I love to ride my bike. I know it benefits my health, especially my cardiovascular system. There are emotional benefits of cycling, too.
I have studied the health benefits of cycling. Those benefits are something I have experienced firsthand.
I am a heart patient who cycles. I have endured triple bypass surgery and several stints. Yet, my cardiologist assures me my heart health has improved as a result of my cycling. In addition, ridding has helped create collateral arteries in my heart. See my post about cycling’s benefits to my heart.
The emotional benefits of cycling that I have experienced bring great rewards. Here are some of the contributing factors to my emotional benefits of cycling.
Time and Distance Metrics
I am a very competitive person. I was a competitive long-distance runner in high school, college, and beyond. So the satisfaction of bettering my times and position gave me great joy.
Logging my rides on Strava allows me to see my improvements. My goal is to ride three times a week. I feel great when I see those rides add to between 60 to 100 miles. I love to see the personal bests on segments of my ride.
I pay attention to my average cadence, making sure that it is close to 80 RPMs. I check that my average heart rate is at least 120, but not over 145. When I meet those metrics, I glean some satisfaction.
The emotional benefits of cycling do not only come from looking at the metrics of my ride. I expected those. They are much like the emotional highs I used to get from improving my running.
The Looks on the Faces of Children
Last week I was driving home from a club ride. When I pulled up alongside a car at a stoplight, two children looked out the window with smiles on their faces as they pointed to my bike on its rack. I imagine they have bikes at home and enjoy riding them. They were happy to see that even adults like riding bikes.
It is a pleasure to be peddling down the road and come across a child riding his bike who spots me. Some will slow down and smile. Others will try to pedal their bicycle faster.
Sometimes groups of children in their front yard will stop what they are doing and start pointing at my fellow club members and me.
There is something very childlike about cycling. Most of us rode bikes when we were kids. There is still some of that childish pleasure in me when I am on my “adult” bike. It is one of the emotional benefits of cycling.
Spotting a Hawk or Taking in the Vista
I love nature. As I said, I am competitive. I often look down at my Wahoo Element and check my speed, cadence, and distance. Those metrics are always available for viewing.
I love seeing a roadrunner dart across the road in front of me. When hawks swoop over my head, I marvel at their grace. So when I spot a deer, I get pumped.
When our cycling club members spot a turtle crossing the road, we always stop and help it to the other side so it won’t get squished by a car. We even help giant snapping turtles. Saving the animals life gives us an emotional lift.
When I crest a hill or turn a corner, and a beautiful vista opens up before me, I take it in with childlike wonder and appreciation. Yet, somehow, these views look much different on a bike than from behind the wheel of a car.
For me, nature viewing and a down-to-earth view of the world are some of the top emotional benefits of cycling.
Eating My Energy Stuff
Are you for real, Richard? So eating your nutrition bars and gels are one of the emotional benefits of cycling?
Yes, indeed. After seven years of serious cycling, I still have not decided on my favorite thing to eat during my rides. However, I am still experimenting and enjoying it.
When I started cycling as an adult, I carried GU Gels in my jersey pocket. Squeezing the gel into my mouth was sweet. I especially liked the boost I got from the caffeinated ones.
I soon became irritated at the gu left on my gloves. It made my handlebars sticky.
Then I was introduced to Clif Bloks. No sticky mess. Sometimes they took forever to chew up or dissolve in my mouth. They tasted great during a rest stop but hindered my breathing when I tried to chew and ride.
I have tried raisins and nuts. I only ate them when I stopped. At 73, I have trouble riding without my hands on the handlebars.
Currently, I eat PayDay candy bars at the halfway point of my longer rides. The combination of crunch and gu is satisfying. In addition, the bars have twice the calories of nutrition explicitly made for cycling. I can notice the boost to my energy.
Eating is emotional for me. So the smells, textures, and flavors are welcome when I am tired.
Getting and Giving Compliments
Of course, I notice the improvements in my riding. An emotional benefit of cycling is hearing others say, “great ride, Richard.” Or, “you’re a beast today.”
Complements feel good. They make the most strenuous ride rewarding.
It is also great to give compliments. In the last year or two, I have begun to look for unique complements to say. For example, “You have kept a high cadence today.” Or, “you climbed that hill well.”
It is gratifying to see the smile on a fellow rider’s face after I compliment them.
Even when riders are not present, I give them “kudos” on Strava and “ride on” over on Zwift. I look for the same on my activity timelines.
Then There are the Dogs
No, I am like you. I do not appreciate dogs chasing me. Sure, when they come at me, bearing their teeth and growling, I get an adrenal lift. But, when they bite, I get downright mad and start hollering at their masters.
Yet, one of the emotional benefits of cycling is to witness a dog running for all its worth alongside me. The race is on. The child is enjoying it. So am I.
I am sure that you can think of other emotional benefits of cycling. Please leave them in the comments section below.