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For half a year now I commute to work by bike everyday. It's 30 km each day, about 18.5 miles. I have a good bike, it's comfortable as well as it has good components so I'm having fun riding it. However I found myself wondering about long term effects of riding a bike so often (in average I cover 150 km a week on it).

Considering positive effects I realized my fitness improved a lot, which is quite obvious why. I also feel better about having this regular workout besides my job in an office. So there are both mental and physical benefits. So now I'm just curious: What physical and mental benefits have you noticed from bicycling/commuting by bike often?

I also wonder about risks I could come to face though. Are there long term risks for my health? What other issues might become important after more months/years of bicycling? And of course what can I do to prevent them from getting bad or happening at all? I'd like to avoid typical mishaps and learn from you guys' experience.

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    LAW did an analysis maybe 25 years ago, and they found that the health benefits of cycling (in terms of increased longevity) offset the risks from bike accidents by about a factor of two when you don't wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet, in turn, reduces the accident risks by about a factor of two. So, if you wear a helmet you can figure that the benefits are about 4 times the accident risk you worry about. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 22 '15 at 12:16
  • @DanielRHicks Do you also wear a helmet walking up the stairs? It has been proven that walking stairs is more dangerous than cycling. While compulsory helmet laws makes that fewer people cycle and as such makes cycling less safe. – Willeke Jul 22 '15 at 16:34
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    @Willeke - I wasn't commenting on whether or not to wear a helmet, but rather the benefits of cycling. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 22 '15 at 17:07
  • Per mile, I've been in a LOT more accidents cycling than driving. Just got hit again a few weeks ago by a driver more interested in eating her sandwich than not running over cyclists. – Brian Knoblauch Jul 22 '15 at 19:34
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    It's probably worth making a distinction between cycling (as a sport) and commuting. The first is obviously good exercise depending on your particular training regimen, the latter I would be very skeptical about any benefits thereof: If you're an utter couch potato, even the smallest activity probably helps, but generally when you commute you avoid exerting yourself, while effective athletic training requires pushing yourself to the limit repeatedly (otherwise no progress can be made). – Superbest Jul 22 '15 at 20:21
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Long term benefits ... Hmmm ... does 55 years count as long term? If so, I think I and a few others here qualify ...

Key benefits

  • Cycling is a life-long form of exercise. One of the group I meet for coffee is 82, another is 80. A bunch are in their sixties and seventies, and another bunch are in their fifties. About a quarter are women. Another bunch I ride with has people from late teens through to sixties. Half are women.

  • Cycling can be done in a thousand ways. I've seen young professional Italian women cycling to work in high heels, Italian grandma's cycling to meet for coffee, and their menfolk kitted out in lycra for their daily "roll". You can race, tour, commute, shop, goof off, cycle around the world. It can be your only form of transport. You get places faster than walking or running, and see almost as much.

  • Cycling is low impact (unless you crash). If you choose to cycle with intensity, it is has far lower impact on your joints than activities such as running, jogging, the latest Gym fad, and even swimming (which can be damaging to elbows and shoulders).

  • Cardiovascular, aerobic capacity, strength, metabolic level. Most of the health issues of today's world are due to too little of these. You are going to be healthier, and healthier for longer, with a cycling life style.

  • Endorphins (feel good hormones) are released by cycling. You cannot stay grumpy or depressed with a cycling life style.

  • Office productivity. If you're a sedentary office worker, the higher metabolic rate and higher blood flow will give you more energy at work and higher productivity.

  • Weight and cholesterol control. The higher metabolic rate produced by regular physical activity enables your body to burn it's way through lots of fats and foods.

  • Social. Meet a significant other. Whatever.

  • Bedroom performance. For either sex, bedroom performance is better when you're fitter.

  • Being quicker than cars through inner city traffic.

  • Being able to bypass traffic jams.

  • Idealists may think they'll save money.

Key risks

  • Crashing, or being crashed. On a bike you are more vulnerable. The solution is to simply take 100% responsibility. See Best ways to avoid getting hit by cars?

  • There have been medical reports of lower sperm counts among (male) cyclists. This one has always been exaggerated. Your better general health is a far better indicator of reproductive success.

  • Owning too many bikes, each of which costs more than your car.

  • Er ... hard to find too many more. Too much vitamin A? Being annoyingly happy with life? Annoying your friends by knowing what a kilometer is?

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    I would add bicycle theft to the risks. I can safely park a 3000€ car outside where I live, but not a 3000€ bicycle, so I have to take it inside, where it blocks either the kitchen, or the wardrobe, or the bookshelf, or the bed... – gerrit Jul 22 '15 at 9:48
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    lol, love the "too many bikes, each of which costs more than your car". Where do you live if you don't mind this personal question? – Nhân Lê Jul 22 '15 at 11:18
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    The risk of collisions and crashes depends a lot on where and how you cycle. Commuting in a big city with huge roundabouts full of tipper trucks that have more blind spots than windows is different from trundling to the local shop on segregated cycle lanes or through the local park. But generally the risk of cycling is not that much different from many other daily activities like crossing big junctions or gardening and DIY work. – Stephan Matthiesen Jul 22 '15 at 12:35
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    Negative: What about having oversized upper legs whilst the rest sucks? xD Not cycling as much as I used to anymore, but for years and years I wasn't able to wear most pants because my upper legs were relatively speaking far too big xD – David Mulder Jul 22 '15 at 16:54
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    Nice summary. A negative you might want to add: loss of bone density. Cycling is not an impact sport so you can lose bone density if it is your only form of exercise. Also body posture can be a negative and an be confounded if you sit a lot for work (hip flexers, IT band, back, shoulders, neck). – Rider_X Jul 22 '15 at 18:28
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Besides all the obvious health benefits of light physical activity, a bicycle gives - especially for elderly people - freedom and independence, with many benefits for social and mental health.

Many people don't drive or don't have access to a car, public transport is too limited, and walking to shops or social activities is just too far. With a bicycle they depend less on relatives or social services for getting a lift to shops, clubs, cinema and whatever.

A bicycle is a suitable means of transport even for people with health problems, if you take it slowly and possibly with an adapted bike, and I know elderly people who don't like to drive and others who can't walk long distances, but they cycle everywhere. They would be stuck at home without a bicycle.

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    Yes, due to polio I have difficulty walking a half mile, but can, with relative ease, cycle 20-40 miles. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 22 '15 at 12:07
  • Also I know elderly people who cycle with e-bikes. Not only e-bikes enable them to be independent, they also let them reach places faster and with less hard physical effort. When it comes to cars: for a lot of people I know owning a car is simply too expensive. So the bicycle is a great alternative. – MrPepper Jul 23 '15 at 6:28
  • @MrPepper e-bikes is a very good point, they give freedom and independence to a lot of people. They are a huge success (millions sold annually in many European countries), while e-cars never took off despite enormous state subsidies. – Stephan Matthiesen Jul 23 '15 at 10:07
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Well as far as I can say pros outrun the cons .

The only cons that I can think about are that of slightly damaging your knee caps and other soft tissue in the legs . But I think they will get generated back rapidly

  • I have heard about this before. But how exactly do you get to damage your knee caps? I go hiking once in a while and since I started to bicycle often I noticed something interesting: going down on hikes doesn't seem to be so rough on my knees anymore. Maybe biking helped my knees getting stronger? So I'm not sure how bad/good bicycling is on my knees in specific. – MrPepper Jul 22 '15 at 8:08
  • I don't think you'll damage your knees unless your cycling is extreme, or unless you have an existing injury. I personally found that daily cycling (commuting, utility etc.) is good for my knees, and a doctor said it's because you are exercise the knees constantly, but there is much less load on them than when walking. – Stephan Matthiesen Jul 22 '15 at 8:12
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    It is actually fairly easy to damage your knees, if you are susceptible and you use the wrong technique. Mostly, having the seat too low and pedaling at too low a cadence can cause injury. With proper technique it should not occur. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 22 '15 at 12:09
  • @DanielRHicks Thanks, that's interesting and useful advice! – Stephan Matthiesen Jul 22 '15 at 12:23
  • ESPECIALLY with fixed gear bikes. I rode one of these for years, even decent distances, kills your knees. – Captain Ron Jul 22 '15 at 17:52
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Apart from a better health, a faster commute, a happier life, a better environment, and other factors, there aren't a lot of benefits.

As for risks: it is easier and more attractive to steal a high-end 3000€ bicycle than to steal a crappy 3000€ car. If you cannot park it safely at home and at work, cycling on a good bicycle will leave you worrying about theft. Cycling on a crappy bicycle won't, but for a long distance commute a crappy bicycle will leave you slower and perhaps less happy than a good bicycle.

(Of course, you don't need a €3000 bicycle for commuting)

  • An 800€ bike is enough for commuting. Add a great U-lock and wheel locks and I don't foresee (and haven't experienced) it's being stolen. – ChrisW Jul 22 '15 at 15:23
  • @ChrisW I agree, 3000€ is extreme. Although under specific conditions for very long commutes one might consider recumbents or velomobiles which will easily go in the thousands of €. – gerrit Jul 22 '15 at 15:34
  • Having a good bike shed and always locking your bike helps, having a safe place to park your bike at work helps as well and quite a few companies seem to be happy to let you park somewhere inside if needed. – Willeke Jul 22 '15 at 16:36

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