It's good for the planet, your heart, and your pocket, but the world of cycling can be jingoistic and filled with enough technical jargon to put anyone off. Thankfully, on Today with Claire Byrne, Phillip Boucher Hayes spoke to Niall Moyna, professor of health and human performance at DCU, and Willo King from Recycle Bikes, to put together the ultimate beginners' guide to bikes. Philip began by throwing down the gauntlet to his two guests:
"To those people who haven't ever cycled before, who think that it is all about slogging up hills in the rain, can you convince them please, both of you, that cycling is actually quite joyful?"
Niall Moyna didn't have to think too hard to find his answer:
"I’ve never come back from a cycle and said, 'God, I regret that cycle’. I do it in the morning and just it’s me and the environment and the wind and the cows and the birds. And to have that freedom in the morning and to go places that you just couldn't go if you were walking up and down hills. And you do this in a relatively short period of time. For me you get this endorphin high. Every morning I come back from my cycle and for the next three or four hours I'm on a high... "
And while the endorphins are free, the equipment isn't, and Willo King broke down the costs:
"You can get an entry level road bike for around two or three hundred euro. You get your helmet for another twenty, thirty euro. We have the lights here, LED lights, for twenty euro. A lock for twenty, twenty-five euro. [...] Everyone should have this little pouch bag. The pouch bag sits behind the saddle. In it you can put your tire levers, your spare tubes, stuff like that. Pumps as well get fitted to the frame of the bike, just where the water bottle is. You could be on the road, road cycling like Niall, for three or four hundred euro."
And what of the necessary safety equipment? What laws are there around staying safe and visible on our roads? Willo explained:
"The only law [...] is that you have reflectors on your bike. Lights on your bike. That you take good care of your bike, and you are sober enough to control your bike [...] I would say you're crazy [...] to get on a bike without a helmet and a high-viz jacket."
And while helmets aren't mandated, both Niall and Willo were unequivocal on their importance. Willo began:
"100% wear a helmet."
And Niall concurred:
"I have no doubt that wearing a helmet should be compulsory. I had a bit of an accident recently and when I was speaking to the orthopedic surgeon, I told him that people were giving me kickback about suggesting that people would wear a helmet and his reply to me was ‘I'd like some of those people to come and spend a week with me in the ER and compare the people who come in after wearing a helmet to those that don't’, and it’s day and night."
But back to basics and Willo explained the difference between the types of bikes:
"Your road bike is a lighter bike and it’s made for distance and speed and on the flat [...] Your mountain bike, there's lots of different variations, they mainly have those chunky tires and front suspension. They’re for off-roading. Tracks and trails. They would be harder on roads which then brings you to your hybrid which is the combination of your road bike and your [mountain] bike and your hybrid bike is more your commuter bike for city riding."
So you’ve bought your bike and all the essentials; how to you keep yourself on the road, and most-importantly, road-worthy? Willo again:
"If your cycling everyday [...] you’ll know your bike and you’ll know when things aren't right. It’s very much like a car – you'll know when things are starting to go a bit funny. Depending on how often you're cycling you should bring you bike in for a service every six to twelve months."
And a final word from Niall Moyna about the physiological implications of getting out on a bike:
"The best predictor of our health is our cardio-vascular fitness and what this does is every time you hop on a bike your lungs are being switched on, your heart has to beat faster, your blood vessels and your muscles have to use all this oxygen - so it's a wonderful way to integrate all of the major systems in your body that are important for health."
The trio went to chat about gears, brake maintenance, saddle height and the various options when it comes to commuting with children and you can listen back in full here.