German inventor Karl von Drais is credited with developing the first bicycle in 1817. Known as the ‘swiftwalker’ this first iteration of the bike had no pedals and its frame and wheels were crafted out of wood along with iron rims. Without pedals, the rider would push the bike along using their feet before taking them off the ground during descents.
It was not until the mid-1800s that we would see the addition of pedals to bikes. Known as the ‘velocipede’, pedal cranks were attached to the hub of the wheel to propel the rider forward. Towards the end of the century, we start seeing the bike as we know it come to fruition with the addition of pneumatic tyres and steel-tubed frames.
The Tour de France would begin in 1903 making cycling an internationally recognised sport and by World War II, speed-bicycles were well known and were even used in the war itself. In the 1950s cruisers and racers were widely manufactured and cycling became a big hobby in North America. In the decades that would follow in the 20th century, sales sky-rocketed and by the 1990s annual sales were at an all time high with the advent of the BMX.
The modern era
Fast forward to the present and the sport of cycling has taken off in recent years. The Tour de France is one of the most famous tournaments not just in cycling but across the entirety of sport and in 2017 they experienced record viewing numbers after its first year of being broadcast in full. It has also become one of the most popular sporting events to bet on as the level of competition has risen. Millions have been betting on the tournament this year with Jonas Vingegaard the favourite to come out on top.
Good for the body
Cycling is also now one of the most popular ways to stay in shape whether you are an athlete or just someone who likes to keep fit. Let’s explore the benefits of cycling.
To start with, it is a great way to lose weight. Depending on the intensity and the weight of the rider, cycling can burn between 400 and 1000 calories an hour. By balancing a healthy diet that leaves you with a calorie deficit along with cycling for even just 30 minutes a day, you could shed the pounds in no time.
The resistance element also helps you not just lose weight but gain muscle, especially in the glutes and legs. You have probably seen the calves and quads of many famous cyclists and whilst it would take you a fair amount of time to get there, you will still tone out with light dedication.
Whilst gaining muscle and losing fat is a fitness fanatics dream, perhaps the biggest benefit from cycling is the effect it has on your cardiovascular system. By getting the blood pumping around your body and raising the heart rate it of course limits your chances of being overweight. Consequently, it cuts the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer in half. This is a according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow over 260,000 individuals.
It can improve your overall cardiac function which means you will pump more blood around your body with a single heartbeat whilst also reducing blood pressure. There really are few better activities than cycling for improving your cardiovascular and respiratory system, which is why many athletes cycle themselves be it inside, outside or on a machine. Footballers especially enjoy cycling, as the effect it has on their cardio helps them to play for longer periods of time.
Many cyclists have incredible engines, and this can be measured by looking at their heart rate. By training their heart to pump more blood per-beat, many have low resting heart rates. Egan Bernal, who won the Tour De France in 2019, has been praised for his engine by Olympic cyclist Chris Froome. Froome himself, who won Bronze at London 2012, has recorded heartrates as low as 29bpm proving just how well the Brit has trained his cardiovascular system.
As a low impact activity, it is also kinder to your body compared to, say, running. Whilst it may be easier to leave the house and go for a run, as it is a weight bearing exercise over time it can damage your bones and muscles. In contrast, cycling does not require high levels of physicality.
Cycling is undoubtably one of the most popular ways to exercise and a great way to train and improve your cardio. As well as helping you exercise for longer periods of time it has also proven to cut the risk of major health issues, aiding a better quality of life overall. If you are dieting alongside cycling, always make sure it is healthy and you are fuelled up!