What Is Cycling?
Cycling is a sport of precision, dedication, and discipline. It combines physical and mental factors to conquer obstacles that are otherwise impossible for an average healthy person to overcome. This process involves constant training and commitment to the sport. Whether you plan on taking up cycling as a hobby or a professional racer, when it comes to cycling, you are not only training your muscles, but you are also training vital organs that help deliver the necessary blood flow and oxygen to those muscles. Although considered a cardiovascular sport, cycling does have a substantial demand for muscular strength. However, muscular strength alone will not make you victorious within this sport.
In addition to the overall physical qualifications that all cyclists acquire, it does not mean anything if you do not prepare for the suffering and painful training sessions that will improve your performance. Some of the most elite cyclists are freaks of nature because they have an addiction to the pain involved in outperforming their competition. Whether or not you want to take cycling seriously is up to you; however, regardless of your commitment, getting in shape and developing a pain tolerance is something you can expect. This expectation is significant because cycling, in general, involves excellent distances and many hours in the saddle. If you are not physically and mentally prepared to provide a constant flow of energy and inspiration for yourself to keep going and pushing through, then cycling is not the hobby for you.
Bradley Wiggins is a British former professional road and track racing cyclist who has held the world record for the fastest 1-hour time trial. The pinnacle of cycling comes when you begin to utilize specific instrumentation to help with your training. Such instrumentation involves a strain gauge, which measures how many watts you are putting into the pedals. Commonly known as a ‘power meter,’ this strain gauge allows you to optimize your training by pacing yourself and conserving your energy over a given course. Bradley Wiggins has mastered the art of power delivery as a professional athlete and is known to most as the strongest cyclist in the world.
Typical costs of getting into the hobby of riding your bicycle can range from $300-$700. A standard entry-level hybrid bicycle can cost up to $500, depending on the brand. Of course, a bicycle is not all that you will eventually need. Other gadgets and tools that you can expect to add to your bill are:
- Helmet – $40
- Safety should always be your priority. If you fall at speed because of something out of your control, you will not live to tell about it. Never be too good for a helmet.
- Clothes (known as ‘kits’) – $100
- Flappy clothing or other athletic wear does not perform as well as cycling because of the wind drag and sweating. Unique clothes are needed to wick away moisture and keep you comfortable on your bike for hours.
- On-the-go nutrition – $20
- Commonly in a state of a gel or bar, these kinds of foods help you keep it down while your body is under severe stress and running out of glycogen.
- Saddlebag for small tools and a spare tube – $30
- You do not want to be left stranded out on the road because you forgot a little tool that will tighten up that one bolt restricting you from continuing your ride. Moreover, getting a flat tire is something widespread since most bicycle tire systems use inner tubes.
- Water bottle – $10
- Hydration is the foundation for your performance and your health. Ensuring that you are adequately hydrated will give you the edge to keep going.
- Cycling shoes – $50
- Platform pedals are quickly going out of style and reserved mostly for mountain biking. If you want full control of your lower and upper pedal stroke, you will need cycling shoes with cleats that engage with a given proprietary pedal.
- Lights – $20
- Be seen before something happens. Even when riding during daylight, the reflectors that come with your new bike only reflect when light is shined on them. Make it known to your surroundings that you are there.
Unfortunately, the apex of the sport does come with a large price tag. The good news is that you can take this slow and work your way through the priorities for you and your riding style. Some expert level gadgets and tools that you can expect later down the road are:
- Cycling computer – $400
- This device is just like the GPS in your car. Not only does it offer navigation for more exploration, but it also combines data from all of your sensors and delivers it live in front of you. Data includes speed, elevation, power, gradient, heart rate, temperature, and many more precious parameters.
- High end carbon frame bicycle – $4,000 – $12,000
- Once you become intermediate or a professional at your craft, you will want to start saving weight everywhere you can. Carbon frames are twice as light as metallic frames while being four times stronger. Carbon frames allow for more stiffness and deliver a world of a difference in comfort and reduction in drag.
- Carbon sole cycling shoes – $500
- As mentioned, carbon fiber is astronomically stiffer than most materials out there, including rubber soles. Investing in carbon sole cycling shoes will allow you to have better power transfer into your pedals with less fatigue throughout your foot from the constant flex.
- Performance helmet – $300
- Ventilation and drag are everything when it comes to your helmet. It is vital to keep your head ventilated while still reducing the most air drag that you can. Your body takes up over 90% of drag on a bicycle, and that drag directly reflects your speed and performance.
- Heart rate sensor – $90
- Your heart is the engine of your bicycle. One of the most significant investments you can make as a cyclist is ensuring that you have a heart rate monitor monitoring your primary muscle, which drives and propels you forward.
- Power meter – $1,500
- A power meter consists of a strain gauge that measures force put onto the pedals. It is the most expensive training tool because it Is the only instrument that does not lie and gives you the power you put down regardless of the weather, caffeine intake, fatigue, and fitness levels. Every serious cyclist uses a power meter.
- Electronic shifting – $3,000
- Electronic shifting eliminates the messy cables surrounding your frame and cuts down on labor costs.
- Parts and service to maintain equipment – $2,000 annually
- Nothing lasts forever. This fact is especially the case with something you often utilize and put through a ton of stress. Parts and service will continue to arise as you put miles on your bike.
- Expensive, more comfortable, and lasting kits – $1,000
- Imagine sitting on a very narrow saddle for hours on end. Saddle sores are known to be a dreadful thing in the cycling community. Thankfully to world-class leaders in cycling clothing, such as Assos, cycling kits made with unique fabrics that operate like magic keep you as comfortable as if you were sitting on the couch.
Starting anything new is always a daunting task. When you first get into cycling, it is paramount to know the reason for it. Are you planning on commuting? Do you want to join a local club and explore the outdoors more? Do you want to become a professional athlete and maximize your training from day one?
These are essential questions to ask yourself because everything you do towards the hobby directly correlates to where you will specialize yourself within the sport. Regardless of your intent, it is crucial to find the correct first bicycle to begin.
Beginner cyclists should always start with a trail bike, commonly known as a ‘hybird’ bike. A hybrid bike is a bike with forgiving geometry to have you upright and most comfortable on your bike when you start. A hybrid bike also usually has larger tires and comfortable handlebars to explore all different kinds of terrain. It is critical not to take on too much too soon. Having more than one bike is ubiquitous in this hobby, so do not worry about buying the right bike because chances are, you will quickly upgrade to something more conforming and specialized to you based on the direction you head.
The Vilano Diverse hybrid trail bike is the perfect and most affordable option to get you started and on your way. It features comfortable geometry to have you upright and comfortable during your ride. Also, disk brakes come standard on this entry-level bicycle. In general, disc brakes are a luxury because the stopping power involved is far more superior to rim brakes.
On the higher end of bicycles, expect to spend a lot more for the quality and craftsmanship involved in testing and research. The Aeroad CFR is the best of the best when it comes to bicycles. It features a full carbon fiber frame with the highest drivetrain groupset available, including disc brakes and electronic shifting. Also, the Aeroad is known for its aerodynamics from Cannon’s state-of-the-art wind tunnel testing. Expect to acquire all of the marginal gains available to a cyclist with this bicycle.
In addition to your new bicycle, safety should always be a priority, as discussed. To get you started, looking into brands such as Bell for secure and affordable bicycle helmets will have you on your way and exploring the outdoors in comfort, elegance, and style. The Bell Trace has an ergonomic fit while keeping your head well ventilated and protected. Also, the color of the trace allows for high visibility, regardless of whether you have your lights installed or not. It is paramount to never skip out on safety when it comes to riding your bicycle, especially if you are just getting started.
There are helmets out there that withstand drag heat produced by you as the rider for ventilation and performance. Helmets like the Giro Vanquish deliver both comfort and performance. This helmet is also wind tunnel tested and has a built-in visor, which reduces drag and makes the rider even more aerodynamic. The Vanquish helmet offers the proprietary MIPS Technology (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) in addition to comfort and performance. The MIPS is available on most high-end helmets and provides a system in which mimics the brain’s protective structure by reducing rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head.
What to Expect
So you have your new bicycle and your new helmet. Now it is time to ride. The typical training regimen you should expect to incorporate is one to three hours a week, or two to three rides per week. This schedule will help you get accustomed to riding and allow your body to develop changes within how your heart endures fatigue slowly and your muscles experience soreness. It is also essential to always plan your route. Many beginner cyclists often do not know where to safely get their hobby started because of the general traffic in most areas. It is significant to locate a bike trail or a gravel trail away from motorized vehicles. Bike lanes are something that you should take your time without in the city – for it is nothing like driving a car on that same street. Improving your situational awareness is something that you ought to develop first to ensure your safety and others’ safety.
Once you’re involved in a new hobby, it is vital to stay in tune with the latest information available or quick how-to’s to solve minor mechanical issues that you experience out on the road. Bicycle forums such as CycleChat and Sheldon Brown offer a generous amount of information, which will ensure that you stay up-to-date on the most commonly asked questions or well-known problems.
The CycleChat forum is a great place to stay in touch with people who are also new to the hobby. It is where beginners understand the foundation and steps to take when learning about themselves and their bicycles. Moreover, Sheldon Brown is considered the master of technical maintenance and has an entire website dedicated to troubleshooting and fixing mechanical problems. Whatever your maintenance problems are, it is sure to be solved with the Sheldon Brown’s expertise.
Possibly the most important social aspect of cycling is Strava. We live in an age of social media; everyone worldwide is continuously sharing photos, posting videos, messaging each other, and commenting on one another’s posts. Athletes are no exception, and there are apps designed for athletes to meet their social media needs. Strava is one example of these social media platforms.
Used as a mobile app or a desktop website, Strava is a highly interactive app that acts as a social media platform for cyclists, runners, and swimmers as it connects athletes and tracks everyone’s workouts. You can post your activities through the app, share photos, compete on leaderboards, log training hours, and build routes. Perhaps the most significant advantage to Strava is that you will get to know other local cyclists near you and stay in touch with them to share your goals and experiences throughout your journey.
Like with any social network, Strava is also there to help athletes. You are more than welcome to create a post regarding questions or concerns you have. You can even join virtual cycling clubs and establish group rides where you can meet and build new relationships with those who share the same love for cycling as you do.
Cycling is considered one of the most health-benefiting sports out there. With cycling being an anaerobic sport, it takes the cardiovascular and nervous system to new heights regarding functionality and longevity. Cycling raises your metabolism rate, burning body fat and building lean muscle. Steady or moderate cycling can burn up to 300 calories per hour. Though losing weight with cycling is not an overnight process, the results will exponentially increase over time with consistency and dedication. For those suffering from cardiovascular diseases, cycling helps improve blood circulation around your heart and lungs.
Also, cycling is a low-impact sport. Many people who take up active hobbies are at the risk of common injury due to improper training. Improper training can be a result of overreaching or overtraining. Though it does commonly occur with cyclists, overreaching and overtraining are mostly present in those who compete competitively, as with any active profession. However, in hobby form, cycling exercise’s organics cause your body to endure a constant onset of low-intensity intervals. With low intensity for long periods, your joints and muscles experience less stress and fatigue, reducing the chance of injury from the sport.
Cycling also provides an excellent option to spend time outdoors and alone with your thoughts, which can be a stress reliever or mood booster for many people. Activities like cycling can keep an individual focused on their goals because they can clear their mind and look at things from a different perspective.
In conclusion, cycling is a fantastic hobby that offers countless benefits, ranging from improved physical fitness to mental well-being and environmental sustainability. As you embark on your cycling journey, you’ll discover a world of adventure, camaraderie, and personal growth. With our expert advice, tips, and resources, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any challenge on your two-wheeled journey. So, grab your helmet, pump up those tires, and get ready to explore the open road – the world of cycling awaits you!