All over the world, almost everywhere you look, you’ll see people riding bicycles and enjoying all the benefits of cycling in their lives. You’ll see them in the Alps and the Pyrenees in the Tour de France; in your town or city, ridden by commuters and schoolkids in the rush hour; in parks and cycleways at the weekend; or zipping through the woods on mountain bike trails.
You might have thought that bicycles would have fallen out of favour as the internal combustion engine became more common across the globe, but they’re still loved today as competitive machines, leisure equipment and even as vital modes of transport. So, if you haven’t taken up two wheels as a regular activity in your life, then there’s no time to lose in getting started.
In this guide, we’ll explore 15 of the most compelling benefits of cycling, if you haven’t taken it up as a sport, leisure activity or mode of transport already. You’ll discover just how transformative cycling can be to your body, your mind, your lifestyle and even your bank balance – and why you don’t need to be the next Mark Cavendish to enjoy it.
Cycling protects your mental health
We’ll come to the physical side of the benefits of cycling in a moment. But at a time when mental health is perhaps more important than ever, you may be surprised to learn just how useful cycling can be in helping you keep a healthy mind. Getting regular exercise can release endorphins around your body, helping improve your mood and overall mental condition. You don’t even have to ride up a mountain or take on an all-out sprint, either: just a moderate workout on a regular basis can make a big difference in the long run.
Cycling improves your physical fitness
Practice makes perfect in many different areas of life, and in terms of keeping fit, cycling is no exception. Countless riders start out wondering how they’ll ever manage to get to the top of that big hill without stopping, or complete the 100-mile ride they’ve always dreamed of doing. But through regular riding and perseverance, you’ll find your fitness getting better and better all the time. Eventually, you’ll be conquering your goals, flying along at much higher speeds and over longer distances than before, and questioning how you ever struggled so badly in the first place.
Cycling helps you lose weight
Connected to the previous point, improving your fitness through cycling has the added benefit of helping you lose weight (if you need or want to, that is). Combined with a healthy diet, regular cycling can help you shed extra pounds, especially if you have the time and determination to really rack up the miles.
However, it’s perhaps better to frame this point as a means of getting rid of fat, rather than bringing down the number on your scales. As you ride more, you’ll also be developing bigger and heavier muscles, especially on your legs. This means you may find that your weight figure doesn’t change all that much, but that your overall body shape and condition will still be transformed.
Cycling improves your immune system
If you find yourself particularly susceptible to coughs, colds and other transmissible illnesses, then cycling can do a great job in helping you fend them off much more easily. Moderate and intense exercise both improve the activity within immune cells and strengthens their ability to fight off any infection that comes their way. Not only can this make you feel healthier, but it also reduces the risk of you having to take time off work because of illness, or having other plans in your life disrupted because you aren’t well.
Cycling increases your lung capacity
How do the best professional cyclists ride so hard and so fast for so long, even up the steepest of mountain climbs? In many cases, it’s because they have huge lung capacities, which allows them to take in more oxygen when they breathe and generate more energy through aerobic respiration. The harder you work your lungs when you cycle, the more you’ll improve your capacity over time and give your overall cardiovascular system a huge boost. This means that, in the long term, you’ll need to put in less effort for the same level of performance – or can put in the same amount of effort to achieve much more.
Cycling cuts your risk of heart disease
Every year, thousands of people die from heart attacks that may never have happened if the people involved had kept themselves fitter. Exercising the heart and keeping it fit and healthy is absolutely vital for minimising the risk of heart disease, and this is one of the biggest health benefits of cycling around. Even just riding a couple of dozen miles a week, through commuting or a couple of hours of weekend cycling, can potentially put years on your life compared to your risk profile if you don’t do any exercise at all.
Cycling sharpens your mental faculties
Cycling can improve your brain’s capacity and capability through greater blood flow, and can even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The brain becomes much more able to develop neural connectors, enhancing your ability to plan ahead, concentrate on particular things, and observe what’s going on around you. The cycling benefits come full circle given the mental side of cycling: if you’re better able to spot potential hazards ahead of you, then your riding becomes substantially safer over time.
Cycling strengthens your digestive system
When you ride on a regular basis, your metabolism speeds up and food moves through your digestive system much more quickly. The knock-on effect of this is that the amount of water absorbed from the food you eat is lower, meaning your waste is softer and less discomforting when passed from the body. So if you often feel bloated after eating a heavy meal, or struggle with your bowels, a good cycling-based exercise regime can give you some much-needed relief.
Cycling reduces your carbon footprint
One of the most commonly cited cycling benefits is sustainability. After all, when movement is being generated by your legs rather than by burning fossil fuels in a car, you’re eliminating the emissions and pollution that your transport activities generate. At a time when reducing carbon emissions is so important, cycling can make a major difference. And even if it isn’t practical for longer journeys, using a bike for short trips around town or to the shops can really improve the air quality in your local community.
Cycling saves you money in transport costs
The cost-of-living crisis has led to many people reassessing their budgets and looking for new ways to save money; the high costs of owning, fuelling and insuring a car can often be a major drain on finances. So, as well as bringing down your carbon emissions, cycling can also help you bring down the cost of getting around.
A decent commuter or hybrid bike can be bought for just a few hundred pounds and can easily replace a car if all you use it for is a commute of a couple of miles each way. Even if you then resort to taxis on the days when the weather isn’t so good, you’ll be able to repay the investment in the bike in a few months, and then continue to make major savings for many years to come.
Cycling can bring your family together
Everybody remembers the first time they learned to ride a bike (and some of us still have the scars on our knees to prove it!). Cycling is one of a relatively small number of leisure activities that is suitable, practical and fun for people of almost all ages. There are few more enjoyable ways to spend a sunny weekend afternoon than everyone getting their bikes out and taking a leisurely ride around the local area. And it also gives the opportunity for parents to lead by example and inspire their kids to ride more frequently and get used to exercising regularly.
Cycling can help you raise money for charity
You’ve no doubt encountered relatives, friends or colleagues over the years who have raised charity funds by taking on a major personal challenge – so why not do your own on two wheels? It doesn’t have to be anything mammoth like riding the entire Tour de France route: instead, you can set a goal that is challenging but achievable for someone at your level of fitness. Good examples include riding 100 miles in one day for the first time, or attempting to ride 500 miles in total over the course of a single month.
These efforts can help you support the good causes you care about through fundraising – and give you extra motivation to get out on the bike and take your fitness to the next level.
Cycling improves your energy levels
If your body works harder during the day, then your need for a good night’s sleep will increase. The benefits of better sleep are multiple: you’ll feel more alert and attentive the next day; you’ll be in a much better mood; and your performance on the bike will also increase. So working cycling into your daily routine can play a big part in helping you get some decent shut-eye, and can be particularly beneficial for commuters who put in a decent ride at the end of a day’s work.
Cycling can help you make friends
The cycling community can be an extremely welcoming and inclusive one, making it a great way to make new friends and meet like-minded people. You don’t necessarily have to be an aspiring pro racer capable of super-fast speeds, either: more and more cycling clubs cater for a full range of abilities, and will have multiple group rides each weekend at different speed levels. If you aren’t interested in road cycling, then you might also find clubs devoted to mountain biking, or even to cycle touring and riding more gently around your local area.
Cycling can allow you to see the world
There’s a beautiful world out there and it’s just waiting for you to get on your bike and explore it. Cycle touring is a fantastic pursuit that can connect you with nature, and give you some freedom: where you ride when and how fast is pretty much up to you. There’s plenty of choice available to you, too: you can book yourself onto an organised cycle tour that takes in famous sights and routes, or strap a tent and baggage to your frame and go bikepacking. Exploration by bike opens up a whole new perspective on life that you might never otherwise experience.
Get cycling insurance with SportsCover Direct
One of the great things about cycling is that there are so many different types of riding for you to explore. You can go trekking across Europe, compete in races and sportives, go mountain biking in the woods, or pedal through town to get to work or go shopping. However, no matter which type of cycling you prefer, there is always the risk of an accident, and therefore of injury or damage to equipment.
That’s why – even if your cycling would be considered relatively low-risk – taking out comprehensive insurance cover is so important. At SportsCover Direct, we provide affordable cycling insurance to riders of all levels of ability and experience, and all types and value of bikes. So, if you get injured while riding, injure someone else, suffer damage to your bike or equipment, or your cycling trip is disrupted, we can make sure you don’t end up out of pocket.
Our policies are available through flexible payment plans and start at just a few pounds a month. Take a closer look at our cycling insurance options today.