It’s easy to wax poetic about the virtues of cycling.
Not necessarily climbing mountain passes or “sending it” over huge gap jumps, but just getting around town under your own power.
But let’s get really practical for a moment.
We all deal with an array of small but annoying problems. You know, the everyday things that affect everyday life. “First-world problems,” you could call them, but it’s still nice to find a fix.
And in a lot of cases, utilitarian cycling is an amazing powerful fix.
Just what are the practical benefits of everyday cycling? It’s all relative to your lifestyle, but common ones are:
- Making exercise a part of life
- Avoiding the high cost of driving
- Avoiding the stress of driving
- Freeing yourself of nightmarish parking
- Getting to and from transit quickly
- Arriving at work energized
There are plenty of more abstract, big-picture benefits, too, like the ones I described here.
For now, here’s a closer look at the simple solution to some daily things that drive us nuts.
1. Making exercise a part of life
Cardiovascular exercise is critical for a long, healthy life. It doesn’t have to be hard or extensive, but it has to happen. Regularly.
No news there, right?
The problem is that few of us can spend all day working, be present with family and friends, take part in chores and hobbies and side gigs, and still find time to get out and move.
But most days, we all have to make at least a small trip or two. When those are by bike (or foot or kick scooter…), congrats! Moderate but consistent cardio is now built into your very lifestyle.
By the way, at roughly 300 calories burned per 30 minutes, losing a few stubborn pounds is practically inevitable.
2. Avoiding the high cost of driving
If you’re averse to spending the average of $0.61 per mile driven, then opting out of the whole arrangement is a good deal.
And when walking is too slow or transit isn’t practical, then cycling pays for itself in no time.
It’s great to minimize driving a car you already have, and even better to avoid purchasing a second car.
In fact, the latter is where families can see the biggest financial difference.
Even going all-out on a $4,000 electric-assist cargo bike like the brilliant Tern GSD–the kind that hauls kids and groceries at the same time–is a drop in the bucket compared to buying, insuring, fueling, and maintaining another vehicle for those short but frequent trips.
3. Avoiding the stress of driving
Cost aside, stress is another major issue with driving.
No doubt you know the exhaustion of ending your day with a traffic jam, for instance.
To be fair, cycling does have its stresses–not the least of which is dealing with surrounding cars. But even if intersections are crowded, it’s often possible to bypass other congested areas altogether.
The details vary with local infrastructure, of course.
But no matter where you ride, fresh air and free movement have a way of making everything more relaxing.
4. Freeing yourself of nightmarish parking
On the matter of stressful driving, it’s never fun when you finally inch through gridlock only to find zero parking spots.
The easy solution, then, is to arrive by other means.
Some cities have passed ordinances requiring a certain number of bike racks per storefront (or per linear foot of storefront). If yours is one of them, then you’re just about set!
If not, then you may have to get a little more creative. Sometimes racks hide behind large stores (for employee use) or on the opposite side of the parking lot. Other objects, like railings, can also work well. Just check with local laws first.
And if it’s consistently hard to find a useful bike rack, then a folding bike (or compact kick scooter or electric scooter) is a great alternative. Many of them can simply fit inside a shopping cart. You might get a funny look, but you won’t get stuck cruising the parking lot.
Whatever you choose, hauling your purchases home is seldom difficult. It does take a little planning, but basic racks, panniers, and backpacks work for most things, most of the time.
5. Getting to and from transit quickly
Many people want to take a bus or train rather than drive.
They just don’t have the time to walk all the way to the stop or station.
In that case, a set of wheels is your best friend. We’re not talking about a car, of course, but a bicycle.
Most buses in most cities have well-designed bike racks on the front. Sometimes it’s hard to find space during peak hours, so it’s worth checking before you commit.
That said, this is another time where folding bikes are practically worth their weight in gold. Brompton makes the most compact design on the market, and they ride much better than you’d expect. The price tag is higher than most, but regular riders will recover it quickly.
Even a simple adult kick scooter works well for quick jaunts, perhaps up to a mile or so. Here’s a more detailed guide to when they do and don’t make sense.
6. Arriving at work energized
There’s a big difference between enjoying your morning coffee and needing it.
And if there’s no movement in your morning, you’re probably in the latter camp. (I say that from experience.)
Starting the day with outdoor activity makes a drastic difference.
I’m no scientist and won’t even speculate on the metabolic or hormonal reasons. No doubt there are plenty, though.
Regardless, the effect is real, and consistent, too.
Simply put, getting your blood pumping is the best way to get your brain firing.
Cycling has its trade-offs, as does everything else.
It won’t always be a piece of cake. Alas, it’s not the answer to all life’s issues.
But it can solve several small problems that make everyday life less healthful, more stressful and more expensive than it needs to be.
Perhaps we don’t need to take those problems for granted after all.
Naturally, you’ll need a practical bike for these practical scenarios. Many bike shops focus more on sport riding than everyday transportation, so I’ve written this guide to choosing a city bike. Check it out to get start.