The health and environmental benefits of cycling are well known, but if you cringe at putting on lycra shorts and having to dodge the traffic, there are other ways to get on wheels. Here are four alternative ways to ride — from the hipster to the downright eccentric.
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Friends of mine recently got super fit during a tandem bicycling holiday through National Park in Tasmania. They were able to cover more ground than hiking while still staying close to nature. Tandems avoid the problem of keeping pace or catching up with one another that you get with individual bicycles, particular when riders have differing fitness levels. You can secretly laze at the back while your partner in front does the bulk of the work.
It’s easy to hire tandems to see if you like them. They’re also an option for cyclists with disabilities including vision impairment — tandems are used at the Paralympics. Tandems can be adapted for children and they can also have more than two riders. Bicycles for three, four, or five riders are referred to as “triples”, “quads” and “quints”.
Many people use holiday time to learn or improve a skill, from skiing or surf school to an intensive golfing course. Why not consider a circus skills course and learn to unicycle? As well as having all the regular benefits of cycling, unicycling further develops your coordination, concentration and balance. And as you have to balance using only your leg and abdominal muscles, since there are no handlebars, it’s great for strengthening your core.
Unicycles aren’t exclusively for the Big Top — proficient unicyclers even use them to commute. There are also a host of team sports you can play: hockey, basketball, jousting and even quidditch.
Vintage fans can try riding a penny-farthing — in fact a man recently did a charity ride along the Great Ocean Road. Mounting the bike requires skill but they’re easier to ride slowly. It’s a great workout: much harder than a regular road bike as you have to carry your own body weight since you pedal on the wheel that you’re steering.
The cycles, originally designed in the 19th century during the late Victorian era, still attract a lot of enthusiasts. Australia holds some of the most competitive penny-farthing races in the world, at the National Penny Farthing Championships.
Tricycles aren’t just for toddlers — there are plenty of adults models as well. Three wheels makes them much more stable than a regular bike, meaning you can cycle as slowly as you like and stop for a break whenever you need. Experienced cyclists will have to unlearn their lean-steer reflexes.
As well as exercise, trikes are great for shopping as you can carry more than a regular bicycle without having to balance your load so carefully — 50kg or more. In case you’re worried that they’re more targeted towards the elderly, according to Trike Bike, bright yellow tricycles are very popular on mine sites and oil refineries.
As a final cycling alternative, for those that want to avoid traffic and punctures altogether, there’s always a stationary exercise bike at the gym. Less scenic, but one way to ensure an entirely “downhill” ride.
Chloe Quin is a wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health.com.au, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.