Bike sales skyrocketed during the past couple of years thanks to the change of lifestyle initiated by pandemic lockdowns. Even now, it is common for keen and would-be cyclists to wait months for their new steeds to become available.
The discoveries these new “Covid cyclists” are making about the sport are nothing groundbreaking. The health, environmental and social benefits of cycling are well known. Cycling’s premier series kicks off with the Tour Down Under in Australia this month, so the reasons to ride are worth revisiting.
Here’s 14 reasons you should get on your bike:
1. More brain power
Researchers from the University of Illinois found that a five per cent increase in fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 per cent in mental tests. That’s right: cycling can make you smarter. That’s because it helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus, the region responsible for memory.
2. Stop getting sick
Forget apples! Riding a bike is the way to keep the doctor away. “Moderate exercise makes immune cells more active, so they’re ready to fight off infection,” says Cath Collins, chief dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London. Research from the University of North Carolina shows that people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week, take about half as many sick days as people who don’t exercise.
3. Live longer
When more than 2400 identical twins took part in research at King’s College in London, those who completed the equivalent of just three 45-minute bike rides a week were nine years “biologically younger” than their identical twin. This is even after discounting other influencing factors, including body mass index and smoking.
4. Avoid pollution
Logic would suggest that a city cyclist would suck up much more pollution than the drivers of cars pumping out exhaust fumes. But it’s not true. Studies have found car drivers experience five times higher pollution levels than commuting cyclists, three-and-a-half times more than pedestrians and two-and-a-half times more than bus travellers.
5. Save money
Buying and maintaining a bike is around one per cent of the cost of buying and maintaining a car. Additionally, riding a bicycle 10 kilometres to work daily will save you almost $A2000 per year in transport costs. The savings add up even more if you normally pay for parking.
6. Burn less fuel
Despite being around for hundreds of years, bikes are one of the most efficient forms of transport invented. On a bike, you travel around three times as fast as walking for the same amount of energy. Considering the additional food you might need to eat to fuel your rides, you do the equivalent of 1998 kilometres per litre.
7. Trees, not roads and carparks
Replacing cars with bikes means less land needed for roads and carparks. Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car.
8. Bikes are quiet
Noise pollution does not just impact your sleep but can cause significant damage to the health and wellbeing of wildlife (loud noises have been proven to affect the hearts of caterpillars and cause bluebirds to have fewer offspring). Noise pollution from freeways and other vehicular activity can also interfere with animals’ navigation and choice of locations to hunt and sleep which dramatically impacts the entire ecosystem.
9. Cutting out chemicals
We usually think of exhaust fumes from burning fuel as the only pollutant for cars. But other chemicals like radiator fluid, oil and battery acids are also bad for the environment. Biking instead of driving reduces all these toxic chemicals.
10. Cycling is social
Bike riding is a great way to connect with friends and expand your social circle. Many cycling clubs are set up to ride together without the thought of ever competing. As you’ll quickly discover, many rides include a stop for a chat and a treat at a café.
11. Doing good for others
Many cyclists turn their health, fitness and determination into fundraising efforts for the causes and people they love. Whether joining an organised fundraising event or simply committing to ride a few extra kilometres a week, thousands of people get on their bike to do a little good every year.
12. Cut the commute
Congestion costs our economy billions of dollars every year. More bikes and fewer cars mean you, your friends and your neighbours can spend less time on the road and more time looking after yourselves and the ones you love.
13. A safer place for all
More people on bikes in your community means fewer cars and a safer road environment. Given that most car trips to school are within walking distance, riding a bike for these trips significantly reduces school congestion and improves children’s safety.
14. Ride local, buy local
When people ride their bikes more often—either for transport, recreation, or both—they are more likely to use their local businesses for their shopping.
The sunny skies and long days make for perfect riding weather. There really is no better time to get out on two wheels and reap all the benefits cycling can offer you, the environment and the people around you.
Brayden Blyde is a freelance writer based in Adelaide, South Australia.