Cycling is the use of a bicycle for sport, recreation, or transportation whilst being balanced by the rider in order to remain upright.
As a sport, the aim is to travel a certain route in the least possible time in order to win the race.
The sport of cycling consists of several categories of bicycle racing including road racing, cyclo-cross, mountain bike racing, track, BMX, and cycle speedway. Non-racing cycling sports include among others freestyle BMX and mountain bike trials.
There are currently four disciplines in Olympic cycling: track cycling, road cycling, mountain bike, and BMX.
Cycle races are popular all over the world, especially in Europe. The countries that tend to be most devoted to cycle racing include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
Other countries with international standing include Australia, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, United States and Colombia.
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number approximately one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many parts of the world, especially in some densely populated European cities.
The first bicycle race is popularly held to have been a 1,200 meter race on the 31 May 1868 at the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris. It was won by an expatriate Englishman, James Moore, who rode a wooden bicycle with solid rubber tyres. The machine is now on display at the museum in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) was founded on 14 April 1900 by Belgium, the United States, France, Italy, and Switzerland to replace the International Cycling Association, which had been formed in 1892 in great Britain.
Since the rise of the Olympic Movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics, cycling has been a contestant event in every Summer Olympic Games.
The first Olympics saw cyclists compete in six races: one road race and five track events.
Cycling first appeared at the World Transplant Games in the 1980s. At the World Games in Innsbruck, Austria in 1987 there were just 35 competitors in cycling, of which only six were women. Cycling has grown from these small beginnings to be a popular event taking place over two days of competition in all age groups for men, women and juniors.
Cycling, either competitive or recreational, is a healthy, fun and a low-impact form of exercise for all ages.
Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, giving a workout to the heart, blood vessels and lungs. The cyclist will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve overall fitness levels. The health benefits of regular cycling include:
Cycling is easy to fit into the daily routine as an individual activity, or enjoyed socially with friends or a cycling club, as well as being a cheap and healthy mode of transport.
If you are new to cycling you may wish to undertake some bike training before you begin in order to give you confidence on the road. Researching online should enable you to find a training centre locally. Additionally, you may wish to look for a local cycling club where you can meet other cyclists and enjoy riding as a group.
You will need to source a bike, a helmet and suitable clothing for the weather and road conditions. Take some time to carefully research the right equipment for your needs. It is best to buy from a cycle shop where you can speak to professionals. It will be important to ensure that you are riding with the seat and handlebars in the correct position and the tyres and brakes are in good working order before you set off. Looking after your bike will help it to work more efficiently and last longer.
You will also need good lights for cycling in poor visibility and a hi-vis vest may also be useful. As you progress you may wish to buy some of the special cycling clothing available however you can cycle in any comfortable clothing.
Images by Rob Chambers