Cycling in the city
I’ve never been much of a cyclist. Even when I was first learning to ride a bike, I was slow to the party. My sister, who is two years younger than me, was learning to ride a bike with training wheels around the same time my parents were encouraging me to remove mine and learn how to ride without them. As they watched my sister fearlessly take off, they knew that she, too, was A-OK without the trainers, but didn’t have the heart to take hers off until I was safely on my way.
Two days later, the little sister’s came off and I was still wobbly as hell as I peddled along. And the truth is, once I outgrew the days of going for after-school bike rides with friends, I didn’t exactly seek out venturing down that path again.
These days, I love running, strength training, Pilates and yoga, but I still kick myself over the fact that I haven’t really hopped back on the bike – with the exception of a few spur-of-the-moment attempts. Not only is cycling a great workout, but it’s the perfect cross-training activity for athletes who engage in other, more high-impact sports like running.
And there’s more:
1. Cycling improves coordination. Think of it like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time – moving your feet with the pedals and steering the bike while balancing your body weight is a great way to sharpen your skills.
2. Cycling is a well-rounded form of exercise. Like I already said, not only is hopping on a bike a prime low-impact way to keep joints and muscles in tip-top condition, but it will also help improve cardiovascular fitness, reducing risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions.
3. Cycling has been proven to improve mental health. A study from the Journal of Occupational Health showed that women and men who walked or biked to work had decreased stress levels and a more positive attitude throughout the day.
4. Cycling is a cost efficient way to travel. If your A-to-B can be safely traveled by bike, then you may want to consider two-wheeling it around town. Not only will you save money on gas, but you’ll get a two-for-one and squeeze in a workout.
5. Cycling is a great way to become more familiar with a community. Walking around town is, of course, always an option, but it will take a lot less time to travel by bike. Research local groups that offer tours and meet-ups. Also, check out rental options if you don’t already have a bike.
This last point is especially important to cities like Dayton that are making efforts to improve mobility for cyclists. In 2010, the city was selected as a Bike-Friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists as a result of its bike lanes, racks and parking. The RiverScape MetroPark Bike Hub also features secure bike lockers, showers and restrooms, and is situated at the center of a 330-mile regional bikeway system. Bikes can be rented through RiverScape throughout the week, starting at $6 for one hour and $10 for three hours.
Another local effort aimed at cyclists is Courteous Mass Dayton, a community initiative to raise awareness of bikes as a mode of transportation and to raise visibility of cyclists on the city streets. The group is not only a great way to meet like-minded individuals, but to also become more familiar with the city streets, bike lanes and paths. The group meets the first Friday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. Learn more and earn riding tips from the group’s site at courteousmassdayton.com.
Hey, if options are power, then Dayton is certainly a cycling force to be reckoned with, right? Looks like I might have to strap on my helmet after all.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.