Plus, 10 tips for staying safe and avoiding injuries while bicycling (or skateboarding, skating or scootering) for fun and exercise.
Cycling is one of only five sports that has been contested in every modern-era summer Olympics, from its 1896 reboot in Athens to this year’s Games in Rio. USA Cycling’s first win was a bronze in Paris in 1900. In 1904, the team swept the boards in St. Louis, capturing every medal in all seven events. After that came a major dry spell, with two third place finishes in 1912 and then nothing for 72 years.
Meanwhile, the country was going crazy for cycling. Before WWII, it was second only to baseball as the most popular spectator sport and cyclists were the highest paid athletes in the nation. Declining in the baby boom years, interest picked up again when the U.S. collected nine medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. What changed? For one thing, the LA Games saw the debut of women’s cycling events. Connie Carpenter, from Madison, Wisconsin, won the first-ever women’s cycling medal (for road racing) and it was gold.
Since then, more cycling events have been added to the games, including two U.S.-invented sports: mountain biking and BMX racing. Today, cycling is one of the nation’s fastest-growing amateur sports. And with good reason.
- Is a low-impact, aerobic exercise that doesn’t put a lot of stress on joints
- Is great for your back, core, heart, legs and lungs
- Promotes weight loss and muscle toning
- Boosts brain power, mood and vitamin D
- Can be done year-round by adding stationary biking or spin classes
- Is a lifelong exercise than can be enjoyed by all ages
- Can be social in nature and encourages family and group activities
- Is eco-friendly and becoming increasingly urban as more cities designate protected bike lanes
- Has a price point for every budget (check Craigslist for affordable pre-owned bikes)
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to ride or suffer an injury.
Bicycles and other non-motorized, wheeled forms of transportation, including skates, skateboards and scooters (which cause more injuries to kids than any other toy), can be dangerous if used improperly.
According to the CDC:
- In 2013, more than 900 U.S. cyclists were killed and 494,000 ended up in emergency rooms
- Teenagers 15-19 and adults 40 and older have the highest bicycle mortality rates:
- The good news: Over the last 40 years, mortality rates for kids have plummeted
- The bad news: During that same time, rates for adults 35-54 have tripled
- Children, teenagers and young adults (ages 5-24) are involved in the highest number of non-fatal accidents and account for more than one-third of all bicycle-related ER trips
Protect your brain and use it to prevent cycling injuries.
Many of these cycling safety tips can be applied to skateboarding, skating or scootering as well.
- Wear an approved, properly fitted helmet; replace it every 5-10 years and after any accident in which the helmet is hit
- Wear other approved safety gear recommended for your sport, such as knee, elbow or shoulder pads, gloves, etc.
- Wear cycling shoes or other sturdy, closed-toed shoes
- Wear bright colors and reflective fabrics; long pants should be tight on the legs so they don’t catch in gears
- Bike with friends when possible; when alone consider wearing an ID bracelet that provides EMS with your contact and medical info
- Always carry a mobile phone, water, snacks and repair items for emergencies
- Ride single file and keep to the right on bike paths and streets (go with traffic, not against)
- Install and use a bell and front and back lights
- Never ride with headphones or while talking or texting on your phone
- Stay aware of your surroundings and watch the road for potholes and debris
Medical City Healthcare wants you to bike safely, but if accidents or injuries ruin your day, it’s a relief to know there are 17 emergency locations with FastERTX average wait times posted online. Visit FastERTX.com to find the ER nearest you.