When traveling between countries, languages change, as do customs, manners of dress, and cuisine. In some places, people greet with a bow, while in others, a kiss on the cheek says hello.
Despite the myriad differences you'll encounter across the world, there is something everyone does no matter where you go.
People ride bicycles.
Whether for fitness, getting groceries, commuting to work, or as a means of escape, the bicycle proves useful to seemingly all of humanity, and is a great uniter when we pause our busy lives to simply pedal on two wheels.
Now, more than ever, cycling is incredibly important.
So, we've reflected on the top reasons why you should ride a bike in an effort to convey what makes this particular activity so special.
Of course, there are countless positive reasons to ride a bike, so after you've finished reading our list, please reach out to tell us why you ride — we'd love to know.
1. Cycling Can Save the Planet
The intention here wasn't to create an ordered list — but we have to put this one at the top.
Yes, cycling can heal the planet, and possibly save it from the some of the most destructive effects of climate change.
In keeping global temperature change under 1.5 degrees celsius, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is imperative.
Each of us must do all that we can to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel operated machinery, such as cars and airplanes.
By some measures, very widespread adoption of cycling can reduce greenhouse emissions by 11%. That's because cycling is the most energy efficient form of transportation on Earth — even more than walking.
2. Improve Your Fitness (Drastically)
If you're looking to get fit, then look no further than a bicycle.
Yes, running and walking are great for calorie burning, but nothing improves your fitness as quickly as cycling does.
Some studies have shown that running burns more calories than cycling, but there are several caveats to consider.
First, running is much higher impact and often quickly leads to injury.
Second, because running is an intense whole-body exercise, you are likely to fatigue much more quickly and require additional recovery time.
Cycling, on the other hand, is a low-impact form of exercise that is highly repeatable, has less chance of injury, and can often be done for longer periods of time at a lower intensity level.
3. It's Ridiculously Fun
If you haven't ridden a bike in a long time, then suddenly climb aboard one and take off, you'll experience what people call feeling like a kid again.
In a word, cycling is incredibly fun, no matter how serious you want to take it.
When interviewed, professional Tour de France riders will often talk about how even after countless kilometers and life-long devotion to cycling, the only reason they continue is for the fun of it.
Have you ever hopped on a mountain bike and ridden down a trail, or met up with friends and taken bikes to the beach? Bicycles have the power to turn mundane situations into adventures — just ask your coworker who always show up to the office with a huge smile after riding to work.
4. Build Focus and Clarity
Of the many drastic life improvements that riding a bike can bring you, perhaps the best is clarity of mind.
When you ride a bike, everything else drops away as you turn the pedals over one after the other. Your worries, troubles, and deadlines fade the longer you ride, bringing your focus squarely into the moment as you think about more immediate things, like getting over the next hill.
Riding a bike is, therefore, an incredible and natural way to practice mindfulness, the benefits of which you'll take with you when you're off the bike, too.
5. Total Freedom
When you drive a car or ride a train, you're locked into many forces outside of your control.
In the car, there are traffic lights at every turn and traffic to boot. The train moves along tracks and has scheduled stops. Moreover, there are only so many places you can go from the sealed environment of either.
Cycling gives you freedom that no other mode of transportation can. You choose where you go, and as long as you have the energy to keep pedaling, there are no limitations.
With the freedom of cycling you're empowered to do and see places you wouldn't have otherwise, leading to a deeper connection with your surroundings.
6. Connect With Nature
By their very nature, cars seal us off from the world around us.
Inside of a car, you can control the environment via a turn of the AC dial, mute the impact of a steep climb by pressing the accelerator, and pass pristine lands without even noticing them.
On a bicycle, you're thrust back into nature and must contend with it to get where you're going. The sun, wind, rain, sharp hills, and winding descents all play a concrete part in your ride — they can't be ignored.
Neither can the infinite vistas at the top of a climb or the aromas of seasonal flowers blooming all around you — riding a bicycle gets you where you're going, but it is also a means for having unexpected experiences in nature.
7. Push Yourself
Your body is a gift, and a temporary one at that. We are all physically and mentally capable of so much, yet the rigors of daily life often obscure this ultimate fact.
Cycling serves to shine a light back onto your physical reality. It reminds you that yes, you are here, your lungs do breathe, and there is no better feeling than the rush of air moving past as you glide away on a bicycle.
As you ride more, sometimes you'll find yourself too fatigued to jump out of bed and do it again. The fact that you do it anyway, push through the fatigue and hesitation, and come out on the other side confidently strong — well, that is a value worth holding onto for the rest of your life.