A bicycle is an amazing machine. It is easy to ride, and a great way to explore the world. It is also an excellent way to get exercise, and can be as intense as you want – from gentle pedalling along a flat road to grinding up hills. It’s an activity the whole family can enjoy together, and it can be used to build strength and stamina. And it’s fun – so people are more likely to stick with it than with other forms of exercise that feel like hard work, require expensive equipment or restrict your schedule.
The first modern bicycles were built in the 1860s, but there is no definitive proof of who invented them. The word bicycle was probably coined to describe a new type of wooden machine that German inventor Karl Drais developed in 1817, called a draisine or Laufmaschine.
When the draisine was renamed the bicycle, the name stuck. Bicycle manufacturers in Europe adapted the design to produce what were then known as velocipedes, or bicycle-carts. These machines were powered by pedals that attached to the front wheel, allowing them to travel much faster than their earlier wood-and-tin models.
Pedal power made the bicycle more efficient, and the new machines soon became popular in France and other parts of Europe. They were cheaper than horse-drawn carriages, and allowed people to travel long distances in relative comfort. In the United States, bicycle production grew rapidly after the Civil War, and by the end of the nineteenth century there were over 20 million in use.
As the twentieth century progressed, the bicycle became more advanced, with derailleur gears and hydraulic brakes. By the late twentieth century, bikes could easily hold multiple riders, and were available in a variety of styles and prices.
Today, bicycles are a common form of transportation and leisure activity in many countries. They are also a great source of exercise, and can help reduce obesity and promote cardiovascular health. A good quality bicycle can last a lifetime, and it is easy to maintain. It is important to have a helmet, brightly colored clothing and reflectors on the bike at all times when riding. It is a good idea to carry spare tires and tools.
A study of identical twins found that those who cycled regularly were biologically nine years younger than those who didn’t. The researchers attribute this to the fact that cycling improves executive functions — the brain processes that allow planning, attention focus and observation.
If you are a novice cyclist, start with short rides and gradually increase the length of your trips. Always wear a helmet, and be sure to check the condition of your bicycle before each ride. If you are riding on the roads, yield to pedestrians and motor vehicles. Before turning right on a red light, look left, right and behind to make sure there is no one approaching from the rear before proceeding. Keep an eye out for loose objects on the path, and wear shoes with good traction.