Why you should buy and start riding a bike today!
As the world marks world bicycle day, it is important to explore some benefits of riding a bike. Cycling involves a lot of pedaling and balancing on the two wheels, which are the key to hidden biking health benefits.
Biking can be a sport, leisure activity as well as part of a regular workout. As a sport, Eritrea has bagged the trophy for producing the best bikers in Africa, followed by Rwanda. As a leisure activity, it attracts thousands of tourists who want to experience a biking safari in the wild. As a workout, biking presents a plethora of health benefits both to the slow flat-trail biker to the experienced off-road biker.
Africa relies on various modes of transport, including trains, buses, vans, and motorbikes. Rwanda is one of the countries that have recognized and embraced biking as a sustainable way to move around Kigali town in a bid to reduce pollution.
Benefits of biking
- Get rid of a sedentary lifestyle. Compared to the other modes of transport, biking helps people get rid of sedentary lifestyles and enjoy the accompanying health benefits.
- Low exposure to pollution. Ironically, cycling has also been found to reduce exposure to pollution as compared to people who use cars, especially in busy towns.
- Protection from cardiovascular diseases. Bicycle riding exercises your vital organs such as lungs, heart, and blood vessels. This protects them from accumulating fat which could lead to cardiovascular diseases.
- Reduces the risk of developing cancer. Regular cycling also reduces your chances of developing diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
- Reduces weight and belly fat. An hour of cycling has been found to burn between 300-400 calories, making it an effective weight loss activity. When combined with a proper diet, cycling can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce belly fat.
- Relieves stress. Cycling requires a lot of focus on the road, which has been found to help people relieve stress. As you pedal to the rhythm of wheels, you are able to get rid of the mental clutter that could be causing you stress, depression, or other mental illnesses. This in turn helps to boost your happiness levels.
- Better circulation and metabolism. In addition, cycling boosts metabolism, improves circulation and energy levels, and at the same time gives you a sense of accomplishment. It is therefore a healthy way to start your day each morning.
- Increases lower body strength. Every time you ride a bike, you exercise your glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings, making your lower body stronger without exerting too much pressure.
- Helps build core strength. For mountain bikers, this exercise involves even more body parts and muscles, especially the back and abdomen. Off-road bikers, therefore, have the added benefit of building core strength. If you are a beginner and want to train for a mountain biking challenge, try squats, weightlifting, lunges, and leg presses to enjoy the added benefits.
- Makes you physically fit. As a physical exercise, it eventually makes you more physically fit, with research indicating that 20 minutes of regular biking gives you the fitness of someone 10 years younger.
- Reduces fatigue. As a strength-building activity, biking has also been found to ease fatigue. This has been very helpful among people suffering from fatigue, including those who are receiving cancer treatment.
- Increases longevity. All these benefits add up to one; happier, healthier, and longer life. Every hour you spend riding is an hour added to your lifespan!
Precaution for every biker!
However, it is important to observe basic precautions to avoid accidents while cycling. For instance, beginners should avoid busy roads.
In addition, if you ride on busy roads or for long distances, it is advisable to wear a helmet, comfortable clothing, and protective gear.
Finally, remember to do warm-ups and cool-down exercises in the form of slow-speed cycling for about 5 minutes before and after cycling.
Top biking adventure tours in Africa
You can make bicycle riding part of your daily routine by getting yourself a bike.
It is easy to alternate biking with your morning walk or jog.
You can also organize bike rides over the weekend with your friends.
However, if you are an adrenaline junkie or sports person who enjoys off-road bike safaris, you may want to give these tracks a try:
Congo Nile bicycle safari in Rwanda
This African bike trail passes through Lake Kivu, the 4th largest lake in Africa. It is a 227km route that starts in Rubavu and ends in Rusizi, founded in 2011 by the Rwandan government. Most of the road is unpaved, with tarmac from Kibuye to Kamembe port. Many tourists prefer to end their adventure at Kibuye, before starting the steep slope between Kinunu and Kibuye.
You will pass through Nyungwe Forest National park where you will enjoy scenic views of wildlife and a chance to interact with nature. Since most of the trail is on the shores of Lake Kivu, you can enjoy boat rides, canoeing, as well as swimming during your break. This track also passes through villages, plantations, and orphanages, giving you the opportunity to interact with the locals.
While you can obtain a map at Rwanda Development Board offices for directions, your safari will be better with a chaperone. Bike rentals go for USD 30-85 per day, and you will need to set aside 5 days for this adventure. Food and water are available along the trail, and you can rent luxury and budget hotels along the trail, or camp near schools or villages in the evening. You can visit any time of the year, but the season between March-May and October-November can be too muddy to cycle.
Hell’s Gate biking safari in Naivasha, Kenya
Located just about 2 hours from the capital city Nairobi is Hell’s Gate national park. This is the only park in the country that allows biking safaris due to the absence of predators such as lions and other big cats. The animals you are likely to see during your safari include impalas, buffaloes, and various species of birds.
You can rent a bike at the gate at a rate of USD 5, or you can bring your own tried and tested two-wheeler. There are several biking trails inside the park, but the best will take you through various spots where you will enjoy a wide range of activities including rock climbing, and a day at a natural geothermal spa. Entry fees into Hell’s Gate Park range from USD3 for citizens to USD26 for foreigners.
The Fischer’s tower is the most popular spot for rock climbing, before continuing to the nearby gorge where you enjoy scenic views that will remind you of the movie ‘Lion King’.
Afterward, you can swim in geothermal pools at the Olkari Geothermal spa which has popularly come to be known as the devil’s shower.
There are no shops inside so bring your own food and water or finish early then proceed to Naivasha town for hot nyama choma.
Though a day is enough for your biking adventure in Hell’s Gate National Park, you can bring your own gear for an overnight camping experience.
The best time to visit this park is June-October when animals visit the water wells during the day and also chances of flash floods are slim.
However, you need a good level of fitness to enjoy your biking adventure.
Other places you can enjoy biking adventure in Africa include:
- Table mountain trail in Cape Town, SA
- Serengeti biking tour in Tanzania
- Quad biking at Sossuvlei desert in Namibia
Bicycle riding is adventurous to those that love the sport, and leisure activity worth your time. Start exploring popular biking trails in your neighbourhood today and enjoy the hidden health benefits even as you get to meet new people.