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The Benefits of Cycling For Exercise

Why Biking Is the Best (It's Definitely Not About the Gear)

When I see a runner pounding the pavement, I feel respect. I think, "Good for you!" When I see a cyclist, I feel jealous. I start imagining where they've been and if I can fit in a ride. I just love biking. It is without a doubt my preferred form of exercise. Not on anything stationary, not "dancing" in the saddle, but out on the open road.

Yes, the gear is comical. Padded spandex shorts, helmets, wrap-around sunglasses — all ugly, but all perfectly suited to the sport. I love what my photochromatic shades do for my eyes, but I refuse to wear them unless I am on my bike. Regardless of how silly I look suited up, here's why I love cycling. Should you feel inspired, don't worry: it's a big road, and there's plenty of room for all of us.

Related: The 3 Yoga Poses Every Cyclist Needs

Ummm . . . It's Fun

I had a running coach who told me running is not supposed to feel good; you need to push yourself to keep pace and improve. After suffering through tempo runs and speedwork, I realized that I like exercise that actually feels good. I can push myself on a bike and not hate life. Every ride usually begins with me smiling and remembering the freedom I felt as a kid cruising around on two wheels.

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Endurance and Enjoyment

No matter how much I begrudgingly trained in my sneakers, I could never run for long; after about an hour, I was spent. But I can bike for long periods of time and enjoy it — every single ride. I think I only enjoyed running twice in my life. Sure, cycling is easier; you're sitting, for Pete's sake, and I have to put in more time to burn the same amount of calories. But it's worth it because I actually like those miles.

Distance

I can ride for 20 minutes and wind up in a beautiful state park. I can bike for 40 minutes and be surrounded by pastures full of cows or redwood forests. Give me two hours and I can stray really far from home — you can really go places on a bike. Every workout feels like an adventure.

Hills

It is so much easier to climb hills on a bike than on foot. Shift into the easiest gear and just keep pedaling, panting, and standing up when needed. Once you crest the hill, you get to coast down. It helps to spin your legs to make sure lactic acid doesn't build up in your burning thighs, but you get to chill all the same. This is the complete opposite of running, where downhills chew up your quads as your body deals with the pull of gravity. I used to descend hills on my bike like a grandma, but the more I ride, the easier (and more fun) the long, steep, curvy descents become.

Speed

Cycling provides the perfect speed at which to view your surroundings. Running is too slow and driving too fast. On a bike, you can take in the view and examine whatever lies on either side of the road. For this reason, I like biking vacations; we rent road bikes and bring our own seats and pedals. Weekends away with my husband in northern California, long early-morning rides on beach vacations, afternoons away from the lake house — you never know what you might find.

Image Source: Specialized
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