The Disadvantages of a Bicycle

You'd like to add bicycling to your fitness program, but first you want to look at the cycling benefits and disadvantages. If you decide to jump in, you'll receive terrific cardio and muscle-building benefits, and you'll enjoy some quality time in the great outdoors.

Bicycling is a great workout for everyone. (Image: GibsonPictures/E+/GettyImages)

Enjoy These Advantages of Bicycling

Bicycling can deliver a workout geared to your personal fitness level. Maybe you'd prefer a leisurely ride along your county's back roads, stopping to enjoy the scenery while you rack up some cruising miles.

Or, you might prefer a high-energy session that challenges even serious road enthusiasts. Either way, you'll improve your cardiovascular capacity and help to lower your diabetes and heart disease risks. As an added bonus, vigorous exercise can improve your general outlook on life.

To get the maximum benefit from your cycling time, aim for 20 minutes (or more) of cardiovascular exercise three to five times weekly. A moderate-intensity ride, especially in often-changing terrain with a mix of hills and valleys, will provide you with valuable interval training that can really boost your cardiovascular capacity.

In addition, cycling provides low-impact exercise benefits, making it ideal for osteoarthritis patients (and others) who don't want to over-stress their joints.

Even better, bicycling is a family-friendly activity, making it ideal for older and younger riders who enjoy exploring the great outdoors together. Naturally, ensure that the kids wear appropriately sized helmets and other protective gear.

Or, join a local cycling group, and socialize with fellow members while you meander through the countryside. However you slice it, bicycling is a well-rounded exercise option that offers multiple benefits.

Benefits of Cycling in a Gym

Let's say you're intrigued by bicycling's dynamics, but you'd rather not do battle with the elements or unpredictable motor vehicles.

Or, maybe your crazy schedule makes it difficult to carve out time for touring or cardio-infused rides through the landscape. So take your workout indoors, and enjoy the benefits of cycling in a gym setting.

By exercising on the gym's stationary bike, you won't face blistering heat, icy cold air or driving rain in your face. If you need a bathroom break, you simply pause your workout and walk around the corner. And when you enjoy the benefits of cycling in a gym, you can listen to your favorite tunes or catch a TV show while you rack up the miles.

Consider the Cons of Cycling

Naturally, it makes sense to consider the cons of cycling along with the benefits. Chances are, you'll head outside in some less-than-optimal weather conditions. Excessive heat, cold or wet weather can make your ride uncomfortable and possibly dangerous.

Although you can mitigate weather's effects with proper clothing and gear, you'll still face riding conditions you can't control.

Road accidents are another one of the cons of cycling, and falls are most common. Spills can happen in an instant, when you become momentarily distracted and fail to notice wet leaves or gravel on the roadway.

Or, you fail to properly negotiate a curve and skid off the road onto the shoulder. Although some falls leave you with only scratches and a bruised ego, others can result in more serious injuries.

If you're unlucky enough to experience a motor vehicle mishap, you're more likely to be injured than the motor vehicle driver. So, practice defensive riding anytime you hop on the bike. First, remember that you must follow the same operating rules as motor vehicle drivers.

Always ride with the flow of traffic, and continually scan the road so you can anticipate drivers' and/or pedestrians' actions. Finally, become a better rider, so you can better control your bike and safely deal with emerging situations.

In listing cycling benefits and disadvantages, consider bicycles' portability, which makes them an attractive theft target. Whether you own a no-frills get-around-town bike or the latest high-tech mountain or racing bicycle, you don't want someone to steal it.

So, invest in a top-quality bike lock, and always lock your bike to a sturdy bike rack. Ideally, use multiple locking systems to further deter crooks.

Note These Cycling Side Effects

When comparing the cycling benefits and disadvantages, viewing the sport's unintended side effects adds a realistic note to the equation. City-based bicyclists often commute to work or cruise around town during their off hours, requiring them to share the road with varied motor vehicles.

According to an article in the June 2015 Transport Reviews Journal, this close proximity can expose the bicyclists to air pollution from vehicles' exhaust fumes. Each cyclist's exposure depends on multiple factors, the first of which are the local and regional emission sources and levels. Local emission standards also figure into the mix.

If you're an urban cyclist, your cycling route somewhat determines the amount of pollutants you'll encounter. If you travel through light traffic, or travel adjacent to vehicles that emit fewer pollutants, you'll likely have less exposure than a cyclist traveling through town with gas-guzzlers at rush hour.

Also among the cycling benefits and disadvantages, you might experience weak and/or numb hands on long-duration rides. These sensations result from keeping your hands in one position for an extended period, creating lots of stress and pressure on those related nerves.

To alleviate this discomfort, wear padded gloves and periodically change your hands' positions during the ride. Use your core strength (rather than your hands) to keep yourself balanced. Finally, keep your bike well tuned to reduce harmful vibrations that can aggravate the issue.

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