May is National Bike Month

May is a great month to ride a bike.

Ask a cyclist, and they’ll tell you every month is a great month to ride a bike. They’ll also tell you every day is a great day for a bike ride. But be careful. If you ask a committed cyclist about cycling, prepare yourself for them to talk nonstop about their bike, the bike they want, the last epic ride they went on, and the next epic ride they have planned.

Cycling is fun – and most people who ride bikes really love riding their bikes.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the League of American Bicyclists (founded in 1880) has celebrated National Bike Month (NBM) for the past 64 years. That’s right: they sponsored the first NBM in 1956, and have been going strong ever since. The goal of NBM is simple:

Showcase the many benefits of cycling and encourage more folks to give biking a try.

In 2021, NBM has three special days planned during May:

  • May 2nd is the first ever National Ride a Bike Day
  • May 17th-23rd is Bike to Work Week
  • Friday, May 21st is Ride to Work Day

You can participate by doing all three of those things on the days they specify. You can also participate in the National Bike Challenge if you’re motivated. And if you encourage your friends to join in, everyone wins – because as we mentioned, riding a bike is fun.

But that’s not all. The purpose of NBM is to showcase the benefits of cycling, so we’ll give you a starter list about the ways cycling is, in a word, awesome.

The Benefits of Riding a Bike

We’ll start off by saying that you don’t have to have an expensive bike or fancy gear to ride a bike. You don’t have to ride fast. You don’t have to ride far. All you have to do to enjoy biking is get on a bike and ride.

We’re going to keep this list short, but cast a wide net – because if we really list all the ways cycling is good for you, we’d be here all day.

Three Good Reasons to Ride a Bike

  1. It’s good for your body. Exercise experts have told us all for years that regular aerobic exercise is good for overall health. Here’s a short list of how biking is good for your body. Cycling can:
    • Improve cardiovascular fitness (heart and lung health)
    • Increase muscle strength and flexibility
    • Improves range of motion in joints
    • Strengthens bones
    • Promotes weight loss
    • Improves balance, posture, and coordination
  2. It’s good for your mind. When you ride a bike regularly, you can expect:
  3. It’s good for the environment. Riding a bike instead of driving a car:
    • Reduces your carbon footprint. In the U.S., a moderate increase in biking over driving cars can:
      • Eliminate between 6 to 14 millions of C02 (carbon dioxide) emission per year
      • Save between 700 million and 1.6 billion gallons of fuel per year
    • Reduce traffic in urban, suburban, and exurban areas
    • Improve air quality in cities
    • Reduce noise pollution

If we forgot to mention it above (we didn’t) we’ll say it again (because it’s true): the best of all reasons to ride a bike is because it’s fun. Riding downhill at any age feels the same as riding down a hill when you’re ten years old: it feels like freedom!

How to Get Started

There are many ways to get started riding a bike, or to rekindle the love of bike riding you developed when you were a kid. The first thing to remember is that some types of cycling ­– namely the kind of riding people who wear fancy gear and ride fast on race bikes do – can be prohibitively expensive. But please know that that’s a niche-type activity, and it’s definitely not what we mean when we say “Go Ride a Bike.”

Here are some pointers for getting on the bike for the first time, or for the first time in years:

Rentals

Most medium-to-big cities have more than their share of bike shops that rent bikes. And cities that have well-known bike path systems typically have those kinds of shops conveniently located right next to the paths. You can rent a bike, a helmet, and start pedaling.

Friends

If you have a friend that’s into cycling, chances are they have a spare bike lying around you can try. They’ll probably be more than willing to ride with you, as well.

Used Bikes

It’s easy to get online and find inexpensive used bikes on the various sales forums, listservs, and websites. If you’re buying used, and you haven’t ridden in a long time, we recommend giving the bike a test spin first, meaning you should buy local: you don’t want to buy a bike online only for it to arrive and be a disappointment.

E-bikes

These bikes are a little more expensive than regular bikes, but they’re amazing. If you love bikes but hate the burning muscles and toiling up hills, an e-bike is the answer. An e-bike is also a great solution if you’ve been sedentary for a long time and worried you’re not really capable of riding. Anyone can get up to speed and have a great time on an e-bike.

Safety gear

Always remember to wear a helmet. This goes for riding on bike paths, mountain bike trails, and riding gravel. Speaking of which, gravel riding is a relatively new wrinkle to cycling that appeals to many people. To learn about gravel riding, click here.

Resources for Cyclists

The League of American Bicyclists (links above) is the most comprehensive resource for cyclists you can find online. This page – Smart Cycling Tips – has links to explainer pages, quick wikis, how-tos, and buying guides for everything related to riding a bike. It’s a genuine one-stop-shop – and it’s all free. Click that link to learn about everything from buying the right helmet to finding the right gear to make riding up that final hill before home just a little bit easier. One last thing: every city has a cycling subculture that’s welcoming and inclusive. Search around online and use your instinct. Groups that are for fast racers give off that fast racer-type vibe right away, while groups that are open to all, friendly, and inclusive give that vibe off right away. The best thing to do is look around, try a group or two, and before long, you’ll find your cycling tribe.