Cycling – the beginners’ guide to getting started

A mother helps a boy learn to cycle

Cycling is a great way to get around, whether it’s for fun, fitness or an environmentally friendly way to commute. A 30-minute bike ride will increase your heart rate and can help you achieve your weight loss goals. It’s also an excellent way to cross-train for other sports, such as running.

So if you planning to take up cycling for the first time, what do you need to know to get yourself started?

1. Seek medical advice

Anyone can usually take up cycling. But if you have a chronic health problem, check with your doctor first.

2.Keep your body fit

Cycling uses mainly your leg muscles, so you’ll want to make sure these are in good shape. Try adding strengthening exercises (squats and lunges) and some core stability exercises into your training regime. Always stretch out after a long cycle.

3. Choose the right bike

When buying a bike, there are two things you need to consider:

  • Firstly, decide which type of cycling you’re planning to do. Road cycling requires a different style of bike to mountain biking. So make sure you get a bike that’s suitable for the terrain you intend to use.
  • Secondly, you need a bike that’s right for you. You’ll need to tailor it to your body size, shape and any injuries you have. So visit a specialist cycling shop for advice.

4. Check your positioning

Speak to your physiotherapist about a suitable cycling position for a pain-free ride. If your seat is too high or too low, or your feet aren’t on the pedals properly, this may put extra strain on your joints.

Couple getting ready to go cycling

5. Keep safe

To prevent injuries, you’ll need a suitable helmet and must be aware of the environment around you. Wear reflective clothing and make sure your bike has a working light and bell. If you’re worried about cycling safely on the roads, book a cycling training programme through Bikeability, which is run by the Department of Transport.

6. Plan your route

You’ll need to plan a suitable cycling route in advance and try to vary the inclines and distance to work different types of muscles. If you’re steadily increasing your distance, only increase it by 10 percent each week.

7. Keep your energy levels up

Make sure you eat and drink regularly, especially if you’re cycling for long distances. Cycling uses up a lot of energy and you don’t want to be stuck without any suitable nutrition when you’re a long way from home. Stock up on energy bars, chocolate and sweets and always carry water or another suitable drink with you. You sweat a lot when you cycle, so you need to keep replenishing your body fluids. You may not realise you’re getting dehydrated at the time.

8. Remember to move regularly

You may feel a little stiff for a couple of days when you first take up cycling. But you shouldn’t feel any pain in the sitting position or after you’ve been out for a bike ride. Try to change position every 20 to 30 minutes. Sit back and stretch out at regular intervals. It’s important to do what’s comfortable for you, as everyone is different.

9. Have some fun

The British Cycling Federation offers tips and advice on choosing a bike, planning a cycling route and taking part in local cycling events. Get involved!

Man sitting next to his bike having a drink

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health. You’ll receive a personalised lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a healthier, happier you.

Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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