Updated: Mar 3, 2021
50plus! Carrying a few extra Covid pounds? Want to get in shape? Don't fancy the gym at the moment? Bored of jogging! Not sure what to do? Well, maybe it's time to think about getting back on your bike.
Your body is meant to move. The more we move, the more muscle we keep and the easier it is to do things. Cycling is a great way to get your body moving.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Now before we go any further as we always say here at 50plus4men, get checked out by your doctor before you start any new form of exercise; listen to your body, build up slowly, and enjoy what your doing.
What bike should you buy? If you're anything like me, the last bike you ever really wanted and never got was a Chopper. That was nearly 35 years ago. Times have changed my friend, so have bikes, picking the right bike today can be a tricky task. Do we want to use it to commute, get fit or just explore the countryside? Whatever the answer there's a bike and price point to suit. For a cycling novice like me, the huge choice can make your local bike shop a confusing place.
To help you find your way through the confusing world of modern bike I have chosen 4 basic bike types which I feel will meet most novice cyclists needs:
Road bike (back in the day we used to call these racers): As the name suggests, road bikes are designed to be used on tarmacked roads. They often have lightweight frames and skinny tyres. With dropped handlebars that allow you to get down into the most efficient and aerodynamic riding position possible and have gearing that’s all about maximum
speed, these bikes are designed to get you from A to B as quickly as possible. Their ability to cover ground quickly can mean that for some they make excellent commuting bikes, but the speed-focused riding position can be uncomfortable and the lightweight wheels and tyres are susceptible to damage from kerbs and potholes.
Pros: Quick, efficient and fun
Cons: Easier to damage, less comfortable for casual riders. No luggage space.
Entry-level price point: approx £350 ( didn't you used to be able to get a car for that)
Mountain bikes are built to take a beating. With aggressive knobbly tyres designed to find grip on almost any surface; powerful motorcycle-style discs brakes and sometimes even suspension at both ends they are designed to take on the most rugged off-road terrain. Even if you don’t plan on riding up Ben Nevis the more relaxed upright riding position of a mountain bike can make it a good choice for general leisure riding.
Pros: Great brakes, upright position, tough, versatile
Cons: Heavy, slow on tarmac
Entry-level price point: approx £300.
Hybrid bike: Best thought of as the halfway house between a road bike and a mountain bike, a hybrid takes the relaxed riding position of a mountain bike and pairs it with a lighter frame and fast-rolling wheels like those seen on a road bike.
They’re great if you need to cover on-road distance but don’t want to contort yourself into an uncomfortable riding position. Sitting in a more upright position may be less aerodynamically efficient but it does allow you to look further ahead, which is a huge boon in heavy urban traffic. Hybrid bikes often use more powerful disc brakes that give more consistent performance in wet weather, though at a slight weight penalty. They’re also often equipped with plenty of mounts that allow you to carry more luggage, such as specialist pannier bags.
Pros: Fairly quick, versatile, upright
Cons: Typically heavier than road bikes, and not as fast
Entry-level price point: £350-450.
Electric bikes (e-bikes)
Over the last ten years, these battery-powered or e-bikes have taken an ever-increasing portion of the bike market. In doing so e-bikes have encouraged an army of people back into the saddle who had long ago given up cycling as an activity of their youth. More and more the first choice of the swarms of delivery riders that now populate our roads there is no longer any need to be embarrassed about riding one of these machines to work in the morning.
So how do they work? Well, instead of you doing all the work yourself, the battery on an e-bike will give you a boost of power when you need it. So if you're going uphill and things are getting a little tough on an e-bike you can get a boost of power to help you get to the top. Most of them seem to top out at about 20 miles an hour, and if you push them hard, you'll drain the battery quickly so this isn't about speeding around town at unnaturally high speeds. Rather an e-bike is about making cycling fun again. They designed to allow you to enjoy riding your bike without having to worry about an approaching hill.
Electric bikes come in a variety of styles to suit all types of cycling, including speedy road bikes, robust mountain bikes and comfortable step-through bikes.
Pros: Easy to ride.
Entry-level price point: £1000.
Make sure the bike fits you.
So you've chosen your bike, now you need to make sure is that it fits you. A bike that fits properly will allow you to ride as long as you want, as hard as you want, and remain comfortable the entire time. A good fit can also help avoid injuries that can arise from an improper riding position.
Basic 3 step guide to making sure your bike fits you:
1. Size: No fit can fix a bike that’s fundamentally too small or large for you. So start by making sure your bike, or the one you want to buy, is the correct size for you. Any good bike shop should make sure you’re on the right size bike as part of the buying process. On more traditional bike frames with horizontal top tubes, look for one to two inches of clearance between the tube and your crotch. For bikes with sloping top tubes, which are more common now, look for at least two inches (more for performance-oriented mountain bikes) of clearance.
2. Seat Height: A seat that’s too low or too high can cause more than just discomfort. Use this broad-stroke method to get in the general range of proper seat height:
Sit on the seat and put your heel on the pedal. If you can’t reach the pedal, lower the seat until you can; if your leg is bent at the knee, raise the seat just until it’s straight.
3. Reach to Handlebars: Proper reach to the handlebars keeps your upper body pain-free. When you sit comfortably in the saddle, you should be able to easily reach the tops and brake hoods on a road bike, or the grips on a mountain bike. Your elbows should be slightly bent, not locked. And the lean of your torso should be supported by your core in a comfortable position. You shouldn’t have to slide forward or back on the seat.
When to Turn to the Pros. Most of us can get away with fitting our own bikes but if we’re very short, or very tall, have old injuries, or biomechanical issues like different-length legs, then a bike fit from a professional when we're buying our new bike could be the way forward.
Riding a bike should be comfortable, so if you have pain, numbness, or tingling especially in the hands, feet or butt something about your bike doesn’t fit you properly. The fix could be simple, but if you’ve tried the self-setup measures above, and it’s not fixing the problem, it’s time to call in the pros.
When thinking about comfort, don’t focus exclusively on the contact points with the bike. improper saddle height can cause knee pain; whilst handlebars that are too far away or simply to wide can cause upper back or neck pain.
Tips: Be honest with your fitter about injuries and issues, particularly with the seat (think of it as a discussion with a doctor). Ride naturally; don’t try to “impress” your fitter with good form.
Remember: Your body will need time to adapt to position changes. If your fit on the bike has changed a lot, back off the volume and intensity of riding for a couple of weeks to give your body time to adjust.
5 reasons why cycling @50plus is a good idea.
1: Cardio & strength workout. Cycling is an excellent way to keep your cardiovascular system healthy. Unlike other activities, cycling allows you to put in as much or as little effort as you like, allowing you to build up to, or simply maintain a level of fitness you’re comfortable with.
2: Low impact exercise. Cycling’s low impact activity. Each step we take whether we are walking or running sends shock waves through the bones in your feet, ankles, knees and hips. As we get old this constant pounding can cause quite severe pain and discomfort. Whether you already have painful joints, or simply don’t want to, cycling is the exercise for you.
3: Mood lifting. It only takes 5 minutes of moderate exercise for you to feel a dramatic uplift in mood. Combine that exercise with the sights, sounds and smells of a two-wheeled adventure through nature, and you won’t want to do anything else.
4: Sharpen your mind. As you cycle, we're constantly making decisions about where we’re going, how to maintain our balance, which gear we need, what's happening on the road ahead etc. This real-time subconscious decision making goes on as you ride your bike and can help too keep our mind sharp and focussed long beyond our fifties.
5. The great outdoors
We've all been inside a little too much over the last few months a bike ride can e a great way to get out and see the world around us.
Final word: So what are you waiting for? Its time to get on your bike and go for it!
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