Pedal Your Way to Fitness

Regular cycling can help you lose weight, reduce stress and improve your fitness.

It places little or no impact on the knees, ankles and back and helps promote the mobility of the hip and knee joints. Regular cycling also improves balance and co-ordination. No wonder it is the third most popular sport in the UK, with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bike each month.

You can improve your aerobic fitness by 11% in 6 weeks by cycling just short distances 4 times a week, a study carried out by the Department Of Transport reveals. And, according to the British Heart Foundation, cycling at least 20 miles per week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists.

Cycling at a gentle 12 mph on a flat road uses 450 calories per hour. It also makes you feel younger and reduces stress. Plus, it is claimed that cycling raises the speed of your metabolism for hours afterwards, so your body continues to burn calories even after exercise. Alongside this you will be toning the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.

Buying a bicycle can be quite expensive, but you may be able to save money with the government’s Cycle to Work scheme. You buy a bike through your employer and pay for it out of your wages over the year (in 12 monthly payments) and, because this deduction is made before tax, you can save up to 40% on the cost of the bike. We know the scheme works, as a member of our team has benefited from it. Find out more at
In the saddle

The bike you buy is important, as you need one that suits you – and this is where your local bicycle shop can help. Try out lots of different bikes and make sure that the seat is adjusted correctly – you should have a slight bend in the knee when your foot is at its lowest point. You should also have the handlebars adjusted so that you are not reaching too far, just leaning slightly forward, so as not to place any strain on your back. Drop your shoulders and relax.

If you can manage it, one of the best ways to build up your fitness levels is to cycle twice during the week and then go for a longer ride at the weekend – you could involve the family in this one!

The Forestry Commission England has a brilliant section that lists trails that are suitable for all the family up to full-on red- and black-graded singletrack trails. It also gives details of bike hire at:
Your cycling checklist

  • Wear a helmet – this is the most important thing you can do to prevent a head injury. The helmet should fit snugly and should not allow any sideways movement.
  • Wear bright/reflective clothing – to make you more visible.
  • Take your mobile with you and, if possible, let someone know your route and how long you are going to be out.
  • Choose a route to suit you. If you are not that confident then choosing a busy route will only stress you out and reduce your enjoyment. Research the local cycle paths and ask regular cyclists to advise. Don’t forget that you have a return journey when you reach your destination – so don’t go too far too soon.
  • Lights on please – make sure you have lights fitted if you are going to be riding in poor light conditions or in the dark.
  • Clothes – wear comfortable clothes that let the skin breathe and make sure your trousers are not flapping around. You may even want to consider wearing padded shorts – they really do help! A decent pair of trainers will give you a good grip, as will padded cycling gloves. They will also protect your hands if you fall off as well as from the elements.
  • Know your bike – make sure your tyres are pumped up and that you have (and know how to use) a puncture repair kit and a small pump. Check your brakes to make sure they work properly.
  • Know your highway code – do you know the rules of the road? If not, check!


For much more information on getting your bike ready, having the right kit and safety tips go to

And finally … bicycles require no tax or MOT, they need no fuel, you do not have to pay to park them and they produce no pollution!

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