Why you should try outdoor cycling
By Hadley Loucks, Mind and Body, Messenger-Inquirer
Spring is right around the corner, and as we all thaw out from winter, most of us are already looking for ways to spend time outdoors.
One great way to take advantage of beautiful weather is outdoor cycling!
Benefits of Outdoor Cycling
Cycling has multiple benefits for both your physical and mental health. Riding your bike is an excellent low-impact mode of exercise that will increase your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and flexibility. Cycling is also a very mindful sport. Getting outdoors and breathing in fresh air lowers your stress levels and clears your mind. Riding a bike allows you not to just be outdoors but experience the outdoors. Feel the wind in your face, smell the flowers and hear the birds chirping. It is quite a meditative experience!
Cycling can also be a very social sport. It is a great way to spend time with your family or friends. Exploring your community on a bike can be a great bonding activity and chance for fun conversations. Riding a bike is a social pastime and can be nostalgic for many. Going for a bike ride is a perfect chance to take a step back from the seriousness of everyday life and feel like a kid again!
Where to ride in Owensboro
The Greenbelt is an excellent option for beginner cyclists as there is no car traffic. Somethings to consider when you are riding on the Greenbelt: Always stay to the right, unless you are passing someone. If you need to pass someone, pass on the left and be sure to let the person know before you’re passing by yelling, “on your left!”
The Greenbelt is also very accessible. There are parking lots at GRADD on East 60, the trailhead at the end of Higdon Road, Higdon Yewell-Heritage Park in Hillbrooke subdivision, and the trailhead on Miller’s Mill Road. Jack Fischer Park, Kroger Starlite, Shifley Park and the Dairy Queen on 231 are also good places to park if you’re just wanting to ride a section of the trail. If you live close to a trailhead, you can get more time riding in just by riding your bike there!
Greenbelt not your jam? If you live in a neighborhood, riding your bike is a great way to explore it. You might even see some neighbors out on their bikes, too! If you are looking to increase your cycling fitness and want some longer routes(20-30 miles) ask a seasoned cyclist about the Panther Creek Loop (West county) or the Blueberry Loop (East county).
Ready to ride? Here are three steps to take before getting out there
1. Tune up your bike.
- Your house isn’t the only thing needing a good “spring cleaning”! After sitting in a garage or basement all winter, you will most likely need to get your bike tuned up. Bike shops offer this service and can be found right here locally in Owensboro!
2. Grab your gear.
- Safety first, always wear a helmet! Other useful cycling gear can include padded shorts and a water bottle. If you’re planning on riding more than about an hour, you’ll want to be comfortable and stay hydrated. Your bottom will eventually get used to the saddle, but if you have not been on a bike for a while, you might be a little sore the next day. Padded shorts will help reduce the pain. Lights are also essential gear for your bike if you plan on riding at dawn or dusk so cars will see you.
3. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Last but most definitely not least, be aware of your surroundings. If you are riding with others, be mindful of your position on the road, if cars are coming toward you or behind you, and how close you are to other cyclists. Cyclists ride with the direction of traffic and follow all laws that cars do (stop at stop signs and red lights). Oh, and like mentioned in No. 2, always be sure to wear your helmet!
Outdoor cycling is a fun way to stay healthy, spend time with your family or friends and explore your community. No matter if you prefer riding your bike for the exercise, stress relief or social benefits, your mind and body will thank you for it! Happy riding!
Hadley Loucks is a group exercise instructor at the Owensboro Health Healthpark.