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Cycling For Beginners

07/01/2011 14:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

Cycling - fresh air, a fabulous workout, overall fitness - an any time, (almost) anywhere activity.

If you're considering getting out of the gym and enjoying the benefits of the bike, here's what you need to know to get started.

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Cycling: How to get started

Before you rush to the local store, bear in mind that bikes range from £150 to £1000s so it's worth trying out a few rides on a borrowed or old bike to make sure you're keen to carry on. If cycling is the exercise for you, ask the experts at the shop – they will be happy to advise based on your goals and expectations.

Cycling: How to get started

Which bike you buy depends largely on where you'll be riding. Mountain bikes are clearly better if you plan on a lot of off-road cycling, while a road bike will help you conserve energy thank to its lightweight frame and narrow tires. For urban cyclists a hybrid, offering speed without compromising on comfort, is ideal for city riding.

Cycling: How to get started

A basic tool kit is essential if you don't fancy walking home with a punctured tyre and a water bottle (with sipper) fits nicely on the bike for rehydration on the move. There's no hard and fast clothing rule but thin, flexible clobber is helpful – layer up if it's cold out as you can then remove clothing when you work up a sweat.

Cycling: How to get started

Don't ride without a helmet – they save lives! For night riding, reflectors and good quality bike lights are a must while high visibility clothing is an advantage. Cycling gloves will stop your hands going numb and protect them in the event of an accident. And if you are an urbanite, always ride with the flow of traffic and no, you are not exempt from the rules of the road.

Cycling: How to get started

It's important to start slow... you're not ready for the Tour de France just yet. Even if you're a gym bunny and have good overall fitness, cycling uses muscles that you may not have been working and it takes time to build them up. A few miles at a moderate pace (15 to 20 minutes) will get the muscles working and the heart pumping.

Cycling: How to get started

Once you've caught the bug, you'll no doubt be wanting to get fitter and faster. Short periods of cycling standing up in the pedals will up the intensity and going up and down hills will increase it further.

Cycling: How to get started

Even at a positively ponderous 5mph, cycling will burn 120 calories in just half an hour. Up that to a moderate 10mph and you'll be burning off 303 calories and, once you're confident and bike fit, a vigorous ride at 15mph burns a whopping 486 calories – you don't get that on the drive to work.

Cycling: How to get started

Many fitness experts will tell you that cycling is one of the best forms of exercise around. It won't jar your knees and ankles, provides an excellent cardio workout and tones and shapes the thighs, calf and core muscles. A UK study even found that people who cycle to work experienced a 39 per cent lower mortality rate.

Cycling: How to get started

All exercise lifts the mood and cycling, like any other, proves a serious stress-buster. A long, leisurely ride in the countryside not only offers a healthy dose of fresh air but also scenic surroundings in which to improve fitness. And for the commuting cyclist, the ride home is infinitely preferable to train delays and standing room only.

Cycling: How to get started

The great thing about cycling is that you can ride almost anywhere. For the mountain biker, there are off-road cycle routes throughout the country and the internet is a useful resource for this. Road riding enables you to just set off and go. And once you're bitten by the cycling bug, there are even holidays abroad that specially cater for the keen cyclist.

Cycling: How to get started

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