From the Tour de France sweeping through the UK, to the Boris bikes thousands of Londoners use every morning, this summer there has never been a better excuse to ditch the treadmill and get peddling. For most of us, removing the shiny stabilisers and learning to ride a bike was our first milestone in life; the third most popular recreational activity in the UK, there are an estimated 3.1 million people enjoying the benefits of cycling each month. So why are we obsessed with cycling and why are cyclists generally happier people?
1. They live longer
According to research published by the International Journal of Sports Medicine, cyclists who ride in the Tour de France live an extra eight years. The Tour de France is the cycling event that inspires the nation each year. Thought up by French journalist Géo Lefèvre whilst working for L’Auto magazine, his editor Henri Desgrange backed his idea and the first race commenced on 1 July 1903, with 60 cyclists taking part in the near 2500km challenge. Despite stopping for the two World Wars, the Tour de France race has become a permanent fixture in the cycling calendar, gaining prominence and drawing in cyclists from all over the world.
As thousands line the street to cheer on the cyclists, it is important to remember it is a test of endurance rather than speed. The race is made up of 21 stages over 23 days, covering around 3500km (or over 2000 miles). Each stage has its own winner and is a different test of strength and determination, from high resistance uphill climbs to fast flat sprints. The overall winner will be the fastest cycler over the entire race and there will usually be 20-22 teams competing, each made up of nine riders. Although the route changes each year, the format of the race stays the same with the appearance of at least two time trials; the cyclists visiting the mountain chains of Pyrenees and the Alps and finishing on the Champs-Élysées.
2. They have more energy
It’s not hard to spot the cycling commuters - yes they walk into the office wearing Lycra, but they are also the most lively when most of us hit that 11am pre-lunchtime slump. Interestingly, a study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that pedalling to work lessened feelings of fatigue by 65% and boosted energy levels by 20%. If we ever needed proof to ditch the caffeine filled commute, get above ground and get our legs going in the morning it is this. What’s more, cycling is one of the easiest ways to slip exercise into your daily routine, as unlike hours of swimming or Zumba, you can actually use it as a mode of transport.
Londoner’s breathed a sigh of relief in 2010 when those little blue ‘Boris bikes’ (or the Barclay’s cycle hire bikes as they are formally known) appeared and changed the cities cycling scene forever. The scheme prompted thousands of commuters to get on their bikes and leave their oyster cards at home. During the 2012 Olympic Games, the world flocked to London and our blue bikes became something to behold, with a record of 47,150 cycle hires being made in one day. Moreover, to commemorate the 101st Tour de France racing through London on 7th July 2014, 101 of the bikes were painted yellow, causing quite the stir.
Pedalling through your commute is not just for those working in the big smoke. On average, during rush hour a cyclist is twice as fast as a driver stuck in a traffic jam, so wherever you are, getting on your bike could be a great advantage. In addition, according to a 2013 survey by the National Cycle Network, cyclists are far less likely to call in sick, taking half the number of sick days as their public transport riding colleagues. Biking helps keep your heart healthy and reduces the likelihood of a heart attack, so cycling to work really is a winner.
3. They are in great shape
Cycling burns calories, lots of calories. The average person will burn well over 500 calories per hour of pedalling, training the legs and bum, speeding the heart rate up whilst not putting as much pressure on the joints as other cardiovascular exercises. Cycling inspired gym classes have swept the nation, with everything from London’s Psychle, where trained dancers keep you going to the beat, to Hydro spinning (literally, spinning in water). Spin classes have become celebrity spots and although you may not physically be getting very far, for those of us who want to burn calories without the stress of passing traffic, cycling to an infectious beat in a dark room can be extremely rewarding.
4. They are more likely to get a date
According to the British Heart Foundation, a quarter of people said they’d prefer to go on a date with a cyclist over any other type of athlete and we can see why. Cyclists are smarter and cooler than average; according to a recent Mindlab survery, most people view then as 13% more intelligent than the average person and 10% more charitable. They also love being outdoors and will be good at fixing things (so no more DIY disasters). Also, a professional cyclist will need to get through 6000 calories a day, so there will be no ordering salad on a date to look skinny dilemmas here.
What’s more, it’s also been proven that cycling for 20-30 minutes each day can help you sleep more and make your skin better. Get a glowing complexion as your skin is protected from the effects of UV radiation, as cycling increases circulation, decreases levels of toxins and carries oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Like all exercise, being on the bike will promote collagen production to keep the skin elastic and help it repair, so healthy people really are, scientifically proven, more beautiful.
5. They are saving the planet one ride at a time
Did you know 20 bikes can fit into one car place? Cyclists are saving the world with their pollution free vehicles and they know it. Moreover, contrary to what many believe, cyclists also inhale less pollution than road users. Ride on.
So whether it is on the roads, in the park or to the beat of the pulsating music in the gym, get on your bike this summer. For those put off by the traffic, a cycling course is a great way to boost your confidence before taking to the roads. If however cycling is not for you and you find yourself longing for the safety of your stabilisers, we have many other summer fitness courses to keep you active.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.