10 Unexpected Benefits of Bike Riding

All the amazing benefits of bike riding will surprise you. While riding a bike does provide some fitness benefits, it actually teaches you about life too! Here are 10 unexpected benefits of bike riding.

You don’t have to be a cyclist who rides 50 miles to get amazing benefits. Be safe my friends and enjoy the ride no matter how far or fast you can go.

I updated this in 9-2020. I can’t believe all the adventures that cycling has taken me on!

Benefits of Riding a Bike

  • Improves awareness, concentration, and problem-solving
  • Teaches you how to work with others and to watch out for others
  • Gets you out of your comfort zone
  • Increases your confidence!
  • Improves balance and coordination.

Be sure to also check out, Life Lessons Learned from Riding a Bike.

Biking as a Kid

My earliest cycling adventure began when I was about 2 ½. My mom was going to the grocery store and refused to take me with her.

As she drove off, I jumped on my tricycle and took off in hot pursuit down the street, pedaling as fast as I could.

Fortunately, my dad, who was home recovering from an accident, hobbled down the street after me, caught and brought me home. The yard was fenced in shortly after (but that’s another post!).

Later, as a young girl, my parents gave me the most beautiful bike in the world. As a kid, who had only a hand-me-down trike before, I was amazed that they gave me the most beautiful perfect bike ever!.

It was white with a red sparkly banana seat and the requisite high handlebars. It was gorgeous and I loved it on sight.

My grade-school self rode the wheels off that bike. To this day, I remember it fondly.

My friends and I had many adventures on our bikes over the years. In high school, I had a more grown up bike that I used to get around town, until my driver’s license relegated it to a dark corner of the garage.

Then marriage and motherhood came, and I never owned another bike until, quite unexpectedly, I was given a bike for my 54th birthday.

All the amazing benefits of bike riding will surprise you. While riding a bike does provide some fitness benefits, it actually teaches you about life too! Here are 10 unexpected benefits of bike riding.

You’re Never Too Old to Ride a Bike

Now, I’m learning to ride again, in the 4th largest city in the country, no less. It’s way different than riding around a tiny town in West Virginia!

Sara bike picture in front of Houston city
2020 with downtown Houston behind me

However, the experience of learning to ride as a grown up on a modern bike is, surprisingly, teaching me many lessons about life.

As much, as I would love to find a place to ride where there is nothing else around me, that just isn’t going to happen.

That’s not the way cycling works. There are always about a gazillion things to focus on: cars, road conditions, people, dogs, and other bikes.

I can still be nervous riding in some situations and I’m always glad to be riding with more experienced riders. Yet, I’ve learned to ride better each time I get on my bike.

In the time I’ve been riding, I’ve learned cycling lessons that are actually helping me in life. I never expected that!

Learning to ride in a city and on country roads outside the city, has made me a more confident and stronger woman in life.

Physically of course, but quite unexpectedly, mentally as well.

10 Unexpected Benefits of Bike Riding

Take your lane

Often while riding, I will hug the side of the road. However, there are times when you have to “take your lane.”

This means getting in the middle of a traffic lane and taking up the space that otherwise a car would. There are legitimate reasons to do this.

Sometimes it is more dangerous to ride along parked cars with the chance someone will throw open a car door.

Or, the roadway edge is too hazardous to ride alongside moving cars. Or, when I need to turn left and need to get out there to do so.

When called for, it feels powerful to own a lane. I promise, I don’t do it with a line of cars behind me—I’m not seeking that much power. But it feels good to take up space in this world and prioritize my safety.

In life too, it’s important to take your lane. You and I have just as much right to take out place there safely as anyone else!

Getting out there and making your presence known is important in life too. I love the phrase, “Take your lane.” It’s a powerful phrase to tell yourself at work, in relationships, and sometimes even on the road.

Make your presence known

While riding on bike paths, there are always pedestrians, walkers and joggers who are doing their own things.

Many are unaware of my approach. To prevent them from inadvertently moving in front of me and either of us getting hurt, I like to make them aware of my presence.

This is accomplished by calling out, “Passing on your left,” or using a bike bell.

Letting people know of my existence doesn’t come easily to me. I’ve always been quiet and hated drawing attention to myself.

Yet, as a person making a living in the world, I have to make my presence known whether it comes naturally or not.

Just the practice of making people aware of me, boosts my confidence. When I first started doing this, I felt so self-conscious that I would barely raise my voice, much less call anything out.

I remember as a walker, I appreciated the cyclists who alerted me that they would be passing me. It kept us all safer. That helped me feel more confident about alerting walkers or slower riders when I was passing them.

Improve your balance

In the beginning it was all I could do to maintain my balance when I was riding with both hands on the bars while looking forward. In addition, reaching for a drink of water, or turning to look behind me, would totally throw me off balance.

Yet, at times I need to do one or the other of these things. So, I worked at improving my balance while riding, and trying smaller movements, strengthening my core, balance and confidence.

My balance has improved to the point that I can ride with no hands! This is in Durango, CO. So much fun to ride in a new part of the country.

Improving my balance makes me a better and safer cyclist. I feel calmer when I can take a drink or check traffic without fearing that I’ll fall over.

Instead of avoiding actions that are good for you, it’s better to practice and learn to do them more securely.

Riding more often for longer distances helped build the physical strength that I needed to stay upright on my bike.

In life, I use coaching to improve my emotional balance. I do my own journaling and and I work with a life coach each week to help me with things I can’t figure out on my own.

Balance in our emotional and mental life improves all aspects of our life. Meditation, exercise, being with balanced people, and even eating right, can all help maintain your balance.

Use breaks to improve performance

It’s okay to take breaks. A few weeks ago I was riding, got really hot and started to feel sick. Quitting wasn’t an option, since I was a good distance from home.

Instead, I took a break in the shade. I sat and sipped water until I felt better and ready to ride again. What surprised me was that the break saved that ride.

By taking a break, I was able to recover and feel well enough to finish. Even though I didn’t feel super strong riding home, when I did get home, I felt like a champ, because I had finished.

The act of finishing something is powerful. Without taking a break though, I would have continued to feel sick and probably would have had to have someone come pick me and my bike up.

You can take breaks when you are working on something difficult. Sometimes taking a walk, or a nap, or cleaning up a room can help me clear my head.

Sometimes taking a break, can help you discover solutions and ideas that allow you to actually finish a project quicker!

If you sit a lot, getting up every hour and walking for a few minutes or stretching is good for you!

I have a friend that is preparing for a long-distance ride, his first 100-mile ride. These rides can seem impossible to someone like me.

However, an experienced cyclist told me that when you are doing a long ride that has rest stops. You just need to get from one rest stop to the next.

That’s it my friends, forget the 100 miles, and just get yourself from one rest stop to the next!

Taking a break is important! Checking out one of the wonderful bike trails in Austin, TX

Push through your boundaries and comfort zones

One of the ways, I push myself to reach cycling goals is to set a distance and ride to it.

Once I get to that point, I have no choice but to ride the same distance to get home. This really forces me to honor my goal for that day.

I use common sense about the distance and I don’t use up all my energy on the ride out. Yet, I definitely push myself to go a little farther than seems comfortable, for longer than before.

This makes me commit to a ride! It enables me to go further from one ride to the next.

In life, I continually have to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Riding in a dress (bike shorts underneath) in New Orleans. That was an EXPERIENCE and definitely out of my comfort zone!

I can tell you this: when you begin pushing those limits and discovering what you are truly capable of, you will be amazed at yourself and at the things that begin to happen in your life.

In the beginning, all rides were out of my comfort zone. Gradually, I learned to accept that discomfort was the price of a great ride.

Discomfort is the currency of a great life too. The more comfortable you can be with discomfort, the more you can accomplish in life.

Discomfort is not pain. Discomfort is just, being uncomfortable for a period of time. It can be physical, but more often it is emotional. It’s just a feeling! And it will pass.

In the meantime, if you allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you will do, see, and be more than you every thought you could.

Don’t worry about looking weird

One of the reasons that I resisted cycling for a while was that I didn’t want to wear the cycling gear.

I hated the tight clothes, the padded shorts, and even having to wear a helmet. I used that as a reason to not even consider cycling!

However, when I was given the birthday bike, I had to go out for a short ride.

I only went a couple of miles, but, oh my, everything hurt: my butt, my hands, and my shoulders.

By the next ride, I had my helmet, my funny looking shorts, and gloves. And on that ride, I went from 3 miles to 14, without pain.

I get why people wear the things they do when they ride. They don’t care what others think about their appearance, because they know they will not only be more comfortable, but they will achieve more too.

Having the right gear, no matter how weird you think it looks at first, makes all the difference!

I like to coordinate with my bike. Getting ready for a city ride in Houston, TX. I love my bright turquoise shoes.

When we are first stretching into new areas of our life, we are also afraid of looking weird.

I know, when I became a blogger at 53, I definitely felt weird. I was afraid that I would look weird to the people I knew in real life.

You know what, I did it anyway. I felt weird for a long time wearing cycling clothes.

Then one day, you don’t feel like you look weird anymore. Your weird becomes normal.

Go all in

I resisted clip in pedals at first. But after my first 24-mile ride, I was obsessed with trying them.

I finally understood that they would give me additional power to do the hills and longer rides.

When you are fastened to the pedals you can be more efficient, because you are not only pushing down but also pulling up. All of your muscles are engaged.

When you engage all of your muscles, you have more power and can go further and faster. When the power is there, why use only half of it?

Yet, often we don’t and here’s the reason: it can be unfamiliar and perhaps even a little scary.

To pedal in complete circles, I will have to be firmly connected to the pedals (my power), and failing to clip out when stopped will cause me to fall over.

I have been told that almost everyone does fall at least once while learning.

Yikes! Yet, I did it. My first ride was on a parking lot and was scary as heck. I practiced and then got out on the road with an experienced friend.

Yes, I fell a couple of times. On the other hand, I began to be able to ride for much longer and difficult rides. Being attached to your bike means that you are all in on that ride!

In life, going all in will make you more powerful and give you the ability to get hard things done. When you start a project, imagine yourself strapped in and connected to that project.

You don’t get off, until you get it done. By being all in and committed to something until it is done, you use more of your power and you use it more efficiently.

This lesson alone can change you life forever!

Focus on where you want to go

This is one of the most important things I’ve learned while cycling. You have to keep your eyes on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid.

The quickest way to land in a pothole or collide with pole is to stare at it. It’s essential to keep your eyes on the clear patch of road which is your path ahead.

Your bike goes where you look and so does your life. Keep your eyes on your desired destinations, not on what you seek to avoid.

Of course, you’ll be aware of the hazards around you, just don’t make them your primary focus, or that is where you’ll end up.

In life, most people concentrate, like it’s their job, on the problems in their lives. Cyclists focus on where they want to go. Successful people focus on where they want to go!

That is one of the great secrets of life. Keep your eyes on where you are going. Don’t fall for the trap of focusing on the obstacles in your life.

Be aware of the obstacles and go around them. If you focus on them, that is likely exactly where you will end up.

I ended up in Vermont at the Von Trapp Family Lodge. The Sound of Music is my favorite move, ever and it was a dream come true to be here.

Share the road

There are so many vehicles and people on the road. It’s easy to think that it’s all about yourself. However, it isn’t.

It’s about how all of us can get where we want to safely and in good spirits.

Mentally, I have to accept this and share the road. This means sharing the road with the people who are going slower, faster, erratically, or in big groups.

They all have a right to be there, and riding in their midst increases my skills as a cyclist.

My job is to keep myself safe and do no harm to others as I go where I need to get.

We share life with many kinds of people. We share life with people with agree with and with people we disagree with.

Learning to navigate your life among many different kinds of people gracefully is one of the most important skills you can learn.

Here’s a secret. It’s about learning to let everyone be themselves and not getting yourself upset about what they are doing.

If I could plan my ride to have no other people around, I would do just that.

I’d LOVE to have a ride with no other groups of cyclists but my own, no walkers, and definitely no cars.

Yet, that just isn’t going to happen.

In life, we often want to just go through life with our own group of people that are like us, with the same speed, abilities, and goals.

But that just isn’t going to happen! And that is a good thing. We share our journey with all kinds of people. We share it with very different people and people who are going in different directions.

Enjoy the ride

Let’s face it, once you do the loop, you pack up and go home. In cycling, it’s ALL about the ride.

Cycling isn’t about any particular destination; it’s about riding better, stronger, collaborating, and perfecting the various skills that make for an exhilarating ride.

Cyclists often ride in groups because they can go further, faster and safer when they are working together.

Often they choose familiar routes that are in rural locations. It’s a chance to enjoy some nice scenery and the company of friends, while also getting great exercise and fresh air.

Enjoy your ride in life. Life was never supposed to be a picnic or feel good every moment.

Sometimes you have to push yourself up a hill you aren’t sure you can climb. Sometimes you are going to be sharing the road with someone that drives you crazy. Sometimes you are going to just get so tired or scared or frustrated.

But I promise you, this is all normal. It’s called being a human.

Everything that you are going through in life is part of your ride. The hard parts make you stronger and teach you how capable you are.

Some rides feel better than others. Some days feel better than others. We can’t control all the conditions we experience.

But we can always do our best and show up ready for our ride on any day. We make the difference, not what is going on around us!

And your journey will also come with friends, wind in your hair, and exhilarating moments that make it all worthwhile.

10 Unexpected Benefits of Bike Riding

It has really surprised me how much learning to cycle has taught me about life. Intimidated about riding, I really had to push myself into this activity.

But discovering the benefits of bike riding has been a source of pleasure and growth.

Fortunately, the more I ride, the more confident I become, which is spilling over into my every day life.

That’s exciting to me, beyond just improving as a cyclist.

Each time I go out I feel stronger and more self-assured, which provides a sense of speed and freedom I can’t get any other way.

Learning to cycle has had a significant impact on me, and I’ll always be grateful to the person who sensed that my new bike would be the gift that would not stop giving.

And that’s how it’s rolling in my Think Big Life!

Keep showing up my friends,

Sara

Sara

Hi, I'm Sara! As a counselor and college advisor/coach, I've helped thousands of people make positive changes in their lives. Join me on the adventure of thinking big and living well!

17 Comments

  1. Brenda on September 18, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    I loved your post! I’m 55 yrs old, just got a bike a few months ago. I really wanted one for so long, & was self conscious about my age, gender ( not as many ladies seem to ride), at the beginning of COVID-19 , I was lucky enough to get got my bike before the pandemic bike buying happened. Best decision ever. Started riding 5 km, now after 3 mths, I can easily do 30 km. Only a few more weeks to ride as winter comes early where I live. Next year goal: bike shorts..lol

    • Sara on September 19, 2020 at 3:12 pm

      Way to go Brenda! Being on a bike is almost like being a kids again. There are many styles of bike shorts–I’ve made peace with them because they do make the ride way more comfortable.

    • Sara on September 26, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Way to go on getting a bike! Bike shorts feel super weird at first but they making riding so much more comfortable.

  2. Jamie on June 14, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I love this post. I’m in my late 30s and working towards the goal of being able to ride to work. I LOVE going down hills 🙂

    • Sara on June 15, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      That’s so awesome! Going down hills feels like being a kid again.

  3. Jess Rene Davis on January 10, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    What a great post! I’m almost 30 and my husband taught me how to ride a bike for the first time in my life just less than 3 weeks ago! Before I really felt as though if I hadn’t learned by now, then I never would–proving myself wrong has been the best thing I could’ve done for my self-confidence! With every point of this post I kept thinking, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m learning!” My husband and I have been riding around our neighborhood now almost every day; my next goal is to be a confident enough bike rider that we’ll be able to take our Jack Russell Terrier, Abby, along with us in a basket. 🙂

  4. Kim Neibling on September 19, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Loved this! I started riding again 2 years ago at 58 years old and have fallen in love with it! I’ll soon be 60 and am stronger and healthier than I’ve been for decades! Love love it!

    • Sara on September 19, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      That’s so inspiring Kim! That’s how I feel at 57–better than ever. Thanks for sharing

  5. Meg on July 15, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I used to love riding my bike as a kid, somewhere around high school I stopped. Now that we live in a country that has bike lines etc, I am seriously considering on buying myself a bike. I love the freedom of riding, and that feeling like it is all on me (how fast I pedal, how much I push) that drives me to getting where I want on my own terms.

    • Sara on July 15, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Meg. I do feel like a happy kid on my bike these days. I really like how you said “that feeling like it is all on me (how fast I pedal, how much I push) that drives me to getting where I want on my own terms.” What a great way to express personal power!

  6. Anna Barton on July 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Love this! Bike riding has been on my bucket list for way too long. I need to make it happen! 🙂

    • Sara on July 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Anna–You do! I hope this encourages you to do it.

  7. Kelly on July 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I love “Not worrying about looking weird”!!! You simply cannot look cool while wearing a bike helmet, so why try? I love the carefree times I spend on a bike while not giving a fudge what anybody else things! Great post 🙂

    • Sara on July 14, 2017 at 8:53 am

      It was so silly to not even want to try because of the helmet and clothes and I’m so glad I got over that. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Talisa on July 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I loved bike riding as a little girl but (get this) I chickened out when it was time for my dad to take the training wheels off; so I kinda sorta hung up my bike and that was that.

    LOL I’m always like “whyyy did I do that??” Basically I never learnt to ride without them. Sucks too, because I’ve traveled to several countries where having one would’ve come in SO handy.

    • Sara on July 14, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Oh my goodness! Maybe you’ll find a way to learn as a grown up. In the meantime, sounds like you are having your own adventures. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. Payton on July 13, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I loved this! Great life lessons learned through a great physical exercise!!

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Sara | MyThinkBigLife.com

Hi, I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute coaching session.