One of the most magical parts of growing up is learning how to ride a bike. The two wheels of a bike are the ship while the driveway and the streets are the uncharted territory waiting to be discovered. Riding a bike is freedom!
Whether you continued riding your bike after you grew up or if you put it down for a while, it’s undeniable how riding a bike makes you feel. And the best part of bike riding is that it’s an activity that you can share with family and friends! But if you’ve been off a bike for a while or if you have ridden for a while, but your experience has started to feel a bit stagnant, it may be a bit overwhelming to figure out how to reengage with cycling.
That’s why we crafted this comprehensive guide to help you discover (or rediscover) the joys of riding a bike!
Benefits of Outdoor Cycling
Riding bikes outside offers a ton of benefits. First, the most obvious one is that it is a great form of cardiovascular activity. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week to promote good heart health. With heart disease being one of the leading causes of death in the US, it’s super important to take care of your heart!
In addition to the physical benefits, outdoor cycling also offers a lot of mental health benefits. Sure, you could ride a stationary bike inside. But the endorphins that your brain produces from being outside give biking outdoors a bit of an edge over indoor cycling.
Being able to explore the area around you under your own power offers the ability to fully experience the environment in ways that can’t be done on a stationary bike or from the inside of a car for that matter. You get to take in the views as you make your way down the path, road, or trail that you’d otherwise speed right past inside of a car.
What’s even better about cycling outdoors is that it’s a great way to broaden your social life as well. Whether you join a local cycling group or you go riding with your family, cycling offers the ability to share a fun hobby with others, which makes cycling all the sweeter!
Road Biking or Mountain Biking?
One of the biggest decisions to make when you begin looking into outdoor cycling is whether to get a bike that is best suited for road biking or for mountain biking. Both offer the same health benefits, but which style of bike should you invest in first?
Well, one of the things you need to consider is your ideal riding situation. Take a minute to reflect on the following questions to help you decide whether to get a road bike or a mountain bike:
- Where do you want to ride your bike the most, on dirt or on pavement?
- When you’re driving down the street, which style of bike do you find yourself looking at the most?
- What style of bike captures your attention the most?
If you’re someone who envisions tackling long distance rides with little to no amount of time spent of dirt, a road bike might be the best choice. Road bikes are generally built with rigid frames, which means that they aren’t going to be as capable at absorbing bumps as mountain bikes are. But for what they lack in suspension, they make up for in pedaling efficiency. All of your effort from pedaling goes directly into the drive train, which translates into a much more powerful pedal stroke.
However, if you want to get out on a trail to feel the untamed contours of the Earth, mountain biking might be for you. Mountain bikes are specially designed with bump absorbing suspension, which ensure that your tires maintain contact with the ground while going over uneven surfaces. There are two main suspension styles with mountain bikes: hardtail and full suspension.
Hardtail bikes only have suspension in the front of the bike. This is ideal for those who want to spend more time riding on relatively smooth trails like bike paths and fire roads. The front suspension will help absorb the small bumps in the trail, while the drivetrain is able to maintain a lot of the same efficiency as a road bike does.
However, if you’re interested in taking on trails with a bit more bumps in the way, a full suspension bike may be more appropriate. These bikes are great for tearing through chunky trails because not only do you have a suspension in the front like a hardtail, you also have suspension under your seat so that the rear tire also absorbs the bumps on the trail. This offers a much more comfortable and forgiving ride compared to a hardtail bike.
Keep in mind that for what you gain in shock absorption, you lose in pedal efficiency. This is due largely to the fact that the power you put into each pedal stroke will get partially absorbed by the rear suspension.
Regardless of the style of outdoor cycling you decide to engage in, you’ll need to make sure that you ride fully prepared to take on any challenges that may come your way while riding. Make sure to carry the following gear items each time you go for a ride!
- A helmet
- A spare innertube
- A flat repair kit
- A hand pump or CO2 cartridge
- A water source (it can be a water bottle mounted on the frame of your bike or a hydration backpack)
- A snack
Each one of these items are essential to ensuring that you not only have a good time while you’re riding, but you are also safe. We want you to keep biking for as long as possible, so be sure to never go ride without them!
There really isn’t anything quite like outdoor cycling. Whether you get into road biking or mountain biking, you’ll reap the health benefits of riding your bike. Regardless of the style of bike you buy, be sure to always go prepared to ensure you keep riding for years and years to come.
And please make sure to find your cycling family! Whether you go with friends or family, there really isn’t anything quite like reminiscing on past rides. And what’s better than talking about the epic day you had riding than sitting around a campfire. The Radiate Portable Campfire is a great option for those who don’t have access to a fire pit. Kicking your feet up with a cool beverage in the company of your favorite people while you watch the light of the fire dance is certainly a delightful way to soak in the joy and freedom you felt after riding your bike!