Bike rides are great for weight loss

bike ridingNow that cool weather is here, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with the outdoors. And what better way to do it than hopping back on a bicycle?

The two-wheeled, leg-powered mode of transportation appeals to people of all ages for a variety of reasons.

Want to lose weight?

Biking can help you and, at the same time, it’s gentler on the joints than other exercise. According to sources cited by the League of American Bicyclists, a 150-pound cyclist going 12 mph can burn 410 calories in one hour. For a 200-pound biker, it’s 546 calories.

The benefit, besides a slimmer you, is improved physical fitness.

If that’s not a reason that stirs you, what about biking as a pleasant form of recreation? You can do it alone or with partners.

Bike paths

And, there’s the lure of some great bike paths. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization working with communities across the country to turn abandoned rail corridors into bike and foot trails, and has developed more than 13,000 miles of trails across the country (www.railtrails.org).

Locally, the Chief Ladiga Trail runs from Anniston to the Alabama-Georgia state line,
and the Old Railroad Bed Trail runs from Bankhead Parkway in Huntsville to Monte Sano Preserve, according to rails to trails’ Web site.

Bicyclists frequently ride the Dr. Bill Sims trail in Decatur between Point Mallard and Rhodes Ferry parks.

The City Council approved this fall extending the park from Rhodes Ferry to Eighth Street Southwest. Long-range plans call for the city to extend the trail to Wilson Morgan Park.

But, first, you have to get a foot on a pedal.

“You don’t have to drive 30 minutes to get to a gym,” says James Griffith, manager of Herb Bauer’s Cycling in Fresno, Calif. “Just walk out your front door, and you’re there.”

Or, as Kevin Slater, president of Tri-Sport Bicycles of Fresno, puts it: “It’s great weather, and it’s a good time to get back on your bike.”

Emily Peters, a saleswoman at Steven’s Bicycles in Fresno, rides a bike and doesn’t own a car. She says physical fitness and recreation are not the only reasons to hop on a bike: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s better for the environment, and you’re not polluting the air.”

And, who knows, gas prices may climb again in the future.

Some folks haven’t hopped on their bikes in years. Others don’t have one at all, having left biking behind in childhood.

“In general, a bike’s still a bike,” Slater says. “The only thing that’s changed is the choice in a bike.” Current terms, such as hybrid, may be unfamiliar. Many models today are lighter and easy to maneuver. But foot power remains the mainstay, whether it’s a traditional two-wheeler or a recumbent model that allows a rider to assume a more reclining sitting position. Tandem bikes, of course, are still around, too, and even adult tricycles.

The bikes described in this report may be more expensive than those found at department stores, but shop owners will tell you it’s worth the investment.

“These are quality bikes that are serviceable, that will last for years,” Slater says. “A bike shop will always take the time to fit the bike to you.”

Bike shop staff, for example, will ask questions about the type of cycling you plan to do and assess your needs. Are you planning to ride around your neighborhood? Longer distances? Are you going to commute to work? Bike shop staff then can determine the bike that best suits those needs and properly fit it to your body dimensions. Otherwise, if you’re not comfortable, the odds are the bike could end up as a garage ornament.

A key to making your newfound interest stick is taking a practical approach to the activity.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY