Regular cycling can help you lose weight, reduce stress and improve your fitness. As well as information on the health benefits, you'll find plenty of tips below on equipment, road safety and cycle routes.
Cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK. An estimated 3.1 million people ride a bicycle each month.
As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal. Toddlers, pensioners, the able-bodied or people with disabilities can all enjoy cycling if they have the right equipment. Read our guide to cycling for beginners, which includes tips on staying motivated.
Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine because it's also a form of transport. It saves you money, gets you fit and is good for the environment.
It's a low-impact type of exercise, so it's easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities. But it still helps you get into shape.
For example, someone who weighs 80kg (12st 9lb) will burn more than 650 calories with an hour's riding, and tone their legs and bottom. If you ride up hills or off-road, you'll also work your upper body.
The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on the bike is to ride for at least 150 minutes every week. For example, you could cycle to work a few days a week or do a couple of shorter rides during the week with a longer ride at the weekend. You'll soon feel the benefits.
For more information on road safety for cyclists read cycling safety advice.
British Cycling's website has recreation and travel sections that offer information and hints on everything you need to enjoy cycling, whether you're a cycling commuter, mountain biker or first-time cyclist.
The site includes a national leisure cycling calendar, which lists everything from charity events to multi-day challenges, and advice on training, maintenance and improving fitness.
It has pre-planned routes for you to ride in your area, and a function where you can map where you've ridden, log the miles you've travelled and rank yourself against other riders.
You could also join a club in your area and go on organised bike rides. See British Cycling's clubs page to find one.
If you want to turn your hobby into something more competitive, there are around 2,500 races registered with British Cycling each year. There are all sorts of bike races to chose from. Visit the British Cycling recreation section to find a race near you to watch or take part in.
Wearing a cycling helmet can help prevent a head injury if you fall off your bike.
It's important to wear a helmet that meets the following criteria:
Make sure you replace your helmet every five years. Don't buy a secondhand helmet – it may be damaged and may not protect you properly.
If you use your bike at night, it is compulsory to have:
Reflectors fitted to the front and the spokes will also help you be seen.
You can get lights that are steady or flashing, or a mixture of steady at the front and flashing at the back. A steady light at the front is important when you're cycling through areas without good street lighting.
Check that any steady light has the BS 6102-3 mark on it. Flashing lights don't have to meet the British Standard, but they do need to:
Your pedal reflectors and rear reflector must be marked with BS 6102-2. You can also use a light or reflector that meets a standard accepted by another European Commission (EC) country (equal to the British Standard).
Additional lights and reflectors
You can use other lights as well as the compulsory ones, but they must:
If they are flashing, it must be at a rate of one to four equal flashes per second.
Do the following checks on your bike regularly to make sure it's in good working order.
Front tyre and wheels
Lift the front end of the bike by the handlebar stem and then:
If you have a front mudguard, there should be at least 5mm between the front mudguards and the tyre. Remove the mudguard if it rubs against the tip of your shoe when you pedal.
Lift the rear of the bike by the saddle and go through the same checks for the back wheels.
Apply the front brakes. Check that:
Apply the back brake and go through the same checks. The back tyre should slide, not roll, when you apply the brakes and push the bike forward.
Handlebars and steering
All the parts on the handlebars should be tight and you should be able to steer freely. Release the brakes, stand in front of the front wheel and grip it between your knees. Then make sure nothing is loose when you try to:
Your saddle should be set at a height that's comfortable for you.
Place one heel on the pedal. Your leg should straighten when the pedal is furthest from the saddle.
Make sure you don't raise the saddle high enough to see the height limit mark on the seatpost. If the saddle needs to be this high for you to sit comfortably, you probably need a bigger bike.
Move towards the rear of the bike and hold the saddle tightly. Check that you can't move it up and down or from side to side. If it moves, tighten it.
Chain, gears and pedals
Ask someone to work the pedals by hand while you hold the rear wheel off the ground by the saddle. Then:
Make sure the chain isn't hanging off, broken or rusty. Lubricate the chain with some oil if necessary.
For advice on buying and looking after cycling equipment and correct riding positions, go to Bike4Life or speak to the staff at your local bike shop.
Why not sign up to our mailing list and receive regular articles and tips about IBD to your inbox?