With the summer finally here, you may be thinking about new ways for you to enjoy the outdoors. You might be looking to find new ways to exercise, or want a way to spend some quality time with your kids.
Feel the benefits
Cycling is a great way of improving your health and fitness levels. Getting on your bike regularly can also significantly reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heartdisease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
In fact, cycling just four miles a day for five days a week can cut your risk of getting heartdisease by 50%. Cycling regularly means that on average you'll have the same fitness level as a non-cyclist who is 10 years younger.
Cycling can also help you if you're trying to lose weight. Depending on the pace you're cycling at, you'll usually burn around 300 calories for every hour you're on your bike. Combine regular cycling with a healthy, balanced diet and you'll lose those extra pounds in no time!
Getting on your bike will also help tone your muscles, especially your thighs, backside and calves.
Ride away your blues
Not only can cycling improve your physical health, it can also help lift your mood. Cycling can help you to relax and ungas, giving you a chance to get out in the fresh air.
Like other forms of exercise, cycling encourages your body to release its natural 'feel-good' chemicals, known as endorphins. This can leave you feeling happier and more content, especially if you've been stressed or unhappy.
You may have heard a lot about 'carbon footprints' in the news lately. Your carbon footprint is a way of measuring how your day-to-day activities have an impact on the environment. For example, if you insulate your home, you'll need less energy to keep it warm, meaning your carbon footprint will be smaller.
Cycling has great health benefits, and can also improve your mood
Cycling instead of using your car is a great way to help reduce your carbon footprint. A bike won't produce any of the harmful emissions that a car does. With the rising price of petrol, cycling will also help you save on travel costs.
So do your bit for the environment by getting on your bike! It's a great way for you to cut down on those CO2 emissions.
Who can cycle?
Almost anyone can cycle. It doesn't matter what age or fitness level you are - you can take it at a pace that suits you. All you need is a bike, the proper safety equipment (such as a helmet, and reflectors) and a little bit of enthusiasm.
Remember - you never forget how to ride a bike! But if you haven't been cycling in a while, have a practice run on a quiet cycle path or in your local park. Once you're confidence improves, you can gradually build up the distance you cycle.
If you have a heart condition, or have concerns about starting a new exercise regime, speak with your doctor first.
Although legally you don't have to wear a helmet when you cycle, it's strongly recommended that you do. Wearing a helmet when you cycle will significantly reduce the risk of you having a serious head injury if you're involved in an accident.
It's strongly recommended that you wear a helmet when you cycle
You'll need to make sure your helmet fits correctly. A helmet needs to be comfortable and shouldn't be loose on your head. It also needs to meet international safety standards.
If you're not sure what cycling helmet is best for you, speak to the staff at your local bike shop for advice.
Your kids may complain that cycle helmets aren't 'cool', but it's really important for you to encourage them to wear one every time they go out on their bike. It may not be cool, but it could save their life.
For young kids, there are lots of bright and funky helmets available, and teenagers can choose from more stylish, sleek designs.
Check your kit
Before you head out on your bike, it's important for you to check you have the right kit, and that your bike is in good working order.
Make sure your tyres are pumped up and test out your brakes before you get on to the road.
You also need to ensure that your saddle is at the correct riding position for your height. If your saddle is too low, it will make it more difficult for you to pedal and you'll get tired more quickly.
To get the right saddle height, try adjusting your saddle until you can stretch your leg out and comfortably place the ball of your foot on the ground. This means that when your pedal is at its lowest position, your leg should be slightly bent.
If your leg is completely straight when your pedal is at the lowest position, your saddle is probably too high. If you're unsure, speak to the staff at your local bike shop.
If you're cycling at night, it's important to make sure you can be seen by other road users. Wear reflective clothing and make sure the lights on the front and back of your bike are both in good working order. You should also use your lights when the visibility is low, such as in bad weather.