Biking to work may seem like a remote possibility during the snow and ice of winter, but now that the weather is changing, it’s time to tune up our bikes and get outdoors!
Bike to Work Month and Bike to Work Week spring up across Canada in May and June (check your local municipal websites to find out when they occur in your city), so this is a great chance for you to pull your bike out from the dusty depths of your garage.
Biking is a fun and easy way to get exercise, on your own or in a group. Leisurely cycling for an hour at fewer than 10 miles (16 km) per hour burns about 270 calories (based on a 150 lb/68 kg person)—that’s more than walking at a moderate pace, or an hour of hatha yoga. Of course, all of these activities are good for you, but biking is such a great way to commute, explore, get healthy, and help the environment, that it’s in a league of its own.
“I find biking addictive,” says Gerald Roper, a travel agency business owner and avid cyclist. He works full time and on his days off, he enjoys taking long cycling trips that involve ferries and bus rides, and can last up to five days at a time.
He’s not alone. The City of Toronto found that from spring to fall 2010, the number of cyclists in one intersection doubled after installing bike lanes. Then a Toronto cycling organization observed the same intersection for a day in fall 2012 and compared the numbers to the previous count. Its follow-up found that the number of cyclists nearly doubled again. And this is only a commuter area—recreational cyclists all over are enjoying trails, paved paths, and neighbourhood streets.
Commuting by bike
When it comes to commuting to work by bike, Canadians have been increasing in numbers, but the numbers are still low. Victoria, BC, followed by Kingston, Ontario, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, have the highest percentages of bicycle commuters in Canada at 5.6 percent for Victoria and 2.4 percent for both Kingston and Saskatoon, according to the last poll in 2006.
Biking is a great way to get to work while skipping the traffic, the parking, and the chaos of rush hour. With the right exercises, maintenance, and safety sense you should be able to enjoy your bike until the next snow.
With biking being a great way to get fit and healthy, as well as a quick way to commute around town, here are some targeted exercises to get you off the couch and on your bike just in time for Bike to Work Week and Month.
You can do these exercises as a series once, or repeat the series twice for a greater burn. Make sure to warm up with some light activity such as walking, jogging, or dynamic stretching for at least six minutes before starting your exercises.
Rear and forward lunges
- For rear lunges, stand with your legs hip width apart and your arms hanging beside you.
- Lift one leg and press it behind you, bending your back leg and dropping it toward the ground. Your front knee is at 90 degrees.
- Slowly stand up and bring your leg forward.
- For forward lunges, start in the same body positioning, but step forward while dropping your back knee toward the ground.
- Push off your front foot and come back to the centre.
Reps and sets: 2 sets of 15 for each direction
- Beginner: no hand weights
- Intermediate: add hand weights with a bicep curl
- Advanced: add hand weights and raise your knee in the middle instead of stepping down
Muscles targeted: gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, core, calves
Squats with rows using a band or cable
- Keep your legs hip width apart, and squat down as if you are sitting in a chair.
- Holding your hands on the band/cable, pull your elbows back at shoulder height as you stand up, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Reps and sets: 2 sets of 15
- Beginner: use a lighter band/cable for the row
- Intermediate: use a heavier band/cable for the row
- Advanced: add a three-count pulse at the bottom of the squat
Muscles targeted: gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, core, lats, rhomboids, teres major, traps, biceps
Bridges lying on the floor
- Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Slowly lift your bum off the ground as high as you can go, squeezing your bum at the top.
- Hold for 1 to 5 seconds, and then slowly return to starting position.
Reps and sets: 2 sets of 20
- Beginner: keep your arms on the floor
- Intermediate: lift your arms all the way past your head, right down to the floor if you can reach that far, as you lift your bum up
- Advanced: lift your arms and add a weight/medicine ball between your legs
Muscles targeted: gluteals, hamstrings, core
Plank on the floor
- Face the floor on your hands and knees, lift your knees off the floor, and make your body long and strong like a piece of wood (plank).
- Hold your abdominals in tightly and breathe.
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 30 seconds
- Beginner: keep your knees on the floor
- Intermediate: knees off the floor
- Advanced: go from your elbows up to your hands as you hold your feet on the floor (up, up, down, down from hands to elbows)
Muscles targeted: core (all abs and lower back), shoulders, triceps
Stay safe on your bike
Keep your tires properly inflated
Don’t use the gas station air supply, as this can cause bike tires to explode! Use a manual pump; but know what type of valve you have. Keep your tires inflated to the pounds per square inch (psi) recommendations on your tire. Too little or too much air will affect your ride.
Air seeps out of your tires on a regular basis, so tires will need to have air pumped in at least every month.
Keep up with maintenance
Frequent rider? Keep your bike maintained regularly by keeping the mud off and by using bike lubricant to keep parts moving properly. If you’re not riding too often, get a yearly tune-up from a professional.
Carry spare parts
If you’re off on a mountain trail with no facilities around, you should have some spare parts. Recreational rider Santiago Palacios, for instance, carries a small pump, patch kit, hex key multi-tool, spare tire, water bottle, and power bar on his rides through the forest.
Use your senses
While wearing headphones on your bike as you ride may not be against the law, depending on where you live in Canada (it is illegal to ride your bike with headphones in Quebec), wearing headphones can cause you to lose some of your valuable senses. Keep your eyes open, your ears available, and your body well positioned for any situation you may find yourself in.
Have the right gear
With any type of exercise, it’s important to have the right gear; wear comfortable and breathable clothing that wicks away sweat, and keep a water bottle stowed on the bike so there is easy access.