To cull calories and tone your legs and glutes while de-stressing in open spaces, just jump on your trusty bike. Alice Hector has everything you need to know about torching unsightly blubber while burning rubber.
What does the notion of cycling conjure up for you? Windswept hair, rosy cheeks and freedom to meander past breathtaking landmarks? Or following mercilessly behind the clammy butts of middle aged men in Lycra, slogging your way through traffic and chaos?
Cycling is mostly synonymous with the latter, hence recent initiatives to change perceptions and get women involved. Look, there are a lot of reasons not to straddle the saddle, but there are lots more reasons you should get on your bike, not least that it can lead to serious fitness gains.
Here are the most common misconceptions that might be stopping you.
It’s unsafe on the roads
You have to keep your wits about you, but in 15 years of cycling I’ve never had a collision with a car. I anticipate bad driving and slow down at junctions while trying not to cycle through cities.
The rules are simple: follow the Highway Code and you’ll be safe. Not confident enough to take on the roads? Investing in a basic mountain bike opens up traffic-free mazes of trails and paths.
You’ll get a sore area
Saddle sores are unsightly and, as the name suggests, painful. Friction and pressure cause chafing and if you do some ‘gardening’ down there, you risk infected hair follicles to boot. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of a good pair of Lycra shorts, with a padded undercarriage.
This alleviates most problems entirely. Don’t wear underwear underneath, and if you’re still a bit sensitive, invest in a chamois cream. Also, get a good saddle (try ismseat.com for female-friendly ones). Expect to feel a little sore on your first outings but you’ll soon adjust.
What if i get a puncture/mechanical?
Bike maintenance basics are easy to master, and most good bike shops hold an evening class on this very subject. Practise changing a puncture at home so you can cycle without worry.
Carry your mobile phone and some tools and let someone know where you’re heading. I carry a debit card and some cash just in case I need rescuing.
So many bikes get stolen
Yep, I’ve had three go ‘missing’ in my cycling lifetime so keep your steed indoors where possible. Thieves can cut through any lock so customize your bike. A ride that’s instantly recognizable serves as a deterrent.
Check out my custom Dassi bikes frame (below, and otherwise known as the lesser-spotted Zebratron). Not only is it identifiable, I love it and it makes me want to get out and ride.
Cycling makes my back and neck ache
Make sure you get a proper fit because bikes come in all shapes and sizes. Get it wrong and you’ll get tight, sore muscles. Look out for brands that offer this as part of a purchase.
Cycling groups are intimidating
The first time I turned up to a structured ride at university, I dressed in my school PE kit and trainers. About 50 professionals turned up in their fancy clippy shoes, aboard their Deathspeed 5000s, and the consensus was that they, and I, would ride for “three, maybe four hours.”
I wanted to hop on my battered old wheels and head to the nearest hiding place. One of the coaches took pity on the other novice and I, and took us off on our own ‘special adventure’. One hour and 53 minutes later we arrived home from my biggest exertion ever.
It was great. My advice: search out a women’s or beginners’ group and work up gradually to crushing those wannabe pro men.
Find workout advice and more in every issue of TRAIN for HER magazine.