There’s nothing wrong with exercise bikes – let’s get that out of the way early on. They’re a great way to keep fit even when it’s pouring with rain outdoors and they have plenty of health benefits. Exercise bikes are fine.
They’re just not preferable.
If your exposure to a bike has been limited to a stationary, gym-friendly exercise bike, then you might have forgotten the pleasures of the real deal. Do you remember what it was like to free-wheel down a huge hill as a kid? The rush of going through puddles (http://www.bikeradar.com/us/gear/article/10-reasons-why-riding-in-the-rain-is-awesome-47896/), skirting around corners and feeling you could do anything and go anywhere?
It’s time to free the bike from the sanctity of the gym and head to the great outdoors.
Right now, you’re probably coming up with a thousand and one reasons why that wouldn’t work for you. So let’s get those out of the way before we move on to the real convincers about why cycling outdoors is such a positive idea:
Objection #1: “But the weather! I’ll freeze/get rained on/sunburned (delete as appropriate depending on the climate of your hometown!)”
The weather happens, and there’s not much to be done about it. While you can strap an umbrella onto your head or strip down to the bare minimum of clothing, it still causes havoc if you want to cycle outside.
The main way of dealing with this problem is a simple: “so what?”. You’re going to be getting hot and sweaty with exertion anyway – if you’re intending to shower after exercise, does it matter? If it’s raining then wear something waterproof; too hot then layer on the sunscreen; too cold then wear gloves.
That’s not to mention the many, many days per year in which the weather conditions will be favorable. Pick your moment and you won’t even have an issue to contend with.
Objection #2: “But it’s dangerous!”
It’s difficult to argue with facts. Cycling is dangerous, not helped by the fact that some drivers have a tendency to see cyclists and motorists as adversaries for no reason at all. There’s also a general lack of provision throughout the country for proper cycle lanes, meaning the two forms of transport are wedged together in an unhappy marriage on the roads.
The answer here is to pick your routes very carefully. Head for countryside wherever possible; despite what adverts say, you’re not going to need an extreme mountain bike to deal with most terrain. You can also time your cycling trips properly; early in the morning, late at night or on weekends when you don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic.
There’s a difference between cycling for exercise (which you can do whenever you want) and cycling to replace a car. The latter forces you to contest with traffic, while the former means you can pick and suit the times and places that suit you. If you’ve been put off by tangling with city center traffic in the past, then know it’s a very different experience when you’re cycling by choice.
Objection #3: “But the chance of getting hurt is much higher!”
This ties in with the second objection – not least in the fact it’s inarguable. If you’re outdoors, you’re more exposed to hazards rather than peddling going nowhere in a gym.
That’s not to say it’s an argument between Totally Safe versus Not Safe At All. Stationary bikes have their fair share of problems, too. You can pull muscles, tear ligaments, slip off when standing up and a multitude of other issues just caused by being physically active.
To prevent this concern being such an issue, get yourself strapped up with all the safety gear that you can muster. A helmet is a must; even if it does deprive you of that wind-in-your-hair feeling, it might just save your life if you fall off. Elbow and knee pads are a sensible investment as well, and gloves are useful if you’re riding in the rain (or sweating heavily) to help you keep hold of the handlebars.
This is an issue you can overcome and lower the chances of injury, but you have to be willing to do it.
“How,” you’re thinking, “am I going to be willing to do it? Have we not just established that it’s more dangerous, I might get hurt and motorists are a menace?”
We have, but that’s not the end of the line. Competing with the objections is the list of reasons why cycling outdoors is good for you. So in the name of balance, let’s examine the case for the defense…
Cycling Outside Means You Have To Continue
Say you use an exercise bike and find it’s tougher than you thought. Maybe you’re hungover, tired or just straight not in the mood that day – it’s easy to bail out.
You can’t do that if you go out for a bike ride. Sure; you can turn around and come home after 10 minutes, but you still have to ride back – you’re still going to get that exercise. If you often struggle for motivation, this can help keep you on the straight and narrow and ensure you go through with your workout.
It’s More Comfortable
When you get on an exercise bike and build up a sweat, the energy you produce doesn’t go anywhere. You get hot, your skin slick with a film of perspiration and your jagged breath vented around you.
When you hit the road on a bike, that’s all taken care of. The feel of air rushing past you will cool you down and let you feel more comfortable. Rather than breathing air that’s gone through a conditioner and filter (and with all the problems that can cause), you’re breathing in mouthfuls of fresh air as the atmosphere intended it. It’s far better for you, providing you don’t ride in heavy traffic.
It Looks Better
There would be some that argue that how you look and the photographs you can take while cycling is defeating the point. But we tie a lot of our emotions into our self-esteem and, try as we might, most of us still care.
You’ll feel far more confident in fantastic cycle clothes from innovative producers; learn about Retro2Ride.com here. There’s so much really innovative tech and fashion products out there just waiting for you to explore, which there’s little point doing if you go no further than the gym.
As for the other aesthetic – well, it’s a lot easier to snap picturesque Instagram-worthy images from the top of a hill than from the gym.
Those Locations Don’t Just Look Good…
… They will feel good, too. Let’s face it, even if you park a stationary bike in front of the TV, there’s a risk of things getting boring. That’s not going to happen if you take to the roads and country fields. For a start, you need to concentrate on what you’re doing at all times.
Secondly, there’s far more of a feeling of achievement if you ride 10K up a hill to see an amazing view at the top. It feels like an instant reward, and isn’t that a boost we all need from time-to-time when it comes to exercise?
You Can Do It At A Moment’s Notice
If you want to go to the gym, there’s a step-by-step process you have to go through. You have to find your gym clothes. Then you change into them, find your keys, find your gym pass, drive to the gym, deposit things in a locker… it all takes a lot of time. In fact, it takes so much time that most of us buy gym memberships with the best of intentions and then never use them.
With a bike, however, you don’t need to do much at all. You get changed, strap on your safety gear, grab your bike and then you’re gone. You don’t have to worry about awkward conversation with fellow gym-goers or bumping into someone you know – you choose the route, the speed and how long you’re going to be out.
Then when you’re home, fresh and flushed with endorphins, you can jump into your own shower rather than having to share a space with others. The time saving might just be the push you need to help establish as exercise regime once and for all.
You Can Share It With Others
If you’re a parent, there are few more wholesome activities than taking your kids out with you on a bike ride. Fresh air and laughing family photos – what could be better than that?
While you can cart your kids along with you to the gym, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be welcome there. It’s also boring for them; they will find far more entertainment in the scenery of a bike ride than the TV screens and mirrors on the inside of a gym.
Cycling with your partner can also be a lot of fun if you choose the right routes to explore. A summer’s day with the love of your life and a bicycle made for two – perfection!
In conclusion, the only way of knowing if your keep fit regime would benefit from cycling outdoors is to try it. So wait for a beautiful day and give it a go; you never know, you might just love it.