My 5 year-old daughter wants nothing more in life than to ride her bike. She just loves it. It would be her first choice activity every time, with perhaps the possible exception of being allowed to go to Legoland everyday for the rest of her life. But in the absence of brick shaped monuments, smiley foam persons and thrilling adventure rides the bike wins out every time.
And that is because cycling makes her happy. She adores the freedom it gives her, the speedy chicaning she can do in the park, the slopes she can whiz down, the gaps she can nip through, being part of a group of kids from her school who all travel in the same way. Getting her bike was a moment of absolute joy. She gazed at it in wonder and was, unusually, speechless. It utterly rocks her world.
Can the same happen for grown ups? Can cycling make us happier? The conclusion seems to be very definitely YES!
There is lots of evidence to support this, masses of it anecdotal, much of it scientific. Proper, actual, long and complicated reports and assessments have been written, by people who spend their days working out what makes us all tick more cheerily, to convince us that this is a good idea. They conclude that cycling makes us not only fit it boosts our mental health.
There is something brilliantly freeing about a bike... We can step out of the front door, jump on our steed and go for a gentle potter letting the cares of the day disappear
James E. Starrs said ‘Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling’ and I think many people who love cycling already would agree. Even in the rain it’s quite hard not to feel a sense of overcoming adversity if not out and out delight. And on the more glorious rides, where we are savouring beautiful views and drinking in delicious vistas it’s hard not to feel that all is pretty much right in the world.
There is something brilliantly freeing about a bike. It is a good form of simple exercise. A bike is a not a desperately complicated piece of kit, most of us learnt to use one children, and we can usually lay our hands on one without too much difficulty. Once we’ve learnt to ride it is a skill we don’t forget and does not require us to be fit already to do. We can step out of the front door, jump on our steed and go for a gentle potter letting the cares of the day disappear. Our joints won’t hate us, our hearts will love us and we will enjoy all the heady delights that dopamine, serotonin and phenylethylamine generate when they are flooding through our bloodstreams.
Happy chemical cocktails aside one of the best things about cycling for many is that we often do it in groups. Solo rides can be brilliant but for lots of us the real mood boosting effects come from being with others, enjoying their encouragement and support, giving them help and having a laugh in the process. Whether it is our family, or a local cycling club sharing in rides often ends up with coffee and cake and a gossip, or a well deserved glass of wine and a giggle. It is fun.
A good ride will help you breathe more deeply, tire your muscles and allow you to sleep a wonderful restorative kip that your body and mind will thank you for.
And if we choose, with cycling, we can add to our happiness quotient by achieving things we hadn’t thought possible, by setting ourselves challenges and then meeting them. You punch the air in delight as you cross the line at the end of your first ever sportive or charity ride. You feel exultant at the top of a crazy climb that you looked at in horror from the bottom. And your glory is reflected back. Your mates slap you on the back and tell you you’re awesome, or people whistle in respect as they pass you in their cars on a wiggly hill. You feel you have done something meaningful. So far, so happy.
And exhausted! But you sleep brilliantly. A good ride will help you breathe more deeply, tire your muscles and allow you to sleep a wonderful restorative kip that your body and mind will thank you for. All of which adds to the perfect happiness soup that cycling can create.
So, what are you waiting for? Like my five year old, grab your bike and ride it every chance you can. Spin your way through a list of benefits that will see your mood improve, bring you new friends and experiences and allow you to enjoy the delights of the wonderful outside world.
Cycle. Cycle yourself happy.