Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of 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 , , , recumbent and similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).
Cycling is widely regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation
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, and rural trails. Cycling also offers a reduced consumption of , less air pollution 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.
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 Racing bicycle 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 . If the rider plans a significant amount of hillclimbing a triple-chainrings crankset bicycle gearing 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 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, Bicycle bell 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 bicycle pump (or a carbon dioxide), 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 cycling shoe, cycling gloves, and cycling 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 , generator or battery operated lights, retroreflector, and audible signalling devices such as a bell or horn. Extras include studded tires and a cyclocomputer.
Bikes can also be heavily customized, with different seat designs and handle bars, for example.
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.
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.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3303655.stm
In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using , 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 Bicycle carrier 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 bikeway 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 Bicing, now have successful bicycle sharing 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 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, Factsheet The Netherlands: cycling country — CBS equal to a quarter of the country's entire 140,000 km road network.
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 area.
The mail 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 , who can often get to the scene of an incident in Central London more quickly than a motorized ambulance.
The use of Police bicycle 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 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.
One popular Dutch pleasure is the enjoyment of relaxed cycling in the rural of the Netherlands. The land is very flat and full of public bike path and 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 and imposes a 90-hour time limit. Similar if smaller institutions exist in many countries.
Most organized rides, for example (or gran fondos), Challenge riding 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 .
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 cycling 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). are used for track cycling in , 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 biking 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.
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.
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 , and for journeys of all lengths and point to their success in promoting bike 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 city 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.
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 ) 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.
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 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.
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:
Although a majority of bicycle collisions occur during the day, bicycle lighting is recommended for bicycle safety at night to increase visibility.
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 ergonomics 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 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%.
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.