Getting back into cycling: tips and advice for getting back in the saddle

Getting back into cycling: tips and advice for getting back in the saddle

How should you get back into cycling after a break? How many rides should you do? How can you avoid injury? Follow our tips to help you ease back into things!

How many bike rides should you do each week when you restart? How can you get into the swing of things without injuring yourself? What's the best way to get back into cycling? There are so many things to think about when you get that urge to go out on your bike. Whether you're coming back from a 2-month break or a multi-year hiatus, the Decathlon team has plenty of tips to help you ease back into the saddle and start racking up many happy miles!

How can you get back into cycling after giving birth, over the age of 50, or after a long break?

5 top tips to follow

- Motivate yourself by setting realistic goals that enable you to enjoy each ride.Remember that you'll need several weeks for your body to rebuild your muscles and for you to feel at ease again. Don't get put off by the first ride; you'll quickly get back to the level you were at before your break, no matter the reason for it, if you take things gently and go out regularly.

- Speak to your doctor, who'll be able to advise you on what to do and point you in the right direction if a fitness test is necessary. The main aim is to keep riding in the long term, and not stop again after just two or three rides.

- Give your bike a check-up. If it has been gathering dust in the garage, a bike service is in order. At the very least, check the chain for wear, make sure the tyres are in good condition, and lubricate the drivetrain. Don't hesitate to get a professional to give your bike a thorough service.

- Start by riding on a nice smooth surface – an on-road or off-road bike path, bridleway or quieter road – and take a few classes if it'll help you build your confidence.

- Go out with other cyclists who ride at the same pace as you. Arranging regular meet-ups and discovering new routes will keep you motivated. You might even want to join your local cycling club.

Getting back into cycling: traps to avoid

You'll quickly notice the benefits of cycling! But just remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't take things too quickly or attempt to tackle the biggest hills or trickiest terrain straight away. Start out on bike paths or smaller roads near your home where there's less traffic. To motivate yourself, choose somewhere that you like and that you want to (re)discover. Allow time for your muscles to rebuild before you try anything too arduous, as you could end up injuring yourself or getting discouraged. As the old saying goes, "slow and steady wins the race"!

To avoid hypoglycaemia – known as "bonking" in cycling circles – take a few cereal bars, some fresh or dried fruit and some water with you. Drink frequently, even if you're only going a short way, to keep your muscles working properly. By regularly recharging your batteries, you'll stay in top form throughout your ride. And you'll be able to get back home without any trouble. After all, it's often the final leg where things go horribly wrong. 

Getting back into cycling: tips and advice for getting back in the saddle

Think about the mental and physical benefits of cycling

If you've ever met a cyclist, you're no doubt familiar with their sense of freedom and that little glint in their eyes the instant you mention cycling! It's a genuine source of well-being with undeniable benefits. Here's a quick rundown of the main advantages:

- Cycling is good for your mental health!
Exercise makes you secrete endorphins, which have a positive effect on your mindset. By going out for a ride, you'll naturally fight anxiety, stress and depression.

- Cycling strengthens your body and boosts your physical and respiratory abilities
Contrary to popular belief, cycling doesn't strengthen just your lower legs, but the rest of your body too. Including your arms, shoulders and core. And provided that you've got your bike set up correctly, it can also help to relieve back pain. Cycling can even prevent various medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

- Cycling prevents weight gain
Do you want to get fitter and burn calories? Riding your bike can help you to lose weight and shed those surplus pounds by keeping you physically active. You can wave goodbye to that spare tyre around your waist. An hour of cycling burns 300 to 600 calories on average!

- Cycling prevents osteoporosis
It's well known that postmenopausal women suffer from a drop in bone density. While this can be treated by hormone replacement therapy, exercising – and doing cycling in particular – can help to maintain your muscle mass and balance, preventing fractures and other risks linked to osteoporosis.

Sources: FFvelo and Commeunvelo

Getting back into cycling when you're older: where to start

When should you start cycling again after giving birth?

Getting back into cycling after the arrival of your little bundle of joy can feel like a big step. But regardless of whether you continued to ride during your pregnancy, rest assured that you'll soon rediscover your love of cycling! However, it's not always clear when is the right time to start up again after giving birth.

While there's no strict rule, gynaecologists, obstetricians and midwives generally agree that you should wait until 5 or 6 weeks after birth, when you've had a post-natal check-up, before gently getting back into cycling. This will give you the chance to make sure your body is ready and arrange some physio and recovery sessions. It's important that your pelvic floor muscles are working properly again before you return to cycling. These muscles hold all of the organs in place, and are put under a lot of strain during birth. If you don't rebuild them, there's a risk of suffering from incontinence later on.

In all cases, remember that various things will affect your return to cycling after giving birth. If you've had an episiotomy or suffered a tear, wait until you've healed completely. Don't underestimate the fatigue caused by a lack of sleep and the fact that your weight and centre of gravity have changed. Be aware too that your muscles will be weaker, especially your abs.  

Osteopath Caroline Bonnière explains that, to rebuild your strength and fitness, gentle activities are best: "Do things like walking, swimming and cycling for a bit of cardio exercise, and gentle gym activities for your flexibility and strength. Like during pregnancy, you should avoid activities likely to cause impacts, and instead gradually reawaken your muscle groups and tendons from their sleep." So, ladies, be patient and build up your exercise levels gently to regain your fitness and endurance!

What's the best way to take up cycling when you're over 60?

Like walking and swimming, cycling is one of those sports that you can do up to a ripe old age, with just a few simple precautions. First of all, have a complete medical check-up, including an electrocardiogram (ECG), to make sure you're in good physical shape.

- make sure the bike you're using is suitable for your height and build, and that your helmet is the right size. You should always try your helmet and your bike before buying them!
- plan your ride so that you'll avoid any big hills, and push it back if the weather's very wet or very warm
- listen to your body and your heart rate not just when you first start cycling again, but all the time. Try adjusting your speed / changing gear on climbs so that your legs can spin comfortably, as this is what will get you past obstacles
- to relax, stand up on the pedals every now and then. This will prevent muscular tension caused by your sitting position by relaxing your muscles, especially on your first few rides
- when you get home, remember to stretch to prevent muscle stiffness
- and if you don't feel confident riding after a few years out of the saddle, get in touch with your local cycling school. You're sure to find one not too far from home. After a few lessons, you'll be confident enough to get back out on your bike near home, or maybe even head further afield. 

Getting back into cycling: tips and advice for getting back in the saddle

Riding after 70

When it comes to learning to ride or dusting off your unused bike, there's no age limit! Plus, for retirees, there's the advantage that you have much more free time available to go out cycling! Your joints will thank you for giving them such a gentle workout, unlike if you were to do a high-impact sport.

Still not sure? Cycling can help to stave off arthritis, boost your endurance and prevent cardiovascular disease. That said, if you suffered an injury at some point in the past, be mindful of it. If you experience any discomfort or pain, don't hesitate to reduce your speed or even walk for a bit, and get it checked out by your doctor.

Investing in a bike can slow down ageing and keep you feeling fitter for longer! Cycling gives you a feeling of freedom on many levels, particularly in terms of independence, and creates a real sense of self-confidence. And, who knows, maybe you'll eventually build up to doing that bike tour you've long been dreaming of!

Sources: FFvelo and Commeunvelo

Check the state of your cycling equipment

How to choose your bike

For Riverside product manager William, "cycling, whether on an e-bike or a standard push bike, is a great way to take care of your body and stay in shape with a relatively low-impact sport. It's also a good way to care for your mental health as you take in the surrounding nature and discover new landscapes. To make the most of spending time in the great outdoors, pick a bike that's comfortable in terms of the position, the saddle height, the handles, etc.".

You'll find plenty of step-by-step pro tips in the following articles:
How to choose your men's hybrid bike
How to choose your women's hybrid bike

If you're at all unsure, visit your nearest bike shop, where they'll be able to assess your posture and help you adjust the height of the stem and seat post and the angle of the saddle and handlebar. Discomfort in your knees or legs is often simply due to the saddle being set incorrectly, so it's nice and easy to fix.

... or rescue your old one from the garage

Rather than buying a new bike, you might decide to dust off an old one that's been tucked away in the basement or the back of your garage. And while it's a great idea, a thorough service is a must! As mentioned above, you should check the state of your tyres (pressure and wear), drivetrain and brakes in particular.

It's also worth thinking about your old bike's weight and type. Is it still right for your body and your needs? If so, get it checked up, do any repairs necessary, and you're ready to roll.

What else do you need to do to start cycling after several years off?

While setting your bike up correctly is the main priority, there are other things to think about too, such as your clothing, accessories, eating a healthy diet, and more. If fact, eating well and kitting yourself out properly are the keys to getting back out there safely and enjoying every single mile.

Top tip: consider using an e-bike

E-bikes, or electric bikes, look like a standard bike but are actually packed with specialist equipment: a battery, a motor and a control screen. Their main benefit is that they can help you fly up hills on your daily commutes or leisure rides. But don't be fooled: an e-bike isn't a moped! You still have to pedal in order to move, even though you can get a little helping hand at the touch of a button.  

The motor will sit either inside the rear hub or the bottom bracket and is triggered when you press the pedals, stopping when you brake. Under EU legislation, its power is limited to 250 W and its speed is limited to 25 km/h. Once you reach this speed, the motor will automatically cut out and your calves will have to take the strain. As for the battery, it sits either under the saddle, on the pannier rack or on the bike's down tube.

To find out more, take a look at our article on choosing the right electric hybrid bike.

We hope these tips will give you the confidence to get back out on your bike and enjoy riding again, regardless of whether you've been away for 2 months or many years. And if you find yourself struggling, just remember that cycling is good for your health at any age, right from the very first ride! How often you go out on your bike and which training plan you decide to follow is entirely up to you.

Getting back into cycling: tips and advice for getting back in the saddle

Caroline Segoni

"Ever since I first rode a bike, I've been hooked on cycling. Be it solo, with family or with friends, I simply love exploring the forests of Picardy, the mountain bike trails of the Chaîne des Puys and France's many dedicated cycling routes. It's so much fun cruising along the trails and discovering the local architecture, culture, art and cuisine. It's a passion I share through my blog, Graines De Baroudeurs, and in my travelogue, Notre Tour à 7 Roues, which tells the story of the 8-month cycling tour of France I did with my kids.

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