Success of bicycle workouts depend on bike

GERMANY - At the first sign of spring, many people start thinking about pulling their bicycles out of the garage and getting in shape.

By (DPA)

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Published: Mon 23 Mar 2009, 9:59 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:45 AM

“Along with hiking, swimming and jogging, cycling is a classic outdoor endurance activity,” says Theodor Stemper, a sports scientist at the University of Wuppertal, adding, “It brings about all kinds of desirable effects for a person’s heart and circulation.”

These benefits include improved heart muscle. Circulation improves and high blood pressure eases. The motion is easy on the joints as the cyclist’s weight is supported by the bike. The immune system also benefits from outdoor exercise. Plus, as a cyclist builds up stamina, the back and leg musculature gets a workout while the health of the knee and ankle joints is maintained.

Nonetheless, consult a doctor before going out cycling after a long break. Then, take a close look at your bike which should be functional and compatible with the cyclist’s weight and height. The saddle should be positioned at the height of the rider’s hips. Stemper says that, when in a seated position, a cyclist’s leg should be able to fully extend with the heel on the pedal at its lowest position. The position of the handlebar should allow the cyclist to lean slightly forward, but without bending the back too much. Normally, the handlebar is slightly higher than the saddle. If it’s possible to set the distance between the steering column and the saddle, Stemper recommends the length of the rider’s lower arm as a good standard.

”More important than any measurement is feeling comfortable on the bicycle,” said Rolf Lernberg, head of ZIV, a German bicycle industry association. Always test an old bike to make sure it’s in good condition.

If a person is serious about adding cycling to their workout regimen, their first stop should be at a special shop.

“You should expect to spend about 450 euros (566 dollars) on a good, solid bike,” advises Bettina Cibulski of ADFC, a German cycling club. Less experienced cyclists invest in a simple city or trekking bike with somewhat wider wheels, fenders, bag carriers and the lowest riding frame possible. The kind of training regimen planned is also important when picking a bicycle. “Trekking bikes are better for long trips,” says Markus Lehrmann, head of the German Second-hand Bicycle Association. Test the bikes at the dealership to ensure that the bicycle is suited to the cyclist and go for a test ride. ”More and more individualized bicycles are being sold,” says Lehrmann, adding, “The customer chooses a specific handlebar or saddle and then generally pays a small premium.” Training can start as soon as the bicycle has been purchased or prepped for use.

“To start, a half hour to three quarters of an hour two to three times a week is sufficient,” says Stemper. “If there’s no wind and the terrain isn’t too hilly, then it’s OK to try longer rides of up to 20 kilometres.” When training, it’s important not to focus on speed, but on consistency. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll soon notice classic symptoms of exertion. ”If you run out of breath, can’t feel your hands or notice that your knees and posterior hurt, then you should slow down and ratchet down a gear,” advises Stemper.

INFO-BOX: Gear for the new cyclist Start off with weatherproof outdoor clothing, but be sure to layer. Wide trousers legs should be cinched with metal clips or velcro bands. Bright clothing makes you more your visible for other commuters. A helmet boosts safety. Shoes should be light and have a solid sole and shoelaces that are not too long. Lightly padded cycling gloves offset vibrations in the steering column and the pressure of bracing oneself. Biking goggles protect against insects and help prevent eyes from tearing. Sunscreen is also advisable to protect against ultra violet rays.

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