Bicycling – From Risky to Healthy in 200 Years

Bicycling – This year the bicycle turns 200. Add to your longevity by riding one.

It all started with a volcano. Mount Tambora, Indonesia, disastrously erupted in 1815. When this happened, debris thrown into the atmosphere temporarily chilled the globe, resulting in widespread crop failures. This lead to starvation of horses.

The year is 1817. Enter Baron Karl von Drais, a German, who invented a two-wheeled, human-powered device that one could straddle and propel by pushing on the ground with his/her feet. Later, pedals and cranks were added. Thus, the bike was born. Two hundred year later, the bike is still really popular!

Even back in the 1880s, the bicycles were promoted as a form of exercise, according to Juston Anderson, a bike collector, volunteer with the fledgling Cycling Museum of Minnesota and captain of the Minnesota Wheelmen, an antique bicycling organization.

Before the development of the “safety bike” women were warned away, told that cycling could injure reproductive organs. Some brave women rode the bike anyway, and this significantly increased after the development of the “safety bike”, with equal-sized frond and rear wheels, driven by a chain.

Bicycling’s beginnings were riddled with safety challenges. Bikes were expensive and sometimes dangerous status symbols, with nicknames like “boneshakers” and “dandyhorses,” and were ridden by fashionable, well-off daredevils. Over time, better roads and bikes meant the benefits of riding on two wheels outweighed the risks. Today, we know bicycling is good for the heart, brain, muscles and bones. One study in the Netherlands noted every hour of cycling added an hour to a person’s life span.

Bicycling is safe nowadays

Hopping on a bike is often seen as one of the most perilous things one can do, but researchers who crunched the numbers say cycling is far safer than we think. In fact, the University of Auckland team behind the new study say that even if you rode a bike three times a week, on average, you would only suffer an injury worthy of an ACC claim every 70 years. Comparatively, cycling was also more than 100 times less than the risk of snow sports and 500 times safer than playing rugby. Cyclist and study co-author Professor Alistair Woodward said the research was motivated by continually hearing people say they’d love to cycle but didn’t out of fear of being injured.

The health benefits

The bike is now widely used and is becoming even more popular, and with a reason. It has become a safe activity these days, while the health benefits of bicycling are many:

  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased muscle strength and flexibility
  • improved joint mobility
  • decreased stress levels
  • improved posture and coordination
  • strengthened bones
  • decreased body fat levels
  • prevention or management of disease
  • reduced anxiety and depression.

Keep cycling and stay healthy!