After a year without the usual distractions of a daily commute and busy social lives, the pandemic gave many of us the chance to look inward, re-evaluate our lives, prioritise our health and set new goals.
So, as we settle into the 'new normal', we’re reflecting on some of the positive effects that staying at home had on our exercise habits.
And, according to Cycling Scotland, cycling increased by 43% in the first half of 2020.
It’s no surprise that cycling saw a huge increase in popularity. People were able to take advantage of the quieter roads and make the most of their daily exercise quota.
The Bicycle Association published a Covid impact report, showing a 60% increase in bicycle sales from January to October 2020, with the sale of e-bikes more than doubling in the same period.
So, whether you took up cycling during lockdown, rediscovered the joy of getting about on two wheels, or have always been a keen cyclist, here are seven reasons why it’s a good idea to hang onto those cycling habits for good and remember: a bike’s for life, not just for lockdown.
1. Cycling is good for mind, body and soul
Cycling is a great all-rounder. It gets you outside in the fresh air, which in itself improves your quality of sleep, boosts your immune system and helps you stay focused. But the great thing about cycling is, once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you never forget (even if you’re a bit wobbly to begin with). There’s no minimum fitness level required and absolutely anybody can have a go.
It’s low impact, too. Unlike running or lifting weights at the gym, it won’t put a strain on your joints – making it the perfect choice if you haven’t done much exercise for a while.
But more than it just being easy, getting out on your bike regularly will really boost your health and wellbeing. Just 30 minutes cycling will give you a great cardiovascular workout while helping you:
- Burn fat
- Lose weight
- Lower your blood pressure
- Improve muscle strength
- Increase mobility
- Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- Boost your mood and self-esteem
According to Harvard Medical School, an 11-stone person will burn around 288 calories cycling moderately (12-13.9 miles per hour) for 30 minutes, which is more than swimming, dancing or kayaking. Plus, the faster you ride, or the further you go, the more calories you’ll burn.
2. Cycling's good for the environment
Cycling, like walking, has a very low impact on the environment. It doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases; there’s no noise or light pollution and it doesn’t burn any fossil fuels.
In fact, the only thing you’ll burn is body fat, which is no bad thing. So, if you’re keen to look after the environment and reduce your carbon footprint, ditch the car in favour of your bike every now and then.
According to the New York Times, if we all drove our cars just 10% less than we do now, it would have a dramatic, positive effect on the environment.
3. Cycling is budget-friendly
OK, so lots of keen cyclists invest in expensive carbon bikes, GPS trackers and kit themselves out in Lycra, but it’s not compulsory. You can get a decent, brand new bike for around £400, or a second-hand bike for a lot less.
It’s worth checking whether your employer is part of the Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme, too. It’ll save you heaps of money on buying a new bike and cycling accessories, and you can spread the cost, too.
Then, once you’ve got a bike and a helmet, all you need are comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely (and don’t get in the way) and you’re all set. If you look after it, your bike should last many years and cost next-to-nothing to run – except new inner tubes and a bit of oil every now and again.
Plus, if you make the switch and use your bike to cycle to work or to the shops regularly, you’ll save money on parking, congestion charges, petrol and train or bus fares, too.
If you do decide to cycle regularly or take on longer routes, it’s important to keep your bike maintained so you don’t get stranded away from home if it breaks down. We recommend getting your bike serviced every six months. It’ll cost you between £25-45 but will be money well spent to keep your wheels in good nick.
4. Cycling fits in with your lifestyle
If you usually catch the train, bus or drive to work, switch your daily commute to cycling and you’ll get your exercise in before you even start work.
Cycling to work has been growing in popularity for years, so lots of workplaces now have showers and a secure place to keep your bike while you’re working. You can keep a towel and a change of clothes in your locker, too, so all you need to do is jump out of bed and onto your bike in the morning.
Why not cycle in one day and ride home the next? Spread out the exercise if you don’t feel you can commit to cycling there and back in a single day. Experiment and see what works for you, there’s no right or wrong.
Or buy your season ticket from a station that’s closer to work and cycle there instead of your local station – you can decide how far you want to ride each morning and securely lock your bike at the station before you jump on the train. You’ll save money on fares, too.
On lighter summer evenings, you can cycle when you get home or head out after dinner. Or take yourself out for an early morning cycle, beat the traffic and catch the golden hour, when the sun looks magnificent, the birds are singing and everything feels right in the world.
However and whenever you like to ride, your bike should easily fit in with your routine.
5. It’s a great way to socialise
Whether you prefer to go out with your family to explore the countryside at the weekends or get a group of mates together for a more challenging ride – cycling can really bring people together.
There are loads of cycling clubs for all skill and fitness levels where you can meet fellow cyclists who love to ride at the same pace as you. Or if you can’t find one, why not set up your own group?
Cycling with others is a fantastic way to build your confidence, as your companions will look out for you. Someone’s usually planned the route beforehand so you won’t get lost a long way from home, and if you forget your puncture repair kit, there’s a good chance someone will help you out.
Plus, there’s the traditional stop off for a coffee or a pub lunch, so you can really make a day of it, if you like. Search for cycling groups in your area and find one that matches your fitness level – if you’re just starting out, a 40km ride might be a little ambitious, so choose wisely.
6. There’s something for everyone
You may not be a huge fan of cycling in a peloton, but off-roading in the countryside may appeal to you. Or perhaps testing your technical skill on a mountain bike trail is more your style.
We’re all different, and thankfully, there’s bikes and cycling routes to suit every rider. You really don’t have to take on heavy traffic or steep hills if it’s not your thing.
You can explore cities, dramatic coastal scenery, go on an off-roading adventure, challenge yourself to tackle a gravel track or sample the world’s best family-friendly routes.
Fix your bike to a roof rack and head off to explore the great British countryside or, (Covid permitting), take your wheels overseas.
Whether you’re doing laps of your local park, cycling to work or racing down a mountain – as long as you’re having fun, do whatever works for you.
7. The sky’s the limit
Once you’re feeling confident, you might want to test your cycling skills and push yourself (and your bike) to the limit.
You could challenge yourself to a longer or more technical ride, try to beat your personal best on your favourite route or even take a cycling holiday.
Many people get into cycling later on in life, so it’s never too late to dust off your bike and go on an adventure.
There are hundreds of sportives, cycling events and races all over the world every year – why not discover some near you and see if you’re up to the test? Once you experience the buzz of an organised event and feel the adrenaline of crossing the finishing line, you’ll be hooked.
Look after yourself and your wheels
If you want to ride regularly, it’s worth getting insurance to cover you and your bike, so you don’t find yourself out of pocket if you have a crash.
Check your home insurance to see whether your bike is covered for theft or damage while you’re out and about. You might find that it’s only covered while you’re at home.
Plus, you need to look after yourself, too. What if you cause damage to someone else’s property while you’re out cycling, or fall off your bike and need medical treatment?
Depending on the cover level you choose, Direct Line Cycling Insurance can cover you for:
- Theft of your bike and cycling accessories
- Accidental damage to your bike and cycling accessories
- Public liability for damage caused by you while out riding
- Personal injury while cycling or taking part in an event
- Emergency medical cover, including dental care, optical care and physiotherapy
- Taking your bike abroad, including bike box protection
- Loss of event fees if you can’t take part due to injuries caused in a cycling accident
Getting specialised cycling insurance means that if you have an accident or your bike is stolen, your claim will be handled by someone who understands just how important your wheels are.
With Direct Line Cycling Insurance, you’ll be looked after by a dedicated team of keen cyclists, who’ll aim to get you back on your bike as soon as possible.