The Benefits of Biking
As a child, there was nothing in the world I loved more than hopping on my pink Barbie bike and cruising around my neighborhood, handlebar streamers flying in the wind. As an adult, cycling is still one of my favorite activities, and as both an indoor cycle instructor and avid outdoor rider, I’ve come to appreciate it for not just the physical, but also the mental benefits it provides. San Antonio offers a variety of ways to enjoy both indoor and outdoor cycling, and whether you prefer to hit one of the city’s many trails, explore the winding roads of the Texas Hill Country, or saddle up on a stationary bike in a studio, anyone can reap the rewards of cycling, regardless of age, skill, or fitness level.
The Burn and Beyond
From a physical standpoint, cycling is an effective way to burn calories, gain muscle, and increase your cardiovascular health, all without putting unnecessary stress and strain on your knees and joints. In fact, studies have shown that it can actually reduce arthritis symptoms such as pain and stiffness and cut your risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent. On a functional fitness level, it helps with things like balance, endurance, core strength, and, depending on the level of resistance involved, it can help build bone density, something we begin to lose as we age.
While the physical benefits alone are worth putting the pedal to the pavement, or signing up at the nearest studio, for some people it’s the mental benefits that make it worth the ride.
“Leaning into the physical endurance required of indoor (and outdoor) cycling can be a test in our focus and mental stamina as well,” explains Rhodie Lorenz, co-founder of JoyRide Cycling Studio. “After all, discipline begins with our mind and the body follows.”
Lorenz adds that the release of those “happy hormones,” otherwise known as endorphins that come from exercise can improve your mood, enhance your feelings of wellbeing, and give you the confidence you need to face your day and whatever challenges that may bring- especially important in today’s climate.
Community and Connection
Indoor cycle studios have cult-like followings—and for good reason! These classes are known for providing high-intensity workouts led by hyper-motivating instructors who play the hottest tunes, and guide riders through a series of drills that focus on speed and resistance. All of this takes place in a dark room where the positive energy is palpable and the sense of community is strong.
“It’s an intense workout that is safe and effective,” describes Becky Cerroni who, before becoming the CEO of JoyRide was (and still is) a rider who thrives on the high-energy vibe. “I generally take morning classes and leave feeling empowered and like I can do anything.”
Part of the appeal of the indoor class versus an outdoor ride is that you can focus completely on your form and on pushing your limits rather than worrying about things like traffic, headwinds, or falling. Another bonus? The community. Studio cycle classes are fueled by the strong connection the riders have with each other and their instructors. That community feeling not only keeps people accountable but also keeps studios thriving, even in the digital age.
“Connecting with the community in real life is something that you cannot recreate virtually,” says Cerroni. “That feeling of riding together as a group is impossible to replicate.”
While you may not be able to replicate that intimate indoor cycle feel out on the road, there are other aspects of outdoor riding that make it an appealing option for athletes in training as well as those just looking for a leisure activity.
Efren Rodriguez is the manager of Bike World at The Pearl. Rodriguez says he has seen an increase in bike sales due to the closures of gyms and studios during the current pandemic.
“It’s a good way to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and explore the city,” he explains. “It gets you moving and gives you a different perspective.”
In recent years, San Antonio has expanded its offerings of paved bike trails and implemented bike-share programs that make it easy for San Antonian’s to explore the city on two wheels. However, unlike the controlled environment of the indoor studio, the great outdoors presents more challenges, and you have to pay close attention to your surroundings to avoid accident or injury. Always make sure you wear a helmet, never ride while wearing headphones, and observe the traffc laws. Riding with a friend or joining one of the many local outdoor cycling groups is also a good idea. And remember, you don’t have to “go hard or go home.”
“You can achieve many of the benefits associated with cycling without being competitive,” assures Rodriguez. “Just get out there and get moving.”
BY BONNY OSTERHAGE