On Yer Bike – 3 Iron-Clad Reasons to Grab your Bicycle and Go!

1. Grab your Bicycle to Protect the Environment

Transport and how we use it has a surprisingly high impact on the environment that nurtures us. Cycling as opposed to driving a car is about as green as it comes – so here are 3 ways that your bicycle protects the planet:

Two girls on bicycles in a wood

Cycling Reduces Air Pollution 

Air pollution is made up of small particles, chemicals and gases released into the air. One of the biggest producers of air pollution is motorised transport.  Burning petrol and diesel releases a lot of carbon dioxide (CO₂) which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. They also release nitrogen dioxide, which damages the environment at ground level, and has an impact on human health. On the other hand, cycling releases very little CO₂ into the air – the only burning of fuel is done by you as you power those pedals – so it has an enormous environmental advantage. 

Cycling Reduces Noise Pollution

Pollution can come in the form of sound as well as chemicals. Noise pollution is any unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect humans and animals’ health and wellbeing.

The effect on humans is fairly obvious, but what is less apparent is the impact on the health and wellbeing of wildlife. Animals use natural sound for all sorts of reasons, such as navigation, finding food, attracting mates and avoiding predators. If we, as humans, disrupt these sounds with noise pollution, it makes it difficult for animals to survive.

So, by leaving the car at home and choosing to cycle instead, you are helping to preserve the ecosystems in your area as well as cutting CO2 emissions.

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Cycling Creates Green Spaces

If more people walk or cycle, we’ll need more traffic-free spaces – green spaces with trees, plants and wildlife. Over time, switching your car journeys, especially the shorter ones, for cycling reduces the need for surfaces to be designed for vehicles. 

This will boost the range of animals and plants that live around you and so improve the biodiversity of your green spaces. This is important for the environment because trees and other plants take some of the carbon dioxide out of the air and so reduce our carbon emissions and lessen the effects of climate change.

Courtesy David Mark on Pixabay

2. Using your Bicycle Helps with your Mental Health

Exercise like cycling has a range of benefits for mental wellbeing.

It Reduces Stress by reducing your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. As you cycle you will recognise the reduction in tension that a bike ride brings. 

It Reduces Anxiety by stimulating the release of endorphins, the ‘feel good hormones’, leading to a feeling of mild euphoria.

It Promotes Calmer Thinking by Encouraging Mindful Thinking where you focus on the sensations of the present moment instead of being caught up in racing thoughts. You don’t have to think about anything except balancing the bike, pushing the pedals, feeling the breeze, and so on. This offers a break from brooding thoughts that might otherwise become overwhelming.

It Combats Depression by boosting your mood, easing symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Regular exercise (three or more times per week) also reduces your risk of becoming depressed.

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3. Using your Bicycle Regularly Benefits your Physical  Health

It Can Help you Lose Weight

Cycling burns between 400 and 1000 calories per hour, depending on intensity and rider weight. And doing something you enjoy while burning calories will help you keep doing it. Of course, a healthy diet containing the right kind of calories is needed as well.

It Builds Muscle

The resistance element of cycling means that it doesn’t just burn fat, it also builds muscle. Muscle is leaner than fat, and people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary.

It Strengthens your Immune System 

Studies of adults up to the age of 85 found that exercise had huge benefits on the health of the upper respiratory system. They also tell us that mild exercise can improve our immune system by increasing production of essential proteins and white blood cells.

It Helps with Better Sleep

Studies found that a drop in fitness of 2 per cent for men and 4 per cent for women resulted in sleep problems. Tiring yourself out with exercise promotes a good sleep pattern, possibly because a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise, elevates the ability to sleep. Exercise also protects against weight gain with age, which is another cause of sleep dysfunction.

It Reduces Heart Disease and Cancer Risk

Cycling raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping round your body, and it burns calories, limiting the chance of you being overweight. As a result, it’s among a selection of forms of exercise recommended by the NHS as being healthy ways to cut your risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

So, now you’ve been convinced to get out there and get pedalling, you need to take care of the machine that is helping you so much. For this you might like to talk to Broken Spoke

Broken Spoke

Broken Spoke is a bike repair shop run as a  not-for-profit social enterprise. It is run by 12 people who are really passionate about cycling, including 4 leaders and organisers, a bookkeeper,  and session leaders and mechanics.

They provide open workshop support, mechanics courses, cycle training, women’s and transgender people only mechanics sessions, and a hub of information for people who cycle (or really want to). They partner with local community organisations, school groups, and individuals with the goal of making people more proficient and confident in cycle maintenance and riding.

Located in St. Thomas’ School, Osney Lane, Oxford, they offer activities and services to do with all things bike.  They do sell bikes – second hand ones that have been overhauled by their mechanics – but this is not their main focus. Mainly they are passionate about helping people become knowledgeable about their bikes, and comfortable with maintaining them themselves. To this end they run Do-It-Yourself workshops, in which cyclists are helped to maintain or repair their bikes by their trained bike mechanics. 

Feel you don’t fit the profile of the average bike enthusiast? Then maybe Beryl’s night is for you. Beryl’s Night is a free monthly evening for women, trans and non-binary folks to come and use the workshop. It usually takes place from 6.30 – 9pm on the first Thursday of the month.

If you really feel that you’d rather a mechanic repaired your beloved bike, rather than exposing it to your own two shaky hands, then repair sessions are available. Here a trained technician will assess your bike and agree what needs to be done, then they will give your bike a full service. Work  isn’t usually booked in advance, so bring your bike along for an assessment.

Broken Spoke also offers training courses, to familiarise you with the workings of your bike, and cycle training, to teach you how to ride safely and confidently.

Courtesy Jarkkomanty on Pixabay

Check out our article ‘about 9 free exercise activities available to you in Oxford, and where to find them here.