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Cycling for Mental Health
Bike commuting is great for your mental health. It’s an easy way to get a little exercise without having to plan extra time to go to the gym. Daily exercise isn’t only great for your physical health, it’s also great for your mental health. When I’m not riding my bike every day my depression becomes significantly more difficult to manage. Also once you get in the habit of bike commuting, you don’t even feel like it’s exercise. Hopping on your bike at the end of a long workday is a great stress reliever and I’m usually in a better mood after I bike home. Bike commuting can be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before but it has a ton of mental health and physical benefits. I’ve been biking over driving for over a year and encourage other people to try it! Start out with one day a week and add more days as you get used to it.
Unless biking some serious miles you don’t need a fancy bike to commute. When I went to Amsterdam everyone was bike commuting on really crappy bikes and it worked fine. If you’re short on cash but need a bike, look on Craigslist and local bike shops for used bikes. I got my bike from a bike shop when they were getting rid of their inventory to make room for new models. If you want to put racks on your bike, so you can put your stuff on your bike instead of in a backpack, make sure the bike you get has eyelets for racks. Not all bikes are designed to be able to have a bike rack. There are three main types of bikes:
Road bikes are made for speed. You sit more forward than on a mountain or hybrid bike because it creates less drag and makes you quicker. They have skinny tires that can only be ridden on pavement. The narrow tires mean there’s less resistance when you pedal your bike forward making it faster than a mountain or hybrid bike.
Typically a mountain bike is heavier and slower than a road bike but more comfortable. These bikes sit you more upright than a road bike and have wider tires that are designed for on or off road use. A mountain bike is designed to be more comfortable on longer rides and usually, have shocks to absorb impact when you go over bumps.
A hybrid bike is a combo of a road bike and a mountain bike. It was designed for riding on paved roads and isn’t meant to go off road like a mountain bike. It is designed for comfort and typically is a little heavier and slower than a road bike but it can make a great bike for bike commuting.
Bike Commuting Gear
Let’s start with the most obvious one: a freaking helmet. Wear a freaking helmet. You don’t want to risk a serious head injury. Buy a helmet that you like so you will actually wear it.
Fenders will keep water from spraying on you if you go through a puddle or bike in the rain which is really useful when bike commuting. I have these fenders but the kind and size you get will depend on your bike. Your local bike shop can help you get what you need for your bike. If you’re not handy or don’t have the right tools, have the bike shop install them for you. I tried to put my first set on myself and it was a lot harder than I anticipated. It was definitely worth the $20 I paid to have the bike shop put them on for me.
A bike rack goes over the back tire of your bike and lets you get a pannier bag or a big basket on the top so you don’t have to carry all of your stuff in a backpack. I have a milk crate installed on top of my rack with zip-ties and I put my purse and work clothes in it. You will want some kind of waterproof bag to put your stuff in to keep it dry in case of rain. Not all bikes can have a rack installed and some bikes can only have certain kinds of racks installed. You need to make sure your bike has eyelets to let you install a bike rack. Your local bike shop they can help you get what you need and probably install it for you too.
If you will be biking in the dark pick up a set of good bike lights. Get a bright light for the front of your bike to help you navigate and a flashing light for the back of your bike so cars can see you. Don’t skimp on this if you are biking in the dark. The first one I bought was cheap and it was still hard to see at night. It’s important to have a good headlight to see hazards in the road and a bright flashing tail light to make you visible to drivers.
Chances are you’re going to have to lock your bike up outside while you work. A good sturdy U-lock will keep your bike safe and secure in most places. U-locks are harder to cut than cable or chain bike locks. I have a quick release on my front wheel so I make sure to lock up the frame and the front wheel of my bike.
I have to dress in professional attire for my job. I usually bike in my gym clothes and change into my professional clothes when I get to work. I bring baby wipes to wipe off if I get sweaty. You’ll want to pack a little toiletry bag with baby wipes, deodorant and any makeup you want to apply. I also carry a hair brush and hair ties to put my hair up.
Try to ride on roads with bike lanes
Always ride with traffic
Don’t wear headphones
Dress in bright colors
Roll up your right pant leg to keep it from getting caught in the chain
Here is a video with some useful cycling information:
I hope you find these tips for cycling for mental health helpful. Exercise is a huge part of managing my depression and I encourage you to find easy ways to fit exercise into your life. Biking to work is a great way to get exercise without having to go to the gym or schedule time to workout. Regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety plus it’ll get you in great shape.
I am not a licensed therapist. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. You can download a free printable list of hotlines here and join the free mental health support group on Facebook here. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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