National Parks Week: Introducing Britain's National Parks
Discover more about Britain's beautiful National Parks, including the Lake District, the New Forest and Snowdonia
20 reasons why you should get on your bike and make the most of being on two wheels.
For all kinds of reasons, cycling has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the last few years. People across the world are ditching their high-tech cars and trains in favour of this centuries-old method of transportation. In truth, though, there's a lot more to it than just getting from one place to another. The reasons to love cycling go far beyond practicality - here are just a few of the best:
Regular cycling is a great way to improve your fitness, often without actually realising it. All the time you're focusing on keeping your eyes on the road and taking in the sights and sounds of your surroundings, nearly every part of your body is enduring a pretty comprehensive workout.
As mentioned, cycling is a great way to get around. Whether you're heading to the local shops for a pint of milk or making your way across town to start your working day, pedal power will help you get there quickly and efficiently. With a decent lock to hand, parking should be a doddle too.
Cycling burns energy, and when you return from your latest adventure, you're likely to be a few calories down. This means you've got some eating to do! Settle down in front of the TV with some large portions of your favourite protein-filled treats, without any reason to feel guilty.
A long ride through the countryside is enough to take it out of anyone. So, when you're done cycling and eating, you'll probably be tired. Fortunately, you've done enough to earn yourself a guilt-free afternoon nap.
Chasing new achievements is pretty satisfying in itself, but it's also possible to put your cycling graft to good use for others too. Sign up for a charity ride and be sure to tell all your friends about it - not only will you be generating money and awareness for a good cause, you'll also have fresh motivation to stay active.
While efforts are being made to protect the environment, it's clear that our roads are still full of gas-guzzling 4x4s and sky-spoiling sports cars. If cycling didn't exist, however, the problem would be a whole lot worse. By riding a bike instead of driving, you'll be doing your bit to minimise pollution for yourself and future generations.
Unlike running, cycling is a non-impact exercise. This means it won't damage your joints over a long period of time, so you can cycle for years to come without having to face any painful consequences later on in life.
Fuel doesn't just harm the environment - it impacts your wallet too. According to a study from MoneySupermarket.com, the average Brit spends more than £100,000 on petrol and diesel over a lifetime. The cost of powering a bike, on the other hand? Nothing!
The culinary treats aren't only for when you get home. Most organised rides have designated food stops, and it's normal to find a few slices of cake and the odd bacon roll alongside the usual energy bars and sports drinks.
With more than a billion bikes thought to be in existence (over double the number of automobiles), it's safe to say that a lot of people enjoy cycling. Chances are you'll meet a few while you're out on your own rides too, especially if you're mad enough to be out at 7am on a Sunday. You'll be pleasantly surprised at just how friendly a bunch they are, so be sure to say hello as you pass.
Having no real destination to aim for is often what makes cycling such fun. With two wheels and a set of pedals (and maybe a few other bits), you're free to explore the UK's extensive network of roads and pathways. What's more, there are plenty of places you can get to that wouldn't be possible to see in a car.
Riding a bike under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, so we don't condone that, but the promise of a frosty cold beverage at the end of your ride can be a great motivation tool when you're trying to conquer that monster of a hill you've been dreading all week. Substitute for a cup of tea or hot chocolate if you'd prefer something hot.
Cycling on flat ground is one thing, but riding up a hill can be pretty difficult. Climbing is actually something a lot of cyclists hate doing, but the sense of achievement that comes with making it to the top of a steep or lengthy incline makes it all worthwhile
Bikes are made for people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities, so there's no excuse to not get involved. The beauty of it is that you set your own pace, so whether you're looking for some leisurely exercise every now and then or a way to push yourself to new extremes, cycling is perfect.
If you're new to cycling, it's best to start with some shorter trips. As you become stronger and more confident, though, you'll be able to hit new milestones pretty regularly. As you do, you'll be amazed at just how far and how quickly you're able to travel using only your own body.
There was a time when cycling clothes (namely hats and jerseys) were pretty big in the fashion world, even for those who didn't own bikes. Thankfully, that time has passed, but there's still plenty of sartorial delights to enjoy while out and about. Take part in any kind of sportive and you're likely to see Lycra clothing in all colours of the rainbow, bearing the names of companies you've never seen or heard of before. It's quite a sight!
While Lycra isn't everyone's idea of a good look, recent studies have suggested that the faster a cyclist is, the more attractive they're likely to be to members of the opposite sex. All the more reason to train hard!
Cycling on your own is fun, but there's no beating a weekend trip with your equally enthusiastic friends. The adventures you go on should live on long into the future, with the smartphone photos and GPS records illustrating the stories as they're told around pub tables for many years to come.
Last, but certainly not least, Cycling is scientifically proven to improve your mood; that is according to a study carried out by experts from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, anyway. They found that just ten minutes of riding is enough to make someone feel a little happier - think what an hour could do!