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King Farm Blog

IKF Blog
Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pedal power: Hop on a bike for fun and fitness

Remember how great it felt to ride a bike when you were a kid? Likely you had one with no gears, a bell to ring when you wanted to signal someone to get out of the way, and a basket to carry your gear.

If you haven’t jumped on a bike since your grammar school days, maybe it’s time to try it again. There are good reasons to do that: Riding a bike can burn up to 500 calories an hour. It’s easy on your joints and helps to develop the muscles that stabilize your hips.

According to People for Bikes, a website that aims to connect bike riders and make riding better for everyone, bike use is growing among all age groups, but it is skyrocketing among active older adults.

If you aren’t familiar with the improvements in bike technology, you’ll be amazed at the variety of two-wheelers that have become available since your first bike as a kid. There’s a bike for nearly everyone, and choosing the right one for you is crucial if you’re going to enjoy safe pedaling trips.

Mountain bikes, for example, are best for off-road excursions. They’re rugged and heavy, requiring a good fitness level to ride. Road bikes are built for speed and long-distance riding. The riding position, which requires you to lean forward, can be awkward for older riders, and they have skinny seats that may be uncomfortable. Hybrid bikes, which combine the best features of road and mountain bikes, may be better suited to most folks. They allow you to sit in a more upright riding position.

Step-through bikes may a little bit closer to the ones you used to ride. There’s no high bar you have to step over, so it’s easier to get on and off. The EZ boarding bike, a variety of step-through, is specifically made for older riders.

For those who need more stability, why stop at two wheels? Adult tricycles offer ease of mounting and lots of cargo space. You can also select a two- or three-wheel recumbent bike or a specialty bike tailor-made for your needs.

It’s important to pick the right size bike and to make sure your seat and handlebars are correctly positioned. That equation can be complicated; a good bike shop will help you figure it out. Check out this website for general rules about sizing and setup. Your bike shop can recommend alternative seats that may increase your comfort.
No matter what type of bike you choose, you’ll want to invest in accessories to make your ride safer and more fun. A helmet is a must. So is a water bottle—you can buy bottles that clip onto your bike, or you can carry it in saddlebags or a basket. A spare tire, pump and simple toolkit will spare you from a long walk home if you have a flat.
If you’re going to ride in traffic, it’s essential to have a mirror that mounts on your handlebar or clips to your helmet. Once you get into the swing of things, you might want to invest in some gear like bike shorts, jerseys and cycling shoes.

If you haven’t ridden in a while, you should check with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to start up again. Chances are, he or she will tell you to go for it!
It’s a good idea to start with easy rides close to home in low-traffic areas. As you become more skilled, you can broaden your horizons. There are hundreds of bike trails in the D.C. area; find descriptions and rankings for many of them here.

You might want to get together with other riders for group rides, or set up regular rides with your retirement community neighbors. If you want to meet cycling enthusiasts of all ages, consider joining one of the many bicycling clubs.

Whether you ride with your spouse, a friend or a group, cycling is a fun, relaxing and healthy activity. You might even feel like a kid again.

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