Years ago, a friend of mine told me that she rode her bike to work every day instead of driving. I remember thinking how crazy she was for doing so.
Back then, I sat at a desk all day and weighed close to 200 pounds, and the idea of cycling for any reason seemed totally foreign to me and far too “alternative” for my lazy lifestyle.
I spent more time sipping cocktails than exercising and, had I owned a bike, I certainly wasn’t about to ride it around the neighborhood, let alone to work every day.
Fast forward a few years and I was ready to make a change. I quit the partying, said goodbye to the drive-thru and joined the local YMCA. After seeking out something new to try, I fell in love with spin class. It wasn’t long before I was purchasing my very own road bike and mapping out bike-friendly routes from my apartment to the beach (a decent 40-mile ride depending on where I’d stop for breakfast!). Who was this person I was becoming?
Between the early morning spin classes and those weekend rides around town, cycling had given me so much in so little time. Alongside my new workout regimen, I managed to drop 60 pounds and my overall health began to improve. Not only was I looking better, but I was feeling better, too. Riding a bike gave me an endorphin boost unlike any other and those long rides were perfect for clearing my mind and spending quality time with my partner.
I was even asked to participate in an awesome project, the Bike Love Documentary, which is currently filming in Portland, Oregon. It follows a friend of mine who gave up her car last year to experience life as a full-fledged cyclist while exploring themes of sustainability, feminism, community-building and more in the process.
Call me “bike-curious,” but what better way to learn more about making that scary motorist-to-cyclist change than from fellow fierce women? I was hooked. There was so much more to this bike business than I realized!
It eventually occurred to me that cycling was making me a better person. Whether it’s because I’m doing my part to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, or I’m just in a better mood, riding a bike continues to offer me new opportunities to enhance my outlook on life.
Here are just a few of my favorite reasons to get out and start riding!
1. You'll improve your physical health.
It’s no secret that riding a bike is good for you. Cycling works all of your muscles at once while getting your heart rate up, kick starting your metabolism and burning fat. On average, riding moderately for only 30 minutes a day can burn well over 200 calories. It also helps to increase your endurance and stamina, while improving your balance and coordination. Research also shows that riding a bike can help protect you from cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer while strengthening your immune system.
2. Cycling is a low-impact exercise making it an optimal choice for anyone.
For someone like me who suffers from Hypothyroidism, which has been said to cause joint weakness, riding a bike is a pain-free activity that puts less stress on my body than running and I’m able to decide just how fast or slow I wanna go!
3. You'll have better mental health.
Have you heard of the “runner’s high?” Well lucky for us, marathoners aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy that post-workout euphoric bliss! Riding a bike, along with many other physical activities, produces the release of mood-enhancing hormones in the brain called endorphins which are commonly associated with feelings of well-being. Because of this, cycling has been known to reduce symptoms of well-known illnesses like depression, anxiety and stress. Riding a bike is also great for finding new inspiration and boosting creativity! Go on, get happy.
4. You’re saving the planet.
Riding a bike is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Cycling emits less pollution because bikes don’t run on fuel or motor oil, it takes less energy to build a bike than a car and commuting by bike causes less traffic congestion. It’s an economical and sustainable method of transportation that uses less time, contributes less waste and adds more to your quality of life. Plus, you can park up to 20 bikes in one parking spot. Pick your battles!
5. You’ll meet new people.
Bike coalitions and advocacy groups are forming in cities all across the globe these days. They offer routes and resources specific to your city and education on bike safety while organizing group rides and events that bring like-minded cyclists of all ages together. Not the “joining” type? Enjoy a Sunday ride around the neighborhood and you’re bound to meet a host of new friends and families. One of the many benefits of riding a bike is that it allows you to be more aware of your surroundings, often noticing things you never saw before while driving and talking to people you may never have met otherwise.
6. You'll get high… spiritually.
Not only do I get to experience a physical boost from all that pedaling, but a higher level of consciousness as well. My senses are more alert, I think more clearly and I become a channel for the positive flow of energy in and around me. When I first took my bike out, just the sound of the wheels moving along the pavement and the wind whistling through my helmet was a meditative process for me. My confidence grew over time, my fear of riding lessened and I began to feel a deeper, more intimate connection with nature making each trip a new, magical journey.
So whether you’re looking to lose weight, go green or get to know your city, think about a bike. Believe me, you’ll be transforming on two wheels in no time!