Getting in the habit: How riding a bicycle helps your health and Mother Nature

Riding on singletrack in the St. George area, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Jay Bartlett, St. George News

FEATURE — Did you get a new bike to help you through the COVID-19 isolation? A lot of people did – and I mean a lot of people. 

Bicycles Unlimited, where I work, has had some of its busiest times ever, and bike manufacturers are actually running out of bikes to sell. That’s good news for cycling. Welcome to the sport! With all these new bikes being ridden, we have the potential to help clean up our world as well as clean up our mental and physical health.

COVID-19 hit prior to the summer temperatures setting in, so there was speculation amongst bike shop and industry employees as to whether the majority of these new bikes would end up in the garage collecting dust once the initial excitement wore off and it was “too hot” to ride. I sure hope they were still being ridden then – and now that things are cooler again.

The bicycle is one of man’s finest and most efficient inventions. It not only improves fitness but does so with copious amounts of fun. All you need to do is develop the habit of riding.

Once the habit of riding is ingrained in you, you won’t want to go very long between rides. Start off easy; you don’t want to burn out too soon. Shorter rides filled with fun will make your brain associate riding with the good things in life and urge you to do more.

Get your legs used to pedaling and your butt used to sitting on the saddle. Take some short rides around the block, ride around the neighborhood or run some errands. This can be done on any type of bike, mountain or road. 

If you’re new to mountain biking, start out on easier, shorter trails. Don’t let your friends goad you into heading to some place like Gooseberry Mesa on your early rides. The technical, punchy terrain is a blast for experienced riders but hell for the uninitiated. As you get used to the feel of biking, you can up your mileage as well as your technical challenges.

Comfort is a big help when it comes to getting in the habit of riding. Wear breathable clothing (shorts with a chamois are a big plus), drink plenty of liquids and take a break when needed. Everyone hurts a bit when riding – especially if you’re a newbie – but most pain subsides once your body gets used to the rigors of cycling. If you have a problem that persists, see your local shop for advice on proper fit.

If you’re riding pavement, remember the rules of driving a car generally apply. If riding off-road, there are a few rules to keep in mind. Bikes yield to walking traffic and horses. Uphill riders have right of way over downhill riders since gravity works in favor of the downhill traffic. When passing (or being passed), don’t ride off trail.

Trail courtesy reminder sign, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Jay Bartlett, St. George News

If you’re being overtaken, come to a stop, lean your bike just off line and allow the other rider to go by. It’s called “pass with class,” and it keeps our beloved singletrack from getting boringly wide or so “braided” that it’s hard to tell where the trail goes.

Your lifetime of being a cyclist starts now. The good habit of riding will no doubt help your attitude and health, but if you also substitute some drives for rides, you’ll be doing all of us, including Mother Earth, a big favor. Now get out and ride that new (or old) bike!

Written by JAY BARTLETT of Bicycles Unlimited.

This article was first published in the November/December 2020 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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