Cycling is an excellent activity to take part in if you want to improve your fitness and tone your lower body. It’s a non-impact activity, which means it doesn’t put too much stress on the joints in your knees, ankles or back. This makes it a good option for people who cannot do other forms of exercise because of problems in these areas.
There are four different cycling disciplines – BMX, road, track and mountain biking – each offering a different technical challenge. Road and mountain biking are most often seen as fitness activities and are ideal for beginners as all you need is your bike and a helmet.
All our gyms are stocked with indoor bikes for cycling as part of a fitness programme, and group cycling is one of our most popular and effective group exercise classes. Some centres also offer Watt Bikes, which offer a more detailed analysis of your cycling and are the closest you can get to road cycling while indoors. Some centres may also offer bikability or learn-to-ride schemes for the little cyclist starting off on their biking adventures.
For more information on cycling clubs and coaching, visit British Cycling’s website, and for dedicated cycle routes near you, ranging from tarmac paths to challenging off-road routes, visit the Sustrans charity.
As mentioned earlier, there are four main cycling disciplines – BMX, road, track and mountain biking – each of which requires different skills, different equipment and takes place in different environments.
BMX – which stands for bicycle motocross – is a style of cycling where you ride off road – either on a track in a racing environment or you’re taking on obstacles such as jumps and half pipes in order to perform tricks for points. There are a number of BMX facilities located all over the country, including a BMX pump track at the Cottonmill Community & Cycling Centre.
Road cycling is one of the most popular types of cycling there is. It’s fantastic exercise – you’ll often see people out on Saturdays and Sundays (and during the week, of course) enjoying a ride either alone or with their friends. It’s a great way to enjoy the countryside, get some fresh air, socialise and exercise regularly too. In more urban areas, it’s also popular as a way to commute – cutting through the traffic, while giving you the opportunity to enjoy some exercise before and after work, too.
In competition, the Tour de France is the famous road race in the world, with three weeks of nearly non-stop stages taking on some of the highest mountains in Europe, as well as any number of flatter stages across hundreds of miles. There are also road races at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games – single stages which can be over 100 miles.
Track cycling takes place in the velodrome. It’s here that Olympic heroes such as Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Laura Kenny have been forged. Using special high-performance bikes, the aim is to cycle round the 250m, steeply-banked, ovular track as quickly as possible through a variety of disciplines, including the sprint, the team pursuit and the kierin.
Mountain biking – as the name suggests – takes place on mountains and steep hills. The bikes are generally more ruggedly built than road or BMX bikes and have chunky, off-road tyres. They also have plenty of gears to make riding up steep hills a little easier and can even come with rudimentary suspension to help soak up some of the lumps and bumps.