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Fitness:  Bicycling For Fun And Health

Types of Bikes and Cycling Activities
Bicycling continues to grow in popularity as a recreational activity, fitness method, and a sport. Biking is not used quite as much for transportation in North America as much as other parts of the world, but that aspect is growing as well. When deciding which type of bike you need, consider your main purpose.

Bicycles are technically defined as a vehicle. They have two wheels, a frame, saddle, pedals and are human-powered. The “bike” as we all call it today, has been integral in the modern history of many cultures all over the world. It is also a symbol of fun, fitness and environment-consciousness today.

Bicycle riding on roads or trails

- - - Utility Bikes - - -
Utility bikes are perhaps the most common type of bike. They are plain, simple, and functional, used primarily for running errands, shopping or commuting. More people are using them to go about their daily routine because they are fairly convenient to use, require minimal maintenance, and are emission-free.. Utility bikes are made with sturdy, heavy frames and upright handlebars. They usually employ internal hub gearing. These bikes often have other accessories, such as a basket in front of the handlebars.

- - - Mountain Bikes - - -
Mountain bikes are primarily designed for off-road, recreational adventures, to traverse mountains and enjoy the wonders of nature. There are a number of sub-types of mountain bikes such as cross country bikes, downhill bikes and free-ride bikes. They are designed to be sturdy. These bikes have very durable frames, handlebars that are designed to counter the sudden jolts while riding and they usually have more than 20 gears.

Mountain bikes should make the off-road trip as comfortable as possible; therefore, they use high-quality suspension systems, which uses gas shock, air and spring. They also have treaded tires for slick surfaces, and mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes.

Mountain biking requires a certain level of fitness and a love for nature and for the extreme.

- - - Tour Bikes - - -
These bikes, like the mountain bikes, are made to be sturdy. They are used as a transportation vehicle to tour long distances. Tour bikes should have the capability of holding extra weight for baggage and should have good gearing systems so as to efficiently transfer the energy of the driver for very long trips.

Touring itself is not a very strenuous activity, but when travelling long distances by bicycle, one should be prepared. Emergency tool kits, first aid kits, and other essentials should be ready.

- - - Racing Bikes - - -
Racing bikes are built for speed and to minimize drag (aerodynamics). Unlike other bikes, they are made with ultra lightweight frames and are stripped of some accessories to maximize speed. They are usually equipped with a medium range gearing system, which can range from 18 to 30 gears. Race bikes are primarily made for professional competitions and races, and include the sub-types time trial bikes and track bikes. Many of them don’t even have brake systems.

- - - Others - - -
There are other types of bikes such as the “audax” bikes which are used in brevet rides. There are also recumbent bikes which employ a "diamond frame", where the shape and geometry of the frame resembles that of a diamond.

Police forces have adopted the use of bikes in patrolling certain places, especially in cities.

Books on Fitness and Motivation
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Billy Blanks' Tae Bo AMPED
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Fitness Cycling

Cycling is attracting more and more people since it is a low-impact, calorie-burning, resistance-building activity. It is also a good way to clear the mind from stress arising from everyday activities. Cycling is also a good way to spend some quality time with loved ones. There are many health benefits that are associated with cycling:

  • Cycling builds leg strength
  • Cycling builds stamina
  • Cycling improves cardio-vascular fitness and helps regulate blood pressure, reducing risk of stroke
  • Reduces the risks of having heart disease
  • Eats up calories and raises metabolic rates
  • Cycling improves coordination and balance. Arm-to-leg, feet-to-hands and body-to-eye coordination are improved.
  • Cycling reduces stress, taking one’s mind out of everyday-life problems

When incorporating cycling into an over-all fitness program, here are basic aspects to consider.

1. Consult your doctor
Cycling generally is a low-impact fitness activity, meaning that is suitable even for those people who have had some kind of injuries before and for older people. However, it is still best to consult your physician when thinking about incorporating a cycling activity into your fitness program. Discuss your limits and capacities and what you should avoid doing.

2. Layout your schedule
Cycling should be considered as a base training activity. It incorporates cardio-vascular and endurance training in one activity. It should be done three times a week and other activities such as circuit training should be done in between to complement the benefits of cycling. Planning your schedule is beneficial in starting a cycling program. Goals of increased mileage or improved speed will add to your motivation.

3. Know your routes
Before engaging in a cycling program, one should scout the town and spot certain places that he would like to traverse. Using a car odomenter, one can calculate the distance of a certain route.

4. Safety and enjoyment
Cycling is no joke and it is important to get the right equipment for the activity. Head gear, kneepads, elbow pads should all be in place when cycling. However, the most important thing to remember is to have fun!

NEXT: Cycling, Spinning, and proper form

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