Get in the saddle

Something made you think you might like to start cycling – maybe an exciting sprint finish in the Tour, or the sight of a super-muddy, but smiling, cyclo-cross competitor. Whatever it was, you’re making a good choice. Cycling is great for fitness, but it can be less punishing on your back and other joints, and it can even be a fairly sedate family activity if that’s how you want to do it.

Bike to work or bike for fun

In most cities now there are cycling routes – some for leisure, some you could use to get to work. Cycling to work’s a choice for those lucky in where they live and who they work for – ideally you need a shower and a changing room when you get in. If you’ve got that, then the daily commute could become an oasis in your day, getting you to your desk more alert, less stressed and ready to get down to business.

Taking off more and more are challenging outdoor bike tracks – mountain and dirt tracks, cyclo-cross adventure courses. Some of these are designed for professional racers, but they’re available a lot of the time for enthusiasts as well.

If you’re a cycling beginner, then try these tips to make sure the start of your cycling adventure brings you back wanting more

1. Set a target

It doesn’t have to be far – through the park, around the block, along the canal and over the bridge. There are circular cycling tracks and off-road routes. Don’t over-stretch yourself when you start. It’s good to finish feeling like you could have done more!

2. Check your bike

Maybe it’s been in the shed for a while, or maybe it’s on hire for the weekend. Just take a few minutes before you start to make sure the tyres are pumped up, the brakes and gears aren’t sticking, and there’s no broken parts or hazards you could put right before you start.

3. Fuel up

It’s not the bike that needs fuel – it’s you. A light meal which is rich in carbohydrate 2-3 hours before you set out will make sure you have the energy you need to get the best from your trip.

"To me, sports are the best way to switch off and relax my mind. I think that fresh air and nature have an effect on your entire wellbeing – your mood, your energy, your motivation, your decisions."

4. Ride with a buddy

Like all exercise, cycling is most fun when there’s someone to share it with. Family weekend trips along flat city paths can be just as enjoyable as dirt-tracks through the woods, as long as you’ve someone at your side (or trying to catch you up!)

5. Warm up and warm down

Like any exercise, cycling needs to start off slow. Professional cyclists wil stretch and train before they set out, but you could just start off cycling slowly to get your muscles used to the exercise. You can build up to sprints – keep these short to start with – and as you come towards your goal, slow down and let your muscles start to relax again.

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