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Introduction to Biking

Besides being an inexpensive, environmentally friendly way to get to work, biking is a great way to get exercise, spend time outside and even sightsee. Biking is a fun, healthy activity for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. The most common types of bikes are road bikes (designed for, well, riding on the road), mountain bikes (designed for riding on trails, usually fitted with shocks), and hybrids that are usually for casually riding on both trails and road.

Biking Gear

Bikes range from $50 to $20,000 depending on quality, type and weight. One of the key things to look at in buying a bike is the number of chain rings it has. If you're going to be riding on hills at all, you may want to consider a bike with a three chain rings, which gives you the most range of gears. You'll be glad you have those lower gears when your working your way up a big hill. If you're just riding around town, you'll probably be fine with two chain rings, or even a single chain ring. Many road bikes include clipless pedals, which require special shoes that attach to the pedals via a cleat. The point of the attached shoes is to enable you to pull up on the pedals with your feet, as well as pushing down on them. This makes your ride much more efficient. Though clipless pedals can seem overwhelming at first, they are quite easy to get used to, and make a big difference in your biking.

Other than your bike, your helmet (a necessity for safety, and required by law) and perhaps your special biking shoes, you may want to consider a few other items when you're biking. It's good to bring along a bike pump, or CO2 cartridges and a dispenser, spare tubes, and tire levers in case you get a flat tire. The tire levers help you get your tire off of your wheel, and the pump helps you fill in the new tube. If you're new to biking, it's a good idea to have someone more experienced show you how to change your tire. Practice changing your tire a few times before heading out on your own.

Biking shorts are one of the most important pieces of biking gear you'll ever buy. A lot of new bikers learn the hard way what it's like to go on a long ride without wearing proper shorts. Proper biking shorts have a protective padding, or chamois, inside that protect your rear end from the pressure and tension from the seat. Most bike shorts are made of lycra or synthetic material, that help keep your legs from chafing against one another, and wick away moisture to keep you comfortable and dry. Bike shorts range from $20 to $150, with the more expensive ones using higher quality material, different seamwork, and more panels to allow for greater flexibility. A good pair of bike shorts should last you awhile, so you may want to invest in a higher end pair of shorts.

Biking gloves are another key gear item if you're going on long rides. Biking gloves serve to protect your hands and arms from some of the tension from the road, and also keep your hands protected if you fall.

While you can bike in pretty much any shirt, a lot of riders prefer a bike jersey, typically made of synthetic materials that help wick away moisture from your body, and including a rear pocket to carry extra supplies while you ride. Even if you don't have a bike jersey, you may want to wear a synthetic, non-cotton shirt to keep you dry.

Benefits

Biking has a number of benefits - it's a social activity, it's great for your heart, increases strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance, and burns lots of calories to help you lose weight. Biking also involves steady, smooth leg movements, so it's easier on your joints than running. Plus, you can cover long distances, so it can be a great way to explore a new area, or get around your neighborhood.