In honour of World Bicycle Day and the ever-growing awareness of health and wellbeing, now is as good a time to dust your bike, lube the chain and get pedalling. We hear time and time again of the vast benefits physical activity can have on our health as well as mental health.
Now some might argue that cycling has become outrageously costly and as a result, is out of reach of most. I urge you to look beyond the marketing, advancements in technology and even beyond cycling as a sport. Regardless of what bike you ride or how much it costs, the basic principle of pushing the pedals to propel yourself forward still apply. I’ve heard a great quote once which rings true, “the bicycle is nothing more than circles turning circles” – anonymous. My point being, once you have experienced that sense of achievement when you are just learning to ride your bike, you never stop learning new skills, new tricks and more importantly, finding a new sense of freedom and adventure every time you go out for a ride.
We all ride for different reasons, be it for competitive sport, fitness, health issues or just getting from point A to point B. This is what makes cycling so appealing. An added benefit to getting started is the fact that cycling is for everyone. Male or female, young or old, no matter your race or creed. I can assure you, as long as you’re pedalling, you’ll be having a good time. For those starting out, keep it simple, get moving and find your groove. I would highly recommend taking advantage of the social aspect and find groups to ride with, make new friends, learn new skills and share your war stories over a cold beer afterwards, or as we cyclists do.
For those looking to get more competitive, or just looking at improving your cycling ability, look at working with a qualified coach. Someone who knows how to get the best out of your performance and as well as hold you accountable in order to achieve your goals. There are numerous events on the calendar that will give you an opportunity to test your cycling skills, whether you are riding your first fun 20km race or your umpteenth multi-day stage race. We currently find ourselves in an unprecedented situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic: some of you may not have been on your bikes for some time. This should serve as motivation to start with a coach and ease yourself back into riding in a safe and controlled manner.
Cycling is not without its risks. There is always a risk of injury like any other sport, be it from incorrect set up on your bike or simply falling off and hurting yourself.
There is a saying, “There are two types of cyclists. Those who fall, and those who are yet to fall.” We dust ourselves off and get back on the bike. Like so many things in life, it is our perseverance that counts. I mention bike setup because this is one of the most overlooked concepts when it comes to starting out and is often the main reasons for injury. The human body is not symmetrical and as a result, factors such as saddle height, saddle position, handlebar reach and even width of your handlebars can cause pain and lead to more serious injury. No matter what level of cyclist you are, the correct setup of your bike will indeed improve your riding experience.
So again, get on your bike and get riding. For those of us who already are and perhaps ride seriously for competitive purposes, take a step back and remember why you ride your bike in the first place. We do it for pure enjoyment. Be “lekker and go ride. You won’t regret it.
About the Author: Devlin Eyden, Senior Sport Scientist and Cycling Coach at the Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Institute (SEMLI) at the University of Pretoria.