A bike is a handy way of getting from A to B but it’s so much more than that too. Make the most of your bike and it’s a time-saving, stress-busting, fat-burning, health-boosting, environment-enhancing, fun-increasing, money-rescuing life improver.
Have you ever totted up how much money you can save by commuting by bike? Say you ride five miles to work every day and five miles home again; in a 48-week year, allowing for holidays, that’s 2,400 miles. In fuel costs alone, that’s about £320 you’ve saved over a typical car.
Plus, you’ve reduced the wear and tear on your vehicle, the 3,000-mile service comes around less quickly and the resale value is higher because you’ve got fewer miles on the clock. And you don’t need to factor in parking fees, the Congestion Charge or any of the other costs that driving inevitably attracts with agonizing regularity. Cycling saves you a fortune. Okay, you have running costs on a bike too, but we’re pretty confident that replacing a full set of brake pads on your car is going to set you back more than 20 quid.
Cycling works out a whole lot cheaper than public transport too. An annual Travelcard for zones 1-4 in London will cost you nearly £1,500. You could spend half of that on a good bike that’ll last you years and use the rest to treat yourself to a few days away.
However you look at it, a bike is a sound investment that pays for itself in no time. You’re definitely better off cycling – ker-ching!
Boost your health and fitness
Where do we start on the health and fitness benefits of cycling? Riding a bike will boost your physical condition in so many different ways, helping you look and feel better as well as improving your wellbeing.
For a start, riding a bike will reduce your level of body fat– and who doesn’t want that? A half-hour commute at a moderate intensity might burn off 250 calories, maybe more – it depends on your size and exactly how hard you go. Do that regularly and keep your diet under control and you’ll soon start to drop excess weight. And it’s non-impact so your chances of picking up an injury are low.
Cycling is a perfect way to improve your cardio-vascular health too – the functioning of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Try this statistic on for size: cycling just 20 miles a week lowers your risk of heart disease to less than half that of someone who takes no exercise. Like that one? It massively reduces your likelihood of developing high blood pressure and makes everyday activities easier too.
On top of that, cycling will tone your working muscles, strengthen your immune system, increase your bone density, protect your joints, lower the risk of some cancers, make you look younger… You’re getting the message, right? Basically, cycling even short distances is fabulous news as far as your health and fitness is concerned.
Improve your mood
Cycling can have a huge positive influence on the way you feel. Evolution hasn’t prepared us for the fairly sedentary lifestyle that most of us lead – we’re simply not designed to be deskbound and function better when we’re more active. A moderate level of exercise improves your mood and self-esteem and helps reduce stress and even depression.
“I find that getting on my bike first thing in the morning puts me in a better frame of mind for tackling the day,” says Steven Barnett, who has a half-hour commute to and from work in Liverpool. “It gives me a kick start so I don’t arrive at the office feeling lethargic. And my evening ride makes me think about something else as soon as I leave my desk, so I don’t take the stresses and strains of work home with me.”
And cycling is enjoyable, pure and simple. That’s why you learnt to ride a bike when you were a child and why so many people spend their free time cycling. It’s fun – and that’s got to be a good thing.
Commuting by bike can often save you a heap of time too. Okay, out on clear, open roads a bike is never going to be as fast as motorised transport but the tables are turned as soon as the traffic starts snarling up.
“I commute by bike between Bath and Bristol, which is about 13 miles each way,” says John Andrews. “When I used to drive it I’d get held up in jams at both ends of the journey, then have the hassle of finding a parking space. On the bike I just ride past the hold-ups and that saves me loads of time.”
Plus, time spent commuting in the car is dead time – you’re not getting a whole lot out of it. Commute by bike and you’re not just getting to and from work, you’re exercising into the bargain, so you don’t need to spend valuable time in the evening at the gym or going out for a run. Cycling is the time-efficient option.
Improve the environment
By riding a bike you’re doing your bit for the environment too. To begin with, manufacturing a bicycle takes a small fraction of the materials and the energy required to build a car. The resources needed to make one car can make somewhere between 70 and 100 bikes.
And here’s the big one – road transport is the third largest source of greenhouse gases in the UK. Driving a car is the most air-polluting act most people ever commit whereas riding a bike makes no harmful emissions at all into the atmosphere so you’re taking big steps in helping to prevent global climate change.
Bikes also take up far less room on the road, don’t contribute to noise pollution and require much less parking space.
“We all need to do what we can to reduce pollution,” says Sheffield commuter Paul O’Leary. “Switching from the car to a bike for shorter journeys – whether that’s riding to work, the shops or visiting friends – makes so much sense for the planet.”
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