go with a rigid or hardtail bike to maximize your climbs. With a full suspension bike, you’ll be losing ground each time you pedal and compress your rear shock, which will make your climbs much more labor intensive. If you plan on riding in rocky terrain, a full suspension bike is going to be your best friend. New suspension technology makes riding a mountain bike feel like you are driving a luxury car.

Pedals

One of the biggest learning curves I experienced when I got serious about mountain biking was learning how to unclip from my pedals. The pros to clipless pedals heavily outweigh the cons.  You can feel a dramatic difference in climbs by being able to pull and push with each pedal stroke, essentially doubling your output while you climb. You also have much more control over your bike since you are clipped in and attached to the pedals. Being clipped in is a double-edged sword, and results in the only downside to clipless pedals. If you are not familiar with unclipping, you will easily topple over whenever you go to put your foot down without properly rotating out of the clips. Once you are over the learning curve, you will never go back to flats.

Gear Ratio

There are a few different options when it comes to the gears on your mountain bike. It seems like most major bike manufacturers are producing one-by mountain bikes in 2017. The mentality behind this transition comes from the idea that most people don’t use all the gears on a 27-speed bike. By eliminating the extra chainrings, bike companies are also able to make bikes lighter. My advice to beginners is to always have more gears. When you’re out on the trail, you may need that extra low gear to get back to your car. As you gain experience, you may find that you no longer need the added weight and opt to convert to a one-by. If you are really feeling adventurous, you could convert your bike to a single-speed, but at that point, I feel like riding is more of a chore than something you are enjoying.

Mountain biking is a great way to spend time outdoors while still getting an intense workout in. The mountain biking community is an accepting and fun crowd that is always up for the next adventure. Do yourself a favor and find your nearest mountain biking club so you’ll never have to ride alone.

Why Cycling? Reasons Why Cycling Should Become Your Next Addiction

There are countless hobbies and activities in the world that people take up every day, but few are as valuable as cycling. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider adopting this healthy habit.

Lose Weight and Increase Health

Not only can cycling promote weight loss, but this form of exercise can also improve your body’s overall well-being. This activity is an extremely effective way to burn calories depending on the intensity of the ride, and size of the rider, using several muscle groups throughout. According to National Healthcare Provider Solutions, cycling can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by up to 50% as well.

Photo of a bike and cyclist

Be Happier

With exercise comes a rush of endorphins. Cycling is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can perform, and in turn, can reduce stress. If you’re feeling down or having a bad day, just a 30-minute bike ride is all it takes to release a surge of endorphins powerful enough to counter any negativity that you’re harboring. Introducing cycling into your weekly routine can create long lasting benefits to your mental health.

Become Environmentally Friendly

Perhaps one of the more obvious upsides to cycling is the eco-friendly aspect. Unlike driving a car, bicycles use no fuel, require no batteries or motor oil, and take little energy to make, all of which can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. In addition to helping out our planet, cycling also decreases traffic congestion, making that daily commute just a little bit easier for everyone on the road.

Kick Unhealthy Habits

Developing a positive addiction to cycling can take the place of any harmful dependencies you may struggle with, whether those are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or overeating. Devoting time to this new hobby will reduce time available to give in to these unhealthy habits, and can create a routine that will eventually phase them out entirely.

Photo of a bike and cyclist

Bond with Friends and Family

Cycling is arguably one of the most social physical activities you can be a part of. Chances are there is a cycling club in or around your local area, in which you can build new friendships and connections within the community. This is also a hobby that the whole family can enjoy. The youngest of family members can join the ride in a bike seat and enjoy the scenery, while the oldest can ride alongside themselves, enjoying the fact that cycling is easy on the joints. With how impressionable children are, this also a great way to develop healthy habits early on, as they will see how cycling is a standard part of your day and want to mimic your actions.

So, if you’re seeking a new hobby, a different form of exercise or just an activity to remove the mundane from your life, cycling is one of your best options. Research what bicycles may work best for you, strap on a helmet, and begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Photo of a bike and cyclist