We are pleased to present the winning essays from the 2009 International Bicycle Fund Student Essay contest. Overall, this year's entry strongly reflected the issues of the times; safety, climate change and the economy of bicycling. We received a lot of strong essays and it was difficult to pick the best. We send our praise to everyone who entered and shared their ideas with us. The winners are: "Bicycle Safety" by Delaney Murphy, age 8, Carrollwood Elementary, Tampa FL; "BMX Racing" by Andrew Klug, age 11,St Matthais Parish School, Milwaukee WI; and, "Morning Ritual" by Connie Shi, age 16, Okemos High School, Okemos MI.
Each writer receives a cash prize and certificate. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the students who submitted essays. A number “honorable mention” essays are also posted so you can appreciate how many excellent writers and interesting topics are out there.
by Delaney Murphy, age 8
Making sure you are riding your bike safely is very important. The right equipment and following the rules of the road makes your biking safe and fun. The first thing you need is your helmet. It protects your head when you fall off your bike. You must also make sure your helmet fits properly.
When you are riding, always stop and look before you ride into the road. Always stop at intersection look left, right and left again.
Never ride at night a car could hit you, even if you have a light on your bike. It is safest to ride during the day. Practicing good bike safety habits will help you enjoy you enjoy your bike each and every day.
by Andrew Klug, age 11
Bicycle Motocross, also known as BMX, is a sport created by kids for kids. It all started in the early 1970s. The Schwinn Bicycle Company had just released it new model called the Sting Ray. Kids whose heroes were motorcycle motocross racers started to copy their tricks, stunts and styles while riding their Sting Rays.
Eventually, the kids began to modify their bikes, making them stronger and better at surviving the hazards set up on the tracks they built. These early racetracks were usually built on empty sandlots and neighborhood trails. They included mud hazards, jumps and other obstacles. Kids were now seen on their modified bicycles not only tearing through the dirt, but also creating their own tracks.
The next step in the growing sport was organized races. In 1976-1977 two bicycle organizations were born. They were the National Bicycle League (NBL) and the American Bicycle Association (ABA). Their job was to set up track operation standards, schedule events, make sportsmanship and racing regulations, classify racing classes, and keep track of individual racers’ standing. With the support of these two organizations BMX racing became a sport mainly focused on fair play and family fun.
Those first few tracks of the early BMX riders in California have evolved into permanent courses located everywhere around the USA. Those early tracks were mostly just downhill spaces with used tires and hay bales for hazards and a rope to hold back the onlookers. Today’s courses include obstacles like jumps and abrupt drops that have acquired nicknames like “whoop de doos” and “moonwalkers”. These hazards test riders’ skill and wits by sending them flying, through the air. According to some spectators, this is the most thrilling thing to see while watching a race. Races now require an entrance fee to watch. Those fees help pay for the track.
New challenges and obstacles called for faster, stronger and overall better bikes. Today’s bicycles are a far cry from the old Sting Ray that started the BMX craze. Riders’ bikes have to be durable, lightweight and maneuverable. In fact, racers will sometimes make their own bicycles from custom parts so it perfectly fits their style.
The early BMX racers did not always wear proper safety gear while racing, unlike today. Now racers must wear a helmet, mouth guard, long-sleeve shirt and long pants to race because of strict safety rules.
Being safe is very important, but if you want to win, you have to take risks and know your plan. You also need to have a plan B, meaning you need to adapt to different situations during the race. The leader obviously has a great advantage, but it takes strong legs for power pedaling to stay in first place. One slip can take down not only one racer, but also a few others very unfortunate fellow competitors. Remember, even though there is only one winner each race, the main focus of bicycle motocross is to have a good time.
The kid inventors of BMX probably never anticipated how huge the sport would become, or imagined that you could become a pro. It is truly amazing what a couple of kids, their bikes, and their imagination created.
by Connie Chi, age 16
Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.
~ John F. Kennedy
Coffee and a newspaper do the trick for most people. My wake-up call is much different.
I’d never really been too attached to my bike. As a five-year-old, I liked biking a lot, but only because of the nice streamers that came with it and the chance to ride it, in all its decorated glory, in my annual neighborhood Independence Day parade. As I grew older, the streamers mysteriously disappeared, and so, somehow, did my enthusiasm. It wasn’t just taking a ride around my street anymore. Middle school and high school were miles away – it simply became impractical to bike there every morning. And so I left my bike at home, nearly forgetting it entirely as it was tucked away in a dark corner of the garage after years of disuse. I only rediscovered it again last year, when I decided I would try to start riding a lot more. I was working in a lab for the whole summer, and as I hadn’t yet had my license, felt it most efficient to bike to work each morning. It took me some time to get reacquainted, but it was definitely worth it.
Riding my bike every morning, I became my own pathfinder. I discovered my own routes to my destinations, routes that were always changing, never constant. No longer confined to following the smooth white lines along strictly paved roads, I delighted in seeking out secluded footpaths and overgrown forest walkways. Today, I decided, I would take the short route up the hill, but maybe tomorrow I would try the long, winding route I’d spotted yesterday. My bike rides gave me the first chance in a long time to really soak in the joys of mornings. I heard the birds chirp as the sun bathed the sky in swirling hues of pastel pinks and yellows. Had I driven, I would have missed all of that, too absorbed in the radio and sectioned off from the outside. I felt the morning breezes, surprisingly cool for an August day. Had I walked, I would have moved too slowly to experience the feeling of that crisp wind whipping against my face. Only as I biked could I reach that perfect tempo, that perfect balance between motion and stillness, where I was actively going somewhere and could take the time to appreciate the panoramic scenery around me. For those glorious minutes every morning, I was alone to wonder, to question, to dream, accompanied only by a muted harmony of my bike’s mechanical clicking, surrounded only by an silently illuminated landscape.
Biking was not always so enjoyable, however. Twice in my cycling adventures I was unfortunately caught in a thunderstorm. Entirely vulnerable to Nature’s maniacal cackles of laughter as rain poured down, drenching my bike and me, I realized that riding my bike had left me exposed to the elements. But surprise thunderstorms and near-floods weren’t the only problems. I had no defense against incessant flies and mosquitoes, nor could I deflect the sun’s intense rays on particularly hot days. I longed for windows that I could roll up and cower behind, but I had nothing – nothing except my bike and myself. I realized that, having learned to depend on machines, I could no longer stand on my own. Dealing with the mini-crises that came with biking regularly re-taught me the valuable skills of self-reliance and grace under pressure and gave me back an independence I’d almost lost.
I’m no professional cyclist. I’ll never set any world records and have no plans to ever enter a bicycle race. I ride a normal, everyday bicycle – nothing fancy – and besides wearing a helmet and braking at appropriate times, I probably don’t even have good cycling “technique.” Why, then, do I bike? The environmentalist will insist it’s because I want to make the world a cleaner place. The personal trainer will say it’s because I want to live a healthier lifestyle. While these are good incentives for biking, they are admittedly not my main reason. I bike because in that brief moment when I’m flying down the hill at a breakneck speed, I have found freedom from the tedium of everyday life. Biking grounds me, forcing me to take a step back from my chaotic life and appreciate everything beautiful about it, showing me that once I set my mind to it, I can stand on my own.
Today’s society moves lightning-fast with no chance to take a breath. So often the emphasis is on the highest speeds, the greatest efficiency, and the fastest outcome. Why is my Internet connection so “slow?” Why can’t this traffic move along? Which road is the least time-consuming way to work? Caught up in our never-ending list of appointments and obligations and constantly rushing from place to place to yet another place, we sadly forget how to slow down. I know from personal experience that the perfect remedy to this unfortunate case of perpetual busyness is a leisurely bike ride. It is a cure-all panacea and a great addition to any morning routine.
Annual Student Bicycle Essay Contest
Mom and Dad Taught Me
by Taylor Reese, age 8
My mom and dad taught me how to ride a bike. I was almost 5 years old when we were out on my big hill. So I got my bike out. My dad and mom took my training wheels off my bike, and they gave me a push so I could go faster. I wrecked a couple times but I am OK. When I was riding my bike I had to have a lot of equipment. I had to have a helmet and shin guards even though I was in the grass.
Bicycling may occur again in the summer with the sun shinning and the bright blue sky, and hopefully my brother won't be around. It could also happen when we are camping. When we go camping we bike everywhere. We go for a very long ride. It takes one mile to reach the swimming hole.
I know my idea is good because it is good to exercise for my friends and me. It is also not polluting the air.
by Alexandra Thrower, Age 9
Riding a bike can be really fun and it gives you good exercise. It can also be dangerous if you do not practice bicycle safety. It's important that you know all the safety rules for riding before you get on your bike. When you ride a bike you need to follow the three main rules. These rules include wearing a helmet, using hand signals and making sure your bike is in good condition.
Rule #1: Wear a helmet
One of the most important rules is wearing a helmet. When you are crossing a long and curvy intersection, in you car, you spot a man riding his bike with no helmet on. What could happen to this man. He could fall off his bike and badly damage his head. Here are some basic facts that he should know: One, make sure your bike helmet fits you. Two, never wear a hat under a bike helmet. Three, always make sure the straps are fastened.
Rule #2: Use hand Signals
Helmets are not the only part of bicycle safety. There are also hand signals that are just as important. You can use hand signals to tell drivers what you are going to do. Here are some hand signals:
You can use all of these signals as you are riding a bike. Just like drivers, we can show left turns and right turns with our arms. We can also show that we are slowing down and stopping. These are important signals for riding single file on a street. These are universal signals that can be used anywhere.
Rule #3: Make sure your bike is in good condition
The last rule is to make sure that your bicycle is in good condition. Before you can do this, you need to learn all of the parts of the bike. The parts of the bike are brakes, spokes, pedals, seat, chain, tires, reflectors and lights. Before you take a bike ride, you should check each of these eight parts. One of the parts that needs the most attention is the tires. Tires loose air over time so you need to make sure that your tires are full of air before you ride on them.
Bicycle safety is important to know when riding your bicycle. If you follow the three rules above, you will improve your safety on the road and have more fun. Since we have pretty weather in Tampa, you can ride your bike often.
I Like to Bike
by Connor Mehlenbacher, age 9
Do you like bikes? Well I do and I race in BMX! It's a game where you go on a track and go as fast as you can and ride up and down hills and on jumps! I also like to just ride for fun! I have a bike with gears and love to ride every day for an hour!
I really love to ride all bikes and learn about it to. The first bikes ever made didn't have gears. They were really just regular old bikes. Now they are with gears and are a lot more tricked with stuff. They cost more and even have different spokes. I am really, good at it and I have friends that live far away from here and they let there dad or mom drive them over in a car and ride bikes with me! It's certainly trae that I love bikes!
The Apple Cider Century
By Nathan Kies, age 12
The Apple Cider Century (ACC) is an annual one-day bike ride in Three Oaks, Michigan. Bikers can choose to ride 15, 25, 37, 50, 62, 75 or 100 miles in one day. Thousands of people ride through the town, down country roads and up and down hills.
Each year, my boy scout troop participates in the ACC to work on their cycling merit badge. Several of my leaders and fellow scouts have ridden 50 and 100 miles. One year, my mom, dad and I chose to ride 25 miles. We camped out the night before at a friend’s backyard. The morning of the race began with a pancake breakfast. After putting on our helmets and grabbing a water bottle, we set out for the 25 miles.
The ride was very long. There were only two stops to get something to eat and take a rest. There were hardly any port-a-potties along the route. After a while of riding, my hands started to hurt from holding on to the handlebars. My butt also started to hurt from sitting way too long. Experienced riders kept passing us up. We were probably one of the last few people to finish.
Even though it was a tough ride, we enjoyed the beautiful sites of Three Oaks, Michigan. There were forest preserves, hills and dirt roads. We also met a lot of nice people. At the end of the 25 miles, we were served a spaghetti dinner.
I was glad the race was over. So were my parents. We needed a shower and a nap and my butt needed to take a rest. A short time later, my boy scout troop decided to go on a bike ride down the Plank Trail. We rode our bikes from Frankfort to Joliet and back for a total of 33 miles. Biking the Plank Trail wasn’t as bad because this was a straight route compared to the Apple Cider Century, which had hills.
I’m now half way through earning my Cycling Merit Badge. I only need to bike 50 more miles!
The Tour de France
by Nathan Passinault, age 11
When people think of going on a bike ride they think of a warm summer day with the sound of the bicycle's chain clinking together as they ride. Competitive cycling, however, is nothing like this. Competitive cycling involves grueling courses, hours of training and physical endurance. The Tour de France definitely covers all of these characteristics and more!
The Tour de France is made up of 200 or more cyclist divided into 20 or more teams. Its course changes every year, but always goes around France and sometimes into neighboring countries, ending in Paris at the Champes Elysees. The terrain ranges from mountains, to hills, to flat stretches.
The Tour de France is a stage race. This means a new race takes place every day for about three weeks. The three types of stages are the time trials, the flat stages, and the mountain stages. In the time trials, each racer rides individually on a course that is about 30-50 kilometers long. In the flat stages, the cyclist ride in a peloton, or a group of closely packed racers. Within the flat stages, sprints take place. This is when a rider breaks out of the peloton and tries to get one or two minutes ahead of everyone else. The mountain stages occur in the mountains when the cyclists are required to ride up and down multiple hills. The hills are ranked 1 to 4, with one being the steepest. Some of the hills are too steep to rank. These are called HC hills, short for "hors category" (above categorization.) Stages with a lot of one to HC hills can be pivotal to win the race because very few riders can do well in these conditions.
Even if one person is an incredible cyclist, it takes a team to win the Tour de France. The teams start out with nine people but only one is trying to win the entire Tour de France. The teammates help the leader in many ways. For example, they bring him food and water throughout the race. They also stay in front of the cyclist trying to win and absorb the wind resistance for him. This is called drafting and is a key factor to winning the race.
The Tour de France is not an easy race, nor is it a one man effort. But if you have strategy, good teammates, and are willing to train your body and mind, you might have a chance!
Bicycling is Important
by Natalie Estrada, age 12
Many people ride bikes to school, the store, a friends house, etc. Most people just like to ride their bikes as a way to get around, but riding a bike can help the environment and yourself also.
Cars and truck put many harmful chemicals into the air which eventually cause global warming. But bikes don't send out those harmful toxins into the atmosphere. If everyone were to ride a bike to places close by the earth could take a break and breathe. Not only do bikes help the environment, they also help your health and fitness.
Bike riding is an excellent physical fitness activity. When you ride your bike you are using certain muscles in your body. By riding your bike you can help those muscles grow stronger. And riding your bike can also keep you physically active and fit. Another reason that riding your bike can help your health is that while you are riding your heart is beating fast and your heart can get stronger and can lower your risk of heart disease. Getting a nice workout, like a bike ride, is always nice.
Not only is riding your bike good for your body and environment, it is also good for the economy! At times like these money is tight and you spend hundreds of dollars each year on gas alone. Cars, and especially trucks, need plenty of gas to get you moving to the place that you need to get to. If you were to ride a bike you will really cut all the money that you spend on gas each week. Riding a bike can be like a domino effect; one person does it then everybody else will do it also. Saving money that you would usually spend on gas would bring happiness to you, your family and your wallet.
In conclusion, bike riding is very important! It helps your heart health and you mind. Oh, and also the planet you live on. Oh, and, your wallet!
by Callie Ritchie, age 11
"Everyone should rid bikes!", says many celebrities. It doesn't matter what size, shape, or how much money you make to just hop on a bike and ride! Here are some celebrities who do just that. They ride them for fun, sport and to show people an eco-friendly example.
Generally most celebrities have a reason for bicycling. These famous ride just for fun. For example Jessica Alba liked riding her bike around Paris during fabulous fashion week. Barack Obama on the other hand, rode his bike in Chicago for pure fun. Lastly, the newest couple in Hollywood, Brad and Angelina Pitt, rode around with their newest of six children. Those are some examples of celebrities that bicycle for fun.
Furthermore not all famous people ride for fun. Some ride for sport. Jennifer Lopez did just that at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Other participated too, like Matthew McConaghey and Ann Kournikova. Lance Armstrong is also a very famous bicycling athlete. Lance competed seven times in the Tour de France and won five! Also Zara Phillips, famous equestrian for the Olympics, competed in bike polo. Those people did biking for the fun of the sport.
Finally the other celebrities do it to set an example for others. Miley Cyrus becomes a role model as she rides her bike places instead of driving. Jennifer Aniston bought a bike for exercise and to set an eco-friendly example. On the other hand Miss Universe rode a bike through Mexico City to promote their campaign to encourage commuters to stop driving and start cycling! Celebrities just don't bike, some have their reasons. Those three did it to set examples.
In conclusion, it doesn't matter what size, shape or how much money you make to just hop on a bike and ride! These celebrities showed that through riding for fun, sport and setting example. Jen Aniston does it to set an eco-friendly example, but Brad and Angelina ride for fun! Unlike those celebrities Lance Armstrong rides his bike for sport. So hop on a bike and ride just like the celebrity role models.
So Many Problems Bicycles Can Answer
by Gabby Vallejos
There are many problems in the world. Pollution, our troubled economy and obesity are a few of the many issues. These issues can all be helped by one thing, bicycling. Bicycling is not only a form of exercise and fun, it is a money saver and pollution reducer.
The greenhouse effect is one of the more significant problems in the world today. Cars are polluting the atmosphere with gasses that are harmful to the atmosphere. The gasses get trapped inside the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to go up. Higher temperatures mean big problems for wildlife, especially the one's who live in the Artic region. These high temperatures melt ice and glaciers that animals such as polar bears and penguins live on. People are looking for a solution to this problem.
People use cars for everything. Our society has become very dependent on automobiles for means of transportation. Often, people use a car to go very short distances, just because it is easier. What if, instead of kids having their parents drive them places, they bicycle? Imagine if every kid in America rode their bike to go places within close proximity to home. It would be like taking millions of cars off the road, thus reducing the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere. What if kids rode their bikes to school, or if people road their bike to work. I live on Long Island and a lot of parents commute to the city for work. The other adults who live close to where they work can bicycle to their workplace.
Obesity is also a major problem in America. About 30 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Factors that contribute to obesity are diet, exercise and heredity. Most children and teens do not get the daily amount of recommended exercise; sixty minutes a day. We can strive for a healthier America by increasing the amount of exercise children get. The children, teens and adults of America can get this needed exercise by bicycling.
Bicycling is a family sport, people of all ages can learn to ride a bicycle. Bicycling is not only great fun, it also is an excellent form of exercise. Bicycling strengthens the leg muscles and increases cardiovascular endurance. If everyone were to ride a bicycle for an hour a day, America would be a fitter, healthier nation. People need healthy hearts, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Our heart is the most important organ in our body, it is also a muscle. Fast-paced exercise, such as bicycling, can make our hearts stronger, reducing our risk of heart disease.
Our nation is in a recession, the American dollar is worth less. Families all over the country are feeling the pinch. President Obama has lots of stimulus packages to help get our economy back on it's feet. What if the government were to buy every child in America a bicycle? Government spending can get our economy back on track. If children were to ride bikes instead of driving places, American oil consumption will decrease. Fossil fuel is a non-renewable resource. Currently, we are consuming oil faster than the earth can create it. If we do not do anything soon we will run out. If Americans were to ride bicycles more often they would use less gasoline. Less gasoline usage means less money spent on gas and more on things that can help the economy. Most oil is imported, buying foreign oil will not help our economy, but the economy of other nations that we buy the oil from.
As you can see, just by riding your bicycle, you can save money, reduce pollution, get exercise, prevent heart disease, help the economy, spend time with your family and have fun!
Cycling Through Time
by Kyle Banks, age 14
The bicycle’s history is a long and interesting one. There were many kinds of bicycles before they got to what they are today. The bicycle was started in 1817 and evolved year after year until we got the modern day bicycle. People have used the bicycle for many things, such as quick transportation, racing, and just plain old fun. The bicycle was a significant invention in our history.
Bicycles got their start in 1817 Germany when Baron von Drais invented a “walking machine” to get around the royal gardens faster. This invention consisted of two same-sized in-line wheels mounted on a frame. The front wheel was steer able. You would straddle the device and propel it by pushing your feet off the ground, making you glide while you walk. This machine became known as the Draisienne or hobby horse. The entire contraption was made of wood. The Draisienne was short lived, for it was not practical for traveling other than on straight, smooth paths.
The next appearance of a double-wheeled machine was in 1865. This machine had pedals applied directly to the front wheel. This invention was also made entirely of wood, giving it the popular name of “Boneshaker”, because of the bumpy rides it provided. It was also known as the velocipede, or “fast foot”. These were also short lived, but in large cities, indoor riding schools, similar to roller rinks, could be found.
Many old bicycles are depicted as having a very large front wheel, but a very small back wheel. This was the High Wheel bicycle. It was the first all metal machine and was introduced in 1870. The front wheels got larger and larger as people realized that with larger wheels, the longer distance you would go with one rotation. People would buy wheel sizes according to leg length, for the pedals were still attached directly to the front wheel. This was the first machine to actually be called a bicycle or “two wheel”.
These bicycles, however, were extremely unsafe. Since the rider sat very high above the center of gravity, if the front wheel was suddenly stopped by a stone or rut in the road, the whole contraption would rotate forward on its front axle. The rider, with his legs stuck under the handlebars, would then fall directly onto his head. This birthed the phrase “taking a header.”
Most bicycles belonged only to men, but while they were busting their heads on High Wheels, ladies rode around parks on an adult tricycle. This High Wheel Tricycle had a smaller front wheel and two larger back wheels. It was also useful to dignified men such as doctors or priests. Many mechanical innovations, now more known for their use in the automobile, were originally invented for the tricycle. These include rack and pinion steering and band brakes.
Improvements on the design of the High Wheel bicycle started popping up, mostly with the smaller wheel in the front to stop the “headers” problem. One of these models was promoted by its manufacturer by riding it down the front steps of the United States capitol building. This design started being called the High Wheel Safety bicycle. The bicycles began to be known as “ordinary bicycles” and later on as simply “ordinaries.”
Time went on and two similar models, the Hard-Tired Safety and the Pneumatic-Tired safety, were created. They both had same-sized wheels and were improvements on the wooden designs. With stronger metal, there was also the ability to install a small metal chain and sprocket, light enough for a human being to power. Also introduced was the gear system, which allowed the same-size bicycles to go just as fast as a High Wheel.
Just after World War I, the “kid’s bike” was introduced. This bike incorporated many motorcycle or automobile parts to appeal to children. As time went on, the designs got more and more complex. Kids were able to do the same tricks kids do today on those sixty-five pound machines. These kids bikes were built until the 1950’s, and incorporated parts to look like aircrafts and even rockets. By the 1960’s, the designs got thinner and simpler.
Today, we still use bicycles as a form of fast transportation, racing, and even just for recreation. Since the time of the Walking Machine, bicycles went through many significant changes. The designs got safer and eventually more complex. The invention of the bicycle changed our history forever and our world would be a different place without it.
Annual Student Bicycle Essay Contest
Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. People engaged in cycling are referred to as "cyclists", "bikers", or less commonly, as "bicyclists". Apart from two-wheeled bicycles, "cycling" also includes the riding of unicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, recumbent and similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number approximately one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many parts of the world.
Cycling is widely regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation optimal for short to moderate distances.
Bicycles provide numerous benefits in comparison with motor vehicles, including the sustained physical exercise involved in cycling, easier parking, increased maneuverability, and access to roads, bike paths and rural trails. Cycling also offers a reduced consumption of fossil fuels, less air or noise pollution, and much reduced traffic congestion. These lead to less financial cost to the user as well as to society at large (negligible damage to roads, less road area required). By fitting bicycle racks on the front of buses, transit agencies can significantly increase the areas they can serve.
Among the disadvantages of cycling are the requirement of bicycles (excepting tricycles or quadracycles) to be balanced by the rider in order to remain upright, the reduced protection in crashes in comparison to motor vehicles, often longer travel time (except in densely populated areas), vulnerability to weather conditions, difficulty in transporting passengers, and the fact that a basic level of fitness is required for cycling moderate to long distances.
Main article: History of cycling
Cycling quickly became an activity after bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and remains popular with more than a billion people worldwide used for recreation, transportation and sport.
Main article: Bicycle
In many countries, the most commonly used vehicle for road transport is a utility bicycle. These have frames with relaxed geometry, protecting the rider from shocks of the road and easing steering at low speeds. Utility bicycles tend to be equipped with accessories such as mudguards, pannier racks and lights, which extends their usefulness on a daily basis. As the bicycle is so effective as a means of transportation various companies have developed methods of carrying anything from the weekly shop to children on bicycles. Certain countries rely heavily on bicycles and their culture has developed around the bicycle as a primary form of transport. In Europe, Denmark and the Netherlands have the most bicycles per capita and most often use bicycles for everyday transport.
Road bikes tend to have a more upright shape and a shorter wheelbase, which make the bike more mobile but harder to ride slowly. The design, coupled with low or dropped handlebars, requires the rider to bend forward more, making use of stronger muscles (particularly the gluteus maximus) and reducing air resistance at high speed.
The price of a new bicycle can range from US$50 to more than US$20,000 (the highest priced bike in the world is the custom Madone by Damien Hirst, sold at $500,000 USD), depending on quality, type and weight (the most exotic road bicycles can weigh as little as 3.2 kg (7 lb)). However, UCI regulations stipulate a legal race bike cannot weigh less than 6.8 kg (14.99 lbs). Being measured for a bike and taking it for a test ride are recommended before buying.
The drivetrain components of the bike should also be considered. A middle grade dérailleur is sufficient for a beginner, although many utility bikes are equipped with hub gears. If the rider plans a significant amount of hillclimbing a triple-chainrings cranksetgear system may be preferred. Otherwise, the relatively lighter and less expensive double chainring may be better. Much simpler fixed wheel bikes are also available.
Many road bikes, along with mountain bikes, include clipless pedals to which special shoes attach, via a cleat, enabling the rider to pull on the pedals as well as push. Other possible accessories for the bicycle include front and rear lights, bells or horns, child carrying seats, cycling computers with GPS, locks, bar tape, fenders (mud-guards), baggage racks, baggage carriers and pannier bags, water bottles and bottle cages.
For basic maintenance and repairs cyclists can carry a pump (or a CO2 cartridge), a puncture repair kit, a spare inner tube, and tire levers and a set of allen keys. Cycling can be more efficient and comfortable with special shoes, gloves, and shorts. In wet weather, riding can be more tolerable with waterproof clothes, such as cape, jacket, trousers (pants) and overshoes and high-visibility clothing is advisable to reduce the risk from motor vehicle users.
Items legally required in some jurisdictions, or voluntarily adopted for safety reasons, include bicycle helmets, generator or battery operated lights, reflectors, and audible signalling devices such as a bell or horn. Extras include studded tires and a bicycle computer.
Bikes can also be heavily customized, with different seat designs and handle bars, for example.
Many schools and police departments run educational programs to instruct children in bicycle handling skills and introduce them to the rules of the road as they apply to cyclists. In different countries these may be known as bicycle rodeos or operated as schemes such as Bikeability. Education for adult cyclists is available from organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists.
Beyond simply riding, another skill is riding efficiently and safely in traffic. One popular approach to riding in motor vehicle traffic is vehicular cycling, occupying road space as car does. Alternately, in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where cycling is popular, cyclists are often segregated into bike lanes at the side of, or more often separate from, main highways and roads. Many primary schools participate in the national road test in which children individually complete a circuit on roads near the school while being observed by testers.
See also: Cycling infrastructure
Cyclists, pedestrians and motorists make different demands on road design which may lead to conflicts. Some jurisdictions give priority to motorized traffic, for example setting up one-way street systems, free-right turns, high capacity roundabouts, and slip roads. Others share priority with cyclists so as to encourage more cycling by applying varying combinations of traffic calming measures to limit the impact of motorized transport, and by building bike lanes, bike paths and cycle tracks.
In jurisdictions where motor vehicles were given priority, cycling has tended to decline while in jurisdictions where cycling infrastructure was built, cycling rates have remained steady or increased. Occasionally, extreme measures against cycling may occur. In Shanghai, where bicycles were once the dominant mode of transport, bicycle travel on a few city roads was banned temporarily in December 2003.
In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are used in order to reduce theft. Local governments promote cycling by permitting bicycles to be carried on public transport or by providing external attachment devices on public transport vehicles. Conversely, an absence of secure cycle-parking is a recurring complaint by cyclists from cities with low modal share of cycling.
Extensive cycling infrastructure may be found in some cities. Such dedicated paths in some cities often have to be shared with in-line skaters, scooters, skateboarders, and pedestrians. Dedicated cycling infrastructure is treated differently in the law of every jurisdiction, including the question of liability of users in a collision. There is also some debate about the safety of the various types of separated facilities.
Bicycles are considered a sustainable mode of transport, especially suited for urban use and relatively shorter distances when used for transport (compared to recreation). Case studies and good practices (from European cities and some worldwide examples) that promote and stimulate this kind of functional cycling in cities can be found at Eltis, Europe's portal for local transport.
A number of cities, including Paris, London and Barcelona, now have successful bike hire schemes designed to help people cycle in the city. Typically these feature utilitarian city bikes which lock into docking stations, released on payment for set time periods. Costs vary from city to city. In London, initial hire access costs £2 per day. The first 30 minutes of each trip is free, with £2 for each additional 30 minutes until the bicycle is returned.
In the Netherlands, many roads have one or two separate cycleways alongside them, or cycle lanes marked on the road. On roads where adjacent bike paths or cycle tracks exist, the use of these facilities is compulsory, and cycling on the main carriageway is not permitted. Some 35,000 km of cycle-track has been physically segregated from motor traffic, equal to a quarter of the country's entire 140,000 km road network.
Main article: Utility cycling
Utility cycling refers both to cycling as a mode of daily commuting transport as well as the use of a bicycle in a commercial activity, mainly to transport goods, mostly accomplished in an urban environment.
The postal services of many countries have long relied on bicycles. The British Royal Mail first started using bicycles in 1880; now bicycle delivery fleets include 37,000 in the UK, 25,700 in Germany, 10,500 in Hungary and 7000 in Sweden. In Australia, Australia Post has also reintroduced bicycle postal deliveries on some routes due to an inability to recruit sufficient licensed riders willing to use their uncomfortable motorbikes. The London Ambulance Service has recently introduced bicycling paramedics, who can often get to the scene of an incident in Central London more quickly than a motorized ambulance.
The use of bicycles by police has been increasing, since they provide greater accessibility to bicycle and pedestrian zones and allow access when roads are congested.
Bicycles enjoy substantial use as general delivery vehicles in many countries. In the UK and North America, as their first jobs, generations of teenagers have worked at delivering newspapers by bicycle. London has many delivery companies that use bicycles with trailers. Most cities in the West, and many outside it, support a sizeable and visible industry of cycle couriers who deliver documents and small packages. In India, many of Mumbai's Dabbawalas use bicycles to deliver home cooked lunches to the city’s workers. In Bogotá, Colombia the city’s largest bakery recently replaced most of its delivery trucks with bicycles. Even the car industry uses bicycles. At the huge Mercedes-Benz factory in Sindelfingen, Germany workers use bicycles, color-coded by department, to move around the factory.
Main article: Bicycle touring
Bicycles are used for recreation at all ages. Bicycle touring, also known as cyclotourism, involves touring and exploration or sightseeing by bicycle for leisure. A brevet or randonnée is an organized long-distance ride.
One popular Dutch pleasure is the enjoyment of relaxed cycling in the countryside of the Netherlands. The land is very flat and full of public bicycle trails and cycle tracks where cyclists are not bothered by cars and other traffic, which makes it ideal for cycling recreation. Many Dutch people subscribe every year to an event called fietsvierdaagse — four days of organised cycling through the local environment. Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP), which began in 1891, is the oldest bicycling event still run on a regular basis on the open road, covers over 1,200 km (746 mi) and imposes a 90-hour time limit. Similar if smaller institutions exist in many countries.
Many cycling clubs hold organized rides in which bicyclists of all levels participate. The typical organized ride starts with a large group of riders, called the mass, bunch or even peloton. This will thin out over the course of the ride. Many riders choose to ride together in groups of the same skill level to take advantage of drafting.
Most organized rides, for example cyclosportives (or gran fondos), Challenge Rides or reliability trials, and hill climbs include registration requirements and will provide information either through the mail or online concerning start times and other requirements. Rides usually consist of several different routes, sorted by mileage, and with a certain number of rest stops that usually include refreshments, first aid and maintenance tools. Routes can vary by as much as 100 miles (160 km).
Mountain biking began in the 1970s, originally as a downhill sport, practised on customized cruiser bicycles around Mount Tamalpais. Most mountain biking takes place on dirt roads, trails and in purpose-built parks. Downhill mountain biking has just evolved in the recent years and is performed at places such as Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Slopestyle, a form of downhill, is when riders do tricks such as tailwhips, 360s, backflips and front flips. There are several disciplines of mountain biking besides downhill. Cross country, often referred to as XC, all mountain, trail, free ride, and newly popular enduro.
The Marching and Cycling Band HHK from Haarlem (the Netherlands) is one of the few marching bands around the world which also performs on bicycles.
Main article: Bicycle racing
Shortly after the introduction of bicycles, competitions developed independently in many parts of the world. Early races involving boneshaker style bicycles were predictably fraught with injuries. Large races became popular during the 1890s "Golden Age of Cycling", with events across Europe, and in the U.S. and Japan as well. At one point, almost every major city in the US had a velodrome or two for track racing events, however since the middle of the 20th century cycling has become a minority sport in the US whilst in Continental Europe it continues to be a major sport, particularly in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain. The most famous of all bicycle races is the Tour de France. This began in 1903, and continues to capture the attention of the sporting world.
In 1899, Charles Minthorn Murphy became the first man to ride his bicycle a mile in under a minute (hence his nickname, Mile-a-Minute Murphy), which he did by drafting a locomotive at New York's Long Island.
As the bicycle evolved its various forms, different racing formats developed. Road races may involve both team and individual competition, and are contested in various ways. They range from the one-day road race, criterium, and time trial to multi-stage events like the Tour de France and its sister events which make up cycling's Grand Tours. Recumbent bicycles were banned from bike races in 1934 after Marcel Berthet set a new hour record in his Velodyne streamliner (49.992 km on November 18, 1933). Track bicycles are used for track cycling in Velodromes, while cyclo-cross races are held on outdoor terrain, including pavement, grass, and mud. Cyclocross races feature man-made features such as small barriers which riders either bunny hop over or dismount and walk over. Time trial races, another form of road racing require a rider to ride against the clock. Time trials can be performed as a team or as a single rider. Bikes are changed for time trial races, using aero bars. In the past decade, mountain bike racing has also reached international popularity and is even an Olympic sport.
Professional racing organizations place limitations on the bicycles that can be used in the races that they sanction. For example, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of international cycle sport (which sanctions races such as the Tour de France), decided in the late 1990s to create additional rules which prohibit racing bicycles weighing less than 6.8 kilograms (14.96 pounds). The UCI rules also effectively ban some bicycle frame innovations (such as the recumbent bicycle) by requiring a double triangle structure.
Main article: Bicycle infantry
The bicycle has been used as a method of reconnaissance as well as transporting soldiers and supplies to combat zones. In this it has taken over many of the functions of horses in warfare. In the Second Boer War, both sides used bicycles for scouting. In World War I, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand used bicycles to move troops. In its 1937 invasion of China, Japan employed some 50,000 bicycle troops, and similar forces were instrumental in Japan's march or "roll" through Malaya in World War II. Germany used bicycles again in World War II, while the British employed airborne "Cycle-commandos" with folding bikes.
In the Vietnam War, communist forces used bicycles extensively as cargo carriers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The last country known to maintain a regiment of bicycle troops was Switzerland, which disbanded its last unit in 2003.
Two broad and correlated themes run in bicycle activism: one is about advocating the bicycle as an alternative mode of transport, and the other is about the creation of conditions to permit and/or encourage bicycle use, both for utility and recreational cycling. Although the first, which emphasizes the potential for energy and resource conservation and health benefits gained from cycling versus automobile use, is relatively undisputed, the second is the subject of much debate.
It is generally agreed that improved local and inter-city rail services and other methods of mass transportation (including greater provision for cycle carriage on such services) create conditions to encourage bicycle use. However, there are different opinions on the role of various types of cycling infrastructure in building bicycle-friendly cities and roads.
Some bicycle activists (including some traffic management advisers) seek the construction of bike paths, cycle tracks and bike lanes for journeys of all lengths and point to their success in promoting safety and encouraging more people to cycle. Some activists, especially those from the vehicular cycling tradition, view the safety, practicality, and intent of such facilities with suspicion. They favor a more holistic approach based on the 4 'E's; education (of everyone involved), encouragement (to apply the education), enforcement (to protect the rights of others), and engineering (to facilitate travel while respecting every person's equal right to do so). Some groups offer training courses to help cyclists integrate themselves with other traffic.
Critical Mass is an event typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world where bicyclists take to the streets en masse. While the ride was founded with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city streets.
There is a long-running cycle helmet debate among activists. The most heated controversy surrounds the topic of compulsory helmet use.
Cyclists form associations, both for specific interests (trails development, road maintenance, bike maintenance, urban design, racing clubs, touring clubs, etc.) and for more global goals (energy conservation, pollution reduction, promotion of fitness). Some bicycle clubs and national associations became prominent advocates for improvements to roads and highways. In the United States, the League of American Wheelmen lobbied for the improvement of roads in the last part of the 19th century, founding and leading the national Good Roads Movement. Their model for political organization, as well as the paved roads for which they argued, facilitated the growth of the automobile.
As a sport, cycling is governed internationally by the Union Cycliste Internationale in Switzerland, USA Cycling (merged with the United States Cycling Federation in 1995) in the United States, (for upright bicycles) and by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (for other HPVs, or human-powered vehicles). Cycling for transport and touring is promoted on a European level by the European Cyclists' Federation, with associated members from Great Britain, Japan and elsewhere. Regular conferences on cycling as transport are held under the auspices of Velo City; global conferences are coordinated by Velo Mondial.
The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, when cycling is compared to a sedentary lifestyle. A Dutch study found that cycling can extend lifespans by up to 14 months, but the risks equated to a reduced lifespan of 40 days or less.Cycling in the Netherlands is often safer than in other parts of the world, so the risk-benefit ratio will be different in other regions. Overall, benefits of cycling or walking have been shown to exceed risks by ratios of 9:1 to 96:1 when compared with no exercise at all. However these studies did not compare cycling to other forms of exercise that can involve less risk.
The physical exercise gained from cycling is generally linked with increased health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is second only to tobacco smoking as a health risk in developed countries, and this is associated with many tens of billions of dollars of healthcare costs. The WHO's report suggests that increasing physical activity is a public health 'best buy', and that cycling is a 'highly suitable activity' for this purpose. The charity Sustrans reports that investment in cycling provision can give a 20:1 return from health and other benefits. It has been estimated that, on average, approximately 20 life-years are gained from the health benefits of road bicycling for every life-year lost through injury.
Bicycles are often used by people seeking to improve their fitness and cardiovascular health. In this regard, cycling is especially helpful for those with arthritis of the lower limbs who are unable to pursue sports that cause impact to the knees and other joints. Since cycling can be used for the practical purpose of transportation, there can be less need for self-discipline to exercise.
Cycling while seated is a relatively non-weight bearing exercise that, like swimming, does little to promote bone density. Cycling up and out of the saddle, on the other hand, does a better job by transferring more of the rider's body weight to the legs. However, excessive cycling while standing can cause knee damage[not in citation given] It used to be thought that cycling while standing was less energy efficient, but recent research has proven this not to be true. Other than air resistance, there is no wasted energy from cycling while standing, if it is done correctly.
Cycling on a stationary cycle is frequently advocated as a suitable exercise for rehabilitation, particularly for lower limb injury, owing to the low impact which it has on the joints. In particular, cycling is commonly used within knee rehabilitation programs.
As a response to the increased global sedentarity and consequent overweight and obesity, one response that has been adopted by many organizations concerned with health and environment is the promotion of Active travel, which seeks to promote walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to motorized transport. Given that many journeys are for relatively short distances, there is considerable scope to replace car use with walking or cycling, though in many settings this may require some infrastructure modification, particularly to attract the less experienced and confident.
Further information: Bicycle safety
Cycling suffers from a perception that it is unsafe. This perception is not always backed by hard numbers, because of under reporting of accidents and lack of bicycle use data (amount of cycling, kilometers cycled) which make it hard to assess the risk and monitor changes in risks. In the UK, fatality rates per mile or kilometre are slightly less than those for walking. In the US, bicycling fatality rates are less than 2/3 of those walking the same distance. However, in the UK for example the fatality and serious injury rates per hour of travel are just over double for cycling than those for walking. Thus if a person is, for example, about to undertake a ten kilometre journey to a given destination it may on average be safer to undertake this journey by bicycle than on foot. However, if a person is intending, for example, to undertake an hour's exercise it is likely to be considerably more dangerous to take that exercise by cycling rather than by walking.
Despite the risk factors associated with bicycling, cyclists have a lower overall mortality rate when compared to other groups. A Danish study in 2000 found that even after adjustment for other risk factors, including leisure time physical activity, those who did not cycle to work experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did.
Injuries (to cyclists, from cycling) can be divided into two types:
Acute physical trauma includes injuries to the head and extremities resulting from falls and collisions. Most cycle deaths result from a collision with a car or heavy goods vehicle, both motorist and cyclist having been found responsible for collisions. A third of collisions between motorists and cyclists are caused by car dooring. However, around 16% of serious cyclist injuries reported to police in the UK in 2014 did not involve any other person or vehicle.
Although a majority of bicycle collisions occur during the day,bicycle lighting is recommended for safety when bicycling at night to increase visibility.
Of a study of 518 cyclists, a large majority reported at least one overuse injury, with over one third requiring medical treatment. The most common injury sites were the neck (48.8%) and the knees (41.7%), as well as the groin/buttocks (36.1%), hands (31.1%), and back (30.3%). Women were more likely to suffer from neck and shoulder pain than men.
Many cyclists suffer from overuse injuries to the knees, affecting cyclists at all levels. These are caused by many factors:
- Incorrect bicycle fit or adjustment, particularly the saddle.
- Incorrect adjustment of clipless pedals.
- Too many hills, or too many miles, too early in the training season.
- Poor training preparation for long touring rides.
- Selecting too high a gear. A lower gear for uphill climb protects the knees, even though muscles may be well able to handle a higher gear.
Overuse injuries, including chronic nerve damage at weight bearing locations, can occur as a result of repeatedly riding a bicycle for extended periods of time. Damage to the ulnar nerve in the palm, carpal tunnel in the wrist, the genitourinary tract or bicycle seat neuropathy may result from overuse. Recumbent bicycles are designed on different ergonomic principles and eliminate pressure from the saddle and handlebars, due to the relaxed riding position.
Note that overuse is a relative term, and capacity varies greatly between individuals. Someone starting out in cycling must be careful to increase length and frequency of cycling sessions slowly, starting for example at an hour or two per day, or a hundred miles or kilometers per week. Bilateral muscular pain is a normal by-product of the training process, whereas unilateral pain may reveal "exercise-induced arterial endofibrosis". Joint pain and numbness are also early signs of overuse injury.
A Spanish study of top triathletes found those who cover more than 186 miles (300 km) a week on their bikes have less than 4% normal looking sperm, where normal adult males would be expected to have from 15% to 20%.
Much work has been done to investigate optimal bicycle saddle shape, size and position, and negative effects of extended use of less than optimal seats or configurations.
Excessive saddle height can cause posterior knee pain, while setting the saddle too low can cause pain in the anterior of the knee. An incorrectly fitted saddle may eventually lead to muscle imbalance. A 25 to 35 degree knee angle is recommended to avoid an overuse injury.
Cycling has been linked to sexual impotence due to pressure on the perineum from the seat, but fitting a proper sized seat prevents this effect. In extreme cases, pudendal nerve entrapment can be a source of intractable perineal pain. Some cyclists with induced pudendal nerve pressure neuropathy gained relief from improvements in saddle position and riding techniques.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has investigated the potential health effects of prolonged bicycling in police bicycle patrol units, including the possibility that some bicycle saddles exert excessive pressure on the urogenital area of cyclists, restricting blood flow to the genitals. Their study found that using bicycle seats without protruding noses reduced pressure on the groin by at least 65% and significantly reduced the number of cases of urogenital paresthesia. A follow-up found that 90% of bicycle officers who tried the no-nose seat were using it six months later. NIOSH recommends that riders use a no-nose bicycle seat for workplace bicycling.
Despite rumors to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence linking cycling with testicular cancer.
Exposure to air pollution
One concern is that riding in traffic may expose the cyclist to higher levels of air pollution, especially if he or she travels on or along busy roads. Some authors have claimed this to be untrue, showing that the pollutant and irritant count within cars is consistently higher, presumably because of limited circulation of air within the car and due to the air intake being directly in the stream of other traffic. Other authors have found small or inconsistent differences in concentrations but claim that exposure of cyclists is higher due to increased minute ventilation and is associated with minor biological changes. The significance of the associated health effect, if any, is unclear but probably much smaller than the health impacts associated with accidents and the health benefits derived from additional physical activity.