If you purchased a bicycle to have some outdoor fun and see some scenery, or just get from one destination to another, you’re not alone.
And for those who don’t realize it, there’s also another benefit to bike riding: It’s great exercise.
In fact, whether you ride for fun or fitness, bicycling is a win-win activity.
“Any kind of bike riding can be good exercise,” Jacob Reisner, DO, a physician in non-operative sports orthopedics with Spectrum Health, said.
To get the maximum benefit out of biking, however, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind before climbing onto the seat.
The right bike
First, find the right bike—one that fits your targeted goals.
A bike that doesn’t suit your needs can lead to knee injuries, as well as pain in the feet, hands and back. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time on the bike, prioritize a good fit for a better ride.
You should have all the proper safety equipment, too, including a helmet, Dr. Reisner said. Make sure your bike and equipment are in functioning condition.
Also, choose a bike style that’s appropriate for the routes you plan to ride.
A road bike’s thinner tires allow for less friction with the ground, and are more efficient and capable of higher speeds. Even so, these bikes don’t offer as much stability as you’d find with some other types of bikes—and this is especially true when you’re on uneven ground.
For off-road biking, select a mountain bike with bigger tires and a stronger frame.
Dr. Reisner suggests starting off on a paved bike trail. This is especially important if you’re new to the sport.
In fact, if you’re just learning, avoid places where there are walkers and runners—and don’t ride in the street, as it can be difficult to share the road with vehicles.
Map a plan
Whether biking for leisure or fitness, review the route and prepare for the weather, Dr. Reisner said.
A fitness biker’s plans should include speed and distance goals. These could be written down or tracked in one of many mobile apps.
While everyone should warm up before a bike ride, this is especially true for fitness riders. Take time to stretch, too.
Before you head out, you can warm up on a stationary bike, or you can start your ride at a slower speed.
It’s best to pedal with a friend or a group, Dr. Reisner said. They can help with problems such as changing a tire or getting home if the bike becomes inoperable.
Be familiar with the route and have a cell phone in case of emergencies, he said.
And most importantly, stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids and pack extra water.
Every ride is a good ride
With the proper equipment and a bike adapted to individual health conditions or specific abilities, just about anyone can ride a bike, Dr. Reisner said.
Someone with back problems, for example, can pedal a recumbent bike, which has a seat that offers more back support. Some bikes can also be adjusted to help a person who has a disability.
For a good ride, the length, speed and duration can vary.
“It depends on how much time you have to give to it and what your goals are,” Dr. Reisner said. “You can go out for 20 minutes and have a good ride, or you could go out and spend all day and have a good one.
“Likewise, longer and slower rides can get similar results as shorter, faster ones.”
Ultimately, riding a bike offers plenty of advantages—and not much downside.
“It’s a great way to get outside and be with friends while enjoying nature and the environment while getting great exercise,” he said.