Cycling is wildly popular by any measure, and has gotten much more so over the last couple years. It comprises everything from leisurely cruising to elite competition, and a whole lot in between.
But the line between hobby and sport cycling is blurry. It has as much to do with your goals and expectations as with the details of what or how you ride. The beauty is you are free to take it as seriously (or not) as you like!
Biking as Hobby vs. Sport
Cycling can be a hobby as well as a sport—even to the same person. It’s unquestionably a sport when you ride for competition or serious training, but more of hobby when your goal is relaxation, exploration, or perhaps general fitness.
Many cyclists also enjoy working on bicycles, whether their own or others’. That’s arguably a hobby in its own right, since it requires distinct equipment and knowledge that aren’t necessary just to ride.
However, many (perhaps most) cyclists worldwide ride for transportation, not for sport or hobby. That’s especially common in parts of Europe and Asia where cycling is a primary means of daily mobility.
Cycling can also be a profession, as in the case of bicycle messengers and even bicycle rickshaw/pedicab riders.
Benefits Of Cycling as a Hobby
Cycling is an active hobby that can improve your fitness with minimal environmental impact. It encourages coordination and situational awareness, too. Cycling as a hobby can even become daily transportation, which saves money and eliminates emissions all while benefiting your health.
Psychologically, riding a bike is uniquely enjoyable because it provides a sense of freedom and autonomy. You can choose to enjoy it spontaneously, and without complex infrastructure, formal training or licensing, or hard-to-find equipment.
It also has the convenience of an individual activity, but is also easy to enjoy with a group. It can be a meditative solo pursuit just as easily as a social activity.
Finally, hobbyist cycling is a great way experience familiar surroundings in a different way. You see far more things than you can on foot, but without the high speed, enclosure, and isolation of getting around by car.
Disadvantages Of Cycling as a Hobby
Cycling exposes you to the weather, which may limit where and how long you can ride. Speeds can be much higher than hobbies on foot, which might increase the risk of injury of something goes amiss. It does have the potential to be an expensive hobby, but it does not have to be.
Like any outdoor hobby, cycling requires some planning and preparation based on the weather. The conditions determine your apparel, and may even affect which bike you choose to ride in the case of snow or severe rain.
It’s only fair to acknowledge that higher speeds (compared to, say, hiking) mean higher potential for injuries. Some cyclists also navigate car traffic, which poses serious risks of its own. You can choose to ride slowly and/or avoid busy road, but for many hobbyist riders, they’re simply part of it.
(It’s hard to say exactly how dangerous. We don’t have authoritative data on cycling injury rates since we don’t know how many miles or hours people actually ride in the first place. Not all injuries are recorded, either, since most are minor. In addition, the injury rates between extreme mountain biking versus waterfront cruising are too different to give a single, meaningful risk number.)
Is Cycling an Expensive Hobby?
Cycling doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, and many cyclists begin for just a couple hundred dollars or even less. However, some choose to spend thousands (even tens of thousands) of dollars per year on equipment, coaching, travel, etc. But as a recreational rider, there’s no need to do so.
Upgrades and accessories can turn into a large but unforeseen expense. It’s fun to learn about and experiment with cycling equipment, so some folks end up spending more on gear than on their bikes themselves! Of course, there’s no need to do so, but it’s a sneaky way that expenses of a “cheap” hobby might rise quickly.
How Cheaply Can You Start Start Cycling?
The cost of a city/commuter bike or a good budget hybrid starts around $500 brand new. It may also require a couple hundred dollars in equipment and accessories that first-time cyclists won’t already have.
Mountain bikes may cost another couple hundred dollars for similar quality, mostly because worthwhile suspension doesn’t come cheap.
That’s enough to be an obstacle for some people, but compared to many other hobbies—from photography to autos to collecting—it’s very little.
Of course, you can save money by buying bikes at the right time, and getting a secondhand one if possible. With some luck (and the help of a knowledgeable friend) you might be able to find a good, used bike for as little as $100-$200.
You can also make cycling a cheaper hobby by buying used locks, fenders, bags, racks, and so forth. But they can be tricky to find, and may cause compatibility/mounting issues that a newbie wouldn’t know to look for.
As mentioned earlier, it’s extremely expensive to try new equipment on a regular basis. Secondhand gear might resell for about half of what you paid, very roughly speaking, so life as a “gear-addict” is pricey! Learn to enjoy what you have, and look to places and people—not parts—for enjoyment.
How Expensive Can Cycling Be?
If money’s no object, you can spend upwards of $10,000 on a bicycle and thousands more on apparel and accessories—not to mention training and travel, if that’s your thing!
Of course, few recreational cyclists want bikes in that price range. Those prices reflects cutting-edge features that you probably won’t notice (let alone value) outside of certain racing scenarios.
Is It OK to Bike Every Day?
It’s fine and even healthful to bike every day, provided you give your muscles time to recover. For example, many bike commuters ride to work five days per week and go for recreational rides on the weekends.
People who are very active in general—whether from sports or a physical job or both—may find it harder to cycle every day in addition to all that. There might also be time constraints, so if cycling is something you value, then bike commuting might let you do it without carving out too much additional time. (Here’s a closer look at whether bike commuting is worth it.)
If you find yourself feeling persistently sore, or your legs seem to be getting weaker rather than stronger, then take a few days off. Different people have different recovery rates, since baseline fitness, diet, rest, and even genes are important factors.
If you’re an occasional cyclist who wants to ride more often, then consider adding shorter but more frequent rides to your routine. That lets your body adapt to shorter recovery periods without getting too worn down.
Cycling Is What You Want It To Be
Cycling is a fulfilling and healthful hobby, an exciting sport, and also a practical means of transportation. For some, it’s even a way to earn a living.
But when all is said and done, a bicycle is merely a tool. The lifestyle you build around it is what makes it a hobby, sport, and/or something else…and that’s entirely up to you!