An open road, a clear day and their bikes are all Lyne Bessette and Jessica Phillips need to be happy…and healthy. The two are teammates on the Saturn Cycling Team—the top women's bicycling team in the world. And even though they've competed internationally, they still say a bike ride around the neighborhood offers a workout that's tough to beat.
"No matter where you ride, cycling is a great way to experience the outdoors and exercise," Jessica writes from her home in Missoula, Montana. "I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, thanks to cycling."
Lyne agrees. The Knowlton, Quebec athlete says, "Riding outdoors always makes me feel alive and healthy. It helps me control stress and makes me physically and mentally stronger. Cycling keeps me fit."
Bike riding is an aerobic activity that burns calories, improves strength and increases balance. Road cycling is low impact so it's easy on the body.
"I suffered a leg injury back when I used to compete in track-and-field events," shares Lyne. "Running put too much impact on the injury, but I found I didn't experience that pain while biking. That's when I began cycling regularly."
Lyne competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia and won the road race at the Commonwealth Games hosted by Malaysia. Jessica helped secure a win at the 2002 World Cup event in the Netherlands and was the 2002 National Road Champion. Both women are a part of the Pro-Cycling Tour.
Even though Lyne and Jessica enjoy road cycling rather than mountain biking or using stationary bikes, they agree that all forms of biking are beneficial.
"You can get a good workout on a stationary bike," notes Jessica. "Getting a better workout is easier when you ride outside, however, because the scenery motivates you to keep riding.
"And when you cycle outdoors, you don't have the temptation to simply quit when you're tired. You always have to pedal yourself back home," she notes.
"As far as comfort goes, you can make adjustments to a road bike more easily than you can to a stationary bike."
A bike can't help you get fit if you don't fit the bike! If your bike hasn't been used recently, the height of the handlebars or seat may need to be adjusted.
Check the tires, brakes, gears and other features to ensure safe rides. While you might be able to make some alterations yourself, you may need to visit a repair shop for a professional "tune-up."
If a new bike is on your wish list, Jessica suggests shopping around for the one that's right for you. "It's not necessary to purchase a top-of-the-line model when getting started," she notes. "There are very good, less expensive bikes on the market.
"What is important is making sure a new bike offers you a proper fit—a seat that's comfortable, good positioning of the handlebars, etc. Customizing a bike isn't difficult, but you may need to visit a few shops to get the right fit."