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Are Bikes the New "Toilet Paper?"

Here we are in May—smack in the middle of National Bike Month—amidst a pandemic.

In the majority of states that have issued stay-at-home orders, we're fortunate that bicycle shops were deemed essential businesses that could stay open.

Yes, you can pretty much find a bike shop open if you need to buy a bike or get your old one tuned up, repaired and ready to ride.

But is something bigger happening here?

Communities are seeing surges in cycling as people are looking for ways to get outside and remain active. More adults, kids and families are dusting off their bikes so they can use them to get around at a low cost. Bicycle sales have gone out the roof, bike shops are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Are we experiencing somewhat of a bicycle "renaissance"?

We're seeing families and individuals riding bikes in droves more than we've seen over the last 20 years. So by number of measures, bicycle-riding is up about 50% from the same period of time last year.

“I’ve never sold more bikes in my life,” said bike shop owner Dan Zapkowski, who runs Pacific Beach Bikes in San Diego, California.

Sales of bicycles are booming globally, just like it is for Sigma Sports bike shop in the UK.

CBS News reports that millions of people have decided to "pedal their way through the pandemic".

Last week, the bicycle giant Trek released results from a national survey of over 1,000 American adults (18 yrs and older). It shows that cycling behaviors and attitudes are shifting amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and reveals that bike riding is perceived as a “safer” activity and mode of transportation compared to public transit—and more people are biking than before.

Of Americans who own a bike, 21% of them have been riding more since the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be traced back to a need for less public and crowded forms of transportation, a need for exercise, or just a plain old desire to have a bit of fun while adhering to social distancing in an otherwise stressful time.

The findings also reveal that cycling’s popularity is likely to prevail, with half of Americans (50%) planning to ride their bike more after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

And down in South America, the vice president of Peru's cyclists' association, Aciper, told Americas Quarterly:

“The health crisis is an opportunity to promote the use of the bike not only as a temporary solution, but to become a permanent part of our future transportation systems.”

The pivot to bikes presents an opportunity that biking activists and enthusiasts hope could lead to lasting changes in urban mobility.

Well, that's really no surprise when you look at all the good that comes from riding a bicycle. Just a few of them are listed below:

Bikes are Good for the Environment

Bikes are quiet machines, they don't pollute the air, emit smoke or leak liquids.

They save on space (a dozen bicycles take up the same parking space as one car).

Bikes are Good for Your Pocketbook

Bikes require no gas, no insurance, no trips to the DMV.

Parts and maintenance are relatively low cost and affordable.

A well-cared-for bike will outlast a car any day.

Riding a Bike is Good for Your Body

The cardiovascular workout that cycling provides can not only help control diabetes, prevent heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and put you at lower risk for cancer, but it can also increase your overall muscle strength and endurance so you can do more of the other things you already love.

The aerobic exercise it provides is just plain good for you. The beauty of cycling is that you can go easy, moderate, or vigorous. For example, for those that can't run on their feet due to bad knees.

If you’re new to fitness or are bouncing back from an injury or illness, you can cycle at a low intensity. As you get more fit, you can increase the intensity or continue to cycle at a chill pace. In other words, a bike lets you get a workout at whatever level is right for you.

It's a good workout for your core and back. Maintaining your body upright and keeping the bike in position requires a certain amount of core strength. Strong abdominals and back muscles support your spine, increase stability, and improve comfort while cycling.

Having trouble with sleep? Research from Stanford University found that working out 150 minutes or more per week can help you get more sleep and feel more alert during the day.

Cycling is Good for Your Brain

Research published in "Psychology Today" shows that pedaling a bike helps build a better brain, structurally and functionally.

A study was done involving 10 healthy, young men who pedaled a stationary bike at moderate intensity for 30 minutes. They also completed a series of cognitive tests before and after. After cycling, they scored higher on memory, reasoning and planning, and they were able to finish the tests more rapidly than before.

And REALLY Good for Your Happiness

63% of Americans feel that bike riding helps to relieve stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic according to the Trek research mentioned above.

That makes sense. Even psychologists admit to it. Their research and clinical experience show the critical importance of exercise as revealed in this article from the American Psychological Association:

If you do just one thing, make it exercise.

Their research found exercise to be a very effective way to prevent depression. Patients with major depression, put into an exercise group, had declines in depression equal to those of a group that received antidepressants.

Moreover, the exercisers were less likely than the medication group to relapse six months after treatment. Patients who maintained exercise during follow-up were 50 percent less likely to become depressed than those who didn't exercise.

Another recent study analyzing 26 years of research on depression and exercise finds that even just a little exercise—like 20 to 30 minutes a day—can prevent depression long term.

It's Time to Find the Time

Let's be honest. Cycling takes time out of your busy schedule. Now that you know why you should do it, doing it is another story! It conflicts with all those other demands in your crowded schedule.

But look at it this way. Taking the time to ride, if it really does all those things listed above, will make you a healthier, smarter and happier _______ (just fill in the blank). You'll be a better mom, partner, employee, friend...and all those other roles you have!

You may not have time in your day to do a 3-hour ride, but if you only have an hour, use it.

Is it Too Late to Buy a Bike?

The greatest demand in this "bike sales boom" is for kid’s bikes, hybrid bicycles and mountain bikes that are considered more user-friendly than drop-handled road or racing bicycles, mostly in the $400-700 range.

High-end road bikes and mountain bikes can cost thousands of dollars, but many new bicyclists find plenty to like about those under $700.

If your local bike shop is sold out, try Walmart for kids bikes (many under $100) and adult bikes. At this writing, they have plenty in stock, some are 2-day delivery, some can be delivered to your home.

Keep it Fun, Keep it Safe

Bike riding solo, with friends, with a team, or together as a family—it's your choice. All of them are great ways to get outdoors, get some exercise and have some fun. Your goal doesn't have to be distance, speed, or perfect technique. It can be as simple as having a good time.

For safety, when bringing the whole family out for a ride, especially if you have little ones, check out these bike riding tips for families, published by REI.

Depending on where you live, there may be a lot more available safe spaces to ride during this time. These photos show how cities have closed streets to cars, allowing more space for pedestrians and bicycles to roam about while keeping their distance.

Let the Good Times Roll

There's no argument about it, cycling is on the rise. Okay, so maybe it's not the new "toilet paper". But even before this pandemic became a thing, bicycling was already a great alternative to congested highways, full parking lots, polluted skylines and a general lack of exercise among our population.

It's good for everybody and almost anyone can do it. If more people end up using bikes instead of cars, even if for short commutes, and our communities provide the infrastructure to support it, we'll all be better for it.

Stay safe and have fun!


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