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Cycling

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"Advantages of cycling"

Cycling is undoubtedly a form of movement activity which is exceptionally pleasant. Using the same amount of energy, we move forward several times faster than when marching. We can decide on the amount of strength, make longer and shorter trips, organize stopovers (e.g. for a picnic in some picturesque place) and all the time enjoy contact with nature and the surrounding landscapes. We can dose our efforts and resting individually, according to our wishes and possibilities. Even 20 minutes can activate our blood circulation. The Polish moderate climate enables us to cycle 8-9 months in a year. However, there are a lot of people who practice this sport throughout the whole year. A growing network of country lanes enables to select a length of a section in accordance to our possibilities. This nice outdoor sport enables us to leave the city and breathe in the clean air, full of oxygen (no gym or fitness club can provide this). Cycling allows to practice an oxygen sport, the intensity of which can be decided by us according to our will, and which is connected with deep breathing and constant blood oxygenation. The position of hands on the handlebar of a bike and their support make the muscles of the shoulder girdle assist the breathing. A bike forces almost all muscles to work. Also the strongest extensors of the lower limb (buttock muscles, quadriceps muscles of thighs, gastrocnemius muscles), spine muscles, muscles of abdomen, of the shoulder girdle and of the upper limbs. Such a training has a very important advantage, mainly it allows the muscles (the lower limbs extensors) to practice sequential work. The muscles stay in the contraction condition several tens of a second (intensive working time equals 0.25 second), a prolonged decontraction phase enables a better blood supply for muscles, which in turn prevents painful muscle soreness.When cycling our torso is supported on a saddle, and the leg joins are relieved. Neither running, nor tennis, nor football allow the joints to have such a rest. Therefore, cycling can be practiced even by persons suffering from joints pains and degeneration. What is more, which a proper selection of the practicing intensity, cycling can be recommended as a form of rehabilitation in case of such illnesses, as well as in case of the ischemic heart disease (not excluding heart attack), bronchial asthma and many other serious diseases. Obviously, a physician should have a considerate contribution in the selection of the practicing intensity. We can practice every day at all possible hours, alone or with company. Systematic cycling enables us to lose some weight, it gives our silhouette a wonderful line, preventing cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and diabetes, it increases our immunity against infections, it fights aging and improves our feeling. It also prevents varices, leg swelling, it brings relief to persons suffering from scoliosis. If you fall in love with cycling once, you will cycle more and more often, choosing longer and longer routes. Thanks to that a bicycle will never become an unnecessary piece of furniture at home.A good example to show the advantages offered by cycling is comparing it to long-distance running. No long-distance runner isable to participate in competitions every day. Participation in such competitions demands at least several days of regeneration. The kings of long runs – the marathon runners, are able to participate only in several competitions a year. Cycling races often constitute numerous hours of great effort. In spite of this, a cyclist is able to participate in many races in a season, a part of which are multistage competitions, so they take place every day, several hours a day. Often after a killing ”time ride” held in the morning, on the same day in the afternoon there is a race stage organized, only a bit shorter than usually. Therefore, it is quite clear that cycling is much better tolerated by the human organism.Modern doubly amortised bicycles (a telescopic fork and a rear shock absorber or an amortised saddle seatpost) provide a high comfort of riding. Even a minor unevenness of the road does not have a negative influence upon the spine, which inclined as it is, it is still supported with hands in its upper section. Greater bumps, which are quite visible earlier, can be ridden over standing on the pedals for a moment. Except for some serious diseases, persons with spine problems can ride, whereas it is certain that they cannot afford to practice running, tennis or team sports. Cycling enables us to improve our general condition and take care of the condition of the whole body. It is a strength training, which enhances the blood circulation and enables us to lose some weight.  After a period of training it is possible to reach a body condition enabling us to cycle for 6-7 hours without any break. It is even difficult to imagine any other sport discipline in which our organism would receive such a large dose of exertion. For some time expensive oxygen therapies has become more and more popular – it is worth realizing that riding a bicycle constitutes an oxygen bath for our whole body, free of charge. Our heart, stimulated to work, pumps much larger amounts of oxygen to each body cell. We lose weight, become stronger, the aging processes are slowed down and the regeneration processes are accelerated.A bicycle enables us to carry out strength trainings. Thanks to an appropriate choice of route and the pace we can increase the exer-tion – pedalling faster or up a hill. A bicycle can be successfully used instead of body building equipment in a gym. Such a training forces all muscles to work, enables to increase the number of muscle fibres, especially in places which are not activated doing any other sports, for example in the muscles of the front section of thighs, which do not work intensively when running. Cycling strengthens the back muscles and helps to eliminate their pain. Fans of riding a bicycle with derailleur gears are of a rightful opinion that riding on a high gear influences the muscles in a different manner than fast pedalling on a lower gear, forming slender muscles. Long-lasting exertion during pedalling enables to burn fat reserves, especially layers of an excessive fat tissue on thighs and buttocks. Riding a bike with a speed of 20 km per hours, we burn ca. 600 calories during this time. Cycling is also a sport for overweight people. The whole weight of the body is supported on the saddle, which relieves joints  and bones. Blood circulation system can work more intensively. Especially ladies should realize that apart from strengthening the muscles of buttocks and thighs, cycling helps to get rid of cellulite in a more efficient way than with the use of expensive creams and more or less invasive cosmetic procedures.It is worth adding here that physicians recommend this form of sport as a therapy for injured muscles, various indispositions of the Achilles tendon, knees and hip joints. These are contusions notoriously suffered by runners, tennis players or footballers, whose joints are strained with trainings. There is no doubt about the fact that movement constitutes the foundation of fighting obesity, of maintaining shapely silhouette. In case of many people – which obviously depends on individual properties of their bodies – practicing sport in a systematic way brings better results than a change of diet. Most frequently, however, in order to achieve really satisfying effects it is necessary to compose a balanced diet and force oneself to regular physical exertion. Physical exertion, which has been appropriately adjusted to the needs and possibilities of our organism, makes our heart bigger, stronger and more efficient, thanks to which it pumps more blood with every beat. Therefore, it works not only more efficiently, but also more economically. Well oxygenated blood becomes thinner, and the number of red blood cells increases at the same time, which in turn provides a better transport of oxygen. There is a yet another crucial aspect which cannot be overlooked – regular practicing of sport helps to normalize a slightly elevated or too low blood pressure, it contributes to a significant drop of the fat contents in blood (increases the amount of the good cholesterol HDL, decreases the level of the bad cholesterol LHL). It is a key in the fight with the coronary heart disease, which is a nightmare of our civilization and takes a terrible death toll. Cycling improves the breathing process. It strengthens the muscles participating in this process, thanks to which we breathe deeper and more oxygen reaches our body. Few people know that all these processes are incredibly significant in the normalization of our body weight. Creating favourable oxygen conditions for our organism constitutes a foundation for appropriate utilization of the fat tissue. Fats are burned in mitochondria only in the presence of oxygen. Thanks to regular exercises the number and size of capillary vessels used to transport oxygen to particular cells grows. Therefore, cells have a better access to oxygen, and it increases the efficiency of fat burning processes.Movement is a key to regulating the whole process of metabolism. It increases the level of calories burning by increasing the body temperature and increasing the metabolism pace. Increased exertion forces our organisms to use energy, but it also influences the pace of meta-bolic processes during the whole day. It results in the creation of a mechanism which cannot be overvalued in the process of losing weight as regular activity increases the use of calories not only when exercising, but even up to a doz-en or so hours later. It means that our organism burns more calories even as we sleep.

 

The reasons for this process have not been fully explained yet. How-ever, it is more than certain that it is a result of the attempts of our organism to regenerate after exertion. Exercises use many substances contained in cells, loads destroy cell structures, and there remain use-less products of the fat burning processes. The cells must regenerate, must remove the wastes and complete the scarcities. All these processes require energy, heat is emitted then. Each sportsman knows from his own experience that even long after the termination of exercises the body temperature is still elevated.We also should mention an extraordinarily beneficial influence of exercises upon our mind. Of course, we feel better thanks to the very fact that our body weight is stabilized (we feel younger and more beautiful). But it is not all. During physical exertion the brain produces endorphins, which are called the hormones of happiness. Additionally, exertion can cause an increase of our self-esteem, it has an antistress function, it leads to relaxation and calmness by discharge of all negative emotions and the excess of the bad energy. No doubt that we have to get to like sport. And it is not easy to give up comfortable habits, to force ourselves to an additional effort and to find time for a healthy activity. However, once we have succeeded in it, we soon discover that movement is not just an unpleasant duty. It can be a hobby, which additionally makes us slimmer, healthier, and also more relaxed and ready to face the everyday stress. A basis of the effectiveness of each effort is an appropriate adjustment to the needs of our organism. The best and the most efficient is the oxygen effort. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, we should find at least 30 minutes for an appropriate kind of movement. Of course, not everybody is able to comply with these requirements. Nevertheless, if we plan our time well, we can exercise more rarely, but in longer cycles (making sure the exercises are regular), e.g. exercise 3 times a week for 1 hour. Starting the exercise, we can focus exclusively upon the oxygen exertion. Each form is good: cycling, swimming, jogging, training in a fitness club or even a quick walk. However, me must remember that the exertion must be continuous and it should last at least 30 minutes. Many people do not even know that burning the fat tissue starts only after 20 minutes of such activities. Short and sporadic exercises do not bring any results in fighting overweight. The best option would be to hold on for 45-60 minutes. Such a training brings optimal results if it takes place regularly, 2-3 times a week. In case of such exertions the production of lactic acid is very low. As a re-sult they are not accompanied with the most unpleasant result, which is muscle soreness lasting even several days.

 

Useful skills

1. Calculating the appropriate frequency of heart beating

In the oxygen training there are several manners of calculating the appropriate frequency of heart beating. Most often this value should oscillate between 65 and 80% of the maxi-mum heart rate. The maximum heart rate (HR max) is the highest heart rate that the human body is able to have. We obviously must remember that a person who exercises only sporadically should consider the values closer to the lower limit. The heart rate is a number of heart beats per minute. The simplest method to calculate HR max is subtracting one's age from 220, multiplying the result by 0.65 and 0.8 and we come up with a range of values of heart contractions for the oxygen training. Nevertheless, we must take into account the fact that his formula is burdened with a considerate error – it can amount even to 15%. This a result of the fact that the manner of calculation does not take into account any differences between particular organisms, e.g. general condition, heart rate at rest, sex, type of exercise.

2. Taking the pulse

Taking one's own pulse is a simple activity, requiring only a watch with a second hand. We put the fingertips of the index and the ring finger against our neck in the area of the neck artery and for 15 minutes we count the number of heart beats. We multiply the result by 4. The measurement – if we want it to be reliable – should be performed immediately after the exertion, before the heart rate manages to slow down. First it is worth trying to take the pulse at home. During a trip, which is to be our oxygen training, the first measurement can take place no sooner than after 10 minutes. The heart must have time to warm up and to adjust to the exertion. It is good to check the results every 20-30 minutes. Then we always know if we maintain the appropriate level of the exertion intensity. A great and reliable method is also purchasing an electronic device which measures our heart rate without any breaks, and it can even emit a signal if the heart rate falls outside the values of the oxygen training.Rational planning of cycling trainings is a key to achieve full benefits from movement. There is a theory according to which after 1-2 hours of oxygen training our organism should have 12 hours for regeneration. Whereas 1 hour of intense weight training should be followed with 24-48 hours of rest (depending on our shape). However, it is quite visible that oxygen trainings are the best choice if we want to practice sport every day. Especially when we are only at the beginning of implementing the physical exertion programme.It is probably clear for everybody that prior to a really long expedition it is necessary to prepare our organism for that for several months by systematic training. It is believed that this period should last even 4-6 months of regular exercises. Building our shape we should remember that every training should be started with a 10-minute-long warm up, maintained in an appropriate rhythm, without any breaks. During the remaining training time the riding pace should be changed every 5 minutes, not to overtexert ourselves. The riding should be finished with 5 minutes of slow ride, which will slow our body down. If our shape is not established yet, we should use ready cycling lanes and let us not choose the longest sections right from the start.

 

To make cycling safe

A bicycle has to be equipped with an appropriate lighting system so that we could be visible by the rest of the traffic participants.

1. In the front there should be a white or yellow light, shining all the time

2. Rear red reflector, not in a triangular shape

3. Rear red light, which can flash.

4. According to the valid regulations it is also permissible to have yellow reflectors on pedals and wheels.

A very important aspect is making sure that a bicycle is in a good condition, which should be regularly checked. A bicycle should have brakes in a working order, a warning signal, e.g. a bicycle bell, tightly screwed wheels, well inflated tyres with a visible tread. Periodically, lubricating the chain must be performed. Each cyclist should be equipped with a helmet with appropriate certificates. It is worth being equipped with additional reflecting elements which can be attached to your clothing, e.g. reflecting bands. A cyclist should also have special gloves which not only prevent abrasions, but also increase the adherence of hands to the handle-bar; a set of pads and sunglasses.A cyclist must always comply with the valid road signs and traffic regulations. If there is a cycling lane or a cycling and walking lane along the road, a cyclist must ride on it. If there is no such a lane, a cyclist is allowed to use the pavement only if its width exceeds 2 metres and the speed limit on the road is 50 km/h. However, a cyclist must always be careful and to give way to pedestrians (a cycling lane is an exception).Adults do not need any documents allowing them to use a bicycle, underage persons need a cycling card, which they are granted after passing an appropriate examination. When cycling a cyclist must always hold the handlebar very tightly, signalize an intention to turn, remember about the lighting system and protective clothing. It is worth having a rear view mirror, adjusting the speed to the conditions on and of the road.If we plan to have a longer trip, let us take a first aid kit.

It is also worth thinking about a protection of our bicycle. In a police station we can mark our bike and enter it to a register. In case of its theft it will increase the chance of getting it back.

Warning sings

a-24 - RowerzyściSign A-24 ”Cyclists” warns of a location where cyclists enter a road or cross a road from a cycle track.

Prohibitory signs

b-9 - Zakaz Wjazdu RoweruSign B-9 ”No entry to cyclists” means no cycle traffic on road or road shoulders.

Mandatory signs

c-13 - Droga dla rowerówSign C-13 ”Cycle track” means a road solely for cyclists who are obliged to use it.

c-13a - Koniec drogi dla rowerówSign C 13a "End of cycle track" means the end to a road for cyclists.

c-16 - Droga dla pieszychSign C-16 "Pedestrian track" means the begining of a track solely for pedestrians

Information signs

d-6a - Przejazd dla rowerzystówSign D-6a ”Crossing for cyclists” means a place where cyclists cross roads.

d-6b - Przejście dla pieszych i przejazd dla rowerzystówSign D-6b ”Pedestrian and cyclist crossing” means pedestrian and cyclist crossings located nearby.

Signs of direction and to localities

e-12a - Drogowskaz do szlaku rowerowegoSign E-12a ”Signpost for cycle track” indicates the direction to tourist or recreational facilities as indicated in the sing.

Additional signs

f-19 - Pas ruchu dla rowerówSign F-19 „Cycle lane” designates a road lane solely for cyclists.

t-22 - Tabliczka znaku rowerowegoSign T-22 – a plate to a cyclist sign.

Marking of cycle tracks

r-1 - Szlak rowerowy krajowySign R-1 ”National cycle track” indicates the route of a national cycle track.

r-1a - Początek (koniec) szlaku rowerowego krajowegoSign R-1a ”Beginning (end) of national cycle track” indicates the route of a national cycle track.

r-1b - Zmiana kierunku szlaku rowerowego krajowegoSign R-1b ”Change of direction of national cycle track” indicates the route of a national cycle track.

r-3 - Tablica szlaku rowerowegoSign R-3  ”Plate to cycle track” indicates the distance to main localities by the cycle track.

r-2 - Szlak rowerowy międzynarodowySign R-2 ”International cycle track” indicates the route of an international cycle track.

r-2a - Zmiana kierunku szlaku rowerowego międzynarodowegoSign R-2a ”Change of direction of international cycle track” indicates the route of an international cycle track.

p-11 - Przejazd dla rowerzystówSign P-11 ”Cyclist crossing” means cyclist crossing.

p-23 - RowerSign P-23 ”Bicycle” means a road or a part thereof (traffic lane) for cyclists.

  1. A cyclist has a right to overtake slow moving vehicles on the right. A bicycle rider may overtake slow moving vehicles other than bicycles on their right.
  2. A cyclist riding straight ahead has a right of way over the turning vehicle. A driver of a vehicle turning into an intersecting road must exercise utmost care and must give way to a cyclist who is moving straight ahead on the road, bicycle lane or bicycle path, or on another part of the road, which the driver intends to leave.
  3. A cyclist, who is approaching, or is at, an intersection, may ride in the middle of a lane. Cyclists, motorised bicycle riders and motorcycle riders, who are approaching, or are at, an intersection, may ride in the middle of the traffic lane, provided that the lane allows leaving the intersection in more than one direction, subject to conditions of Art. 33, Item 1. 
  4. A cyclist has a right to stop beside other cyclists (not behind them), at the entrance to an intersection in a marked bicycle storage area (a bicycle 'box'). A bicycle storage area or 'box' - is an area of the road at an entrance to the intersection, marked over the entire road width or over the width of a selected lane and appropriately signposted, which is designed for bicycles to stop in order to turn or give way to other vehicles.
  5. Cyclists, subject to some conditions, have a right to ride TWO ABREAST. For cyclists and motorised bicycle riders, riding two abreast is permitted on roads in exceptional circumstances, unless this encumbers other traffic or compromises safety on the road in other ways.
  6. A cyclist has a right to transport a child in a bicycle trailer designed for this purpose. Bicycle rickshaw  – a vehicle at least 0.9m wide, designed to transport people or objects, moved by the muscle power of a person riding the vehicle; the rickshaw may be fitted with an auxiliary electrical motor, which is started by pushing pedals and which is powered by an electric current at a maximum voltage of 48 V and at a nominal continuous power not greater than 250 watts, and the exit power of which gradually decreases and falls to zero, when speed of 25km/h has been reached.
  7. In exceptional circumstances a cyclist has a right to ride on a footpath.

 

The use of a footpath or a pedestrian lane by a cyclist is permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as when:

  1. the cyclist is supervising a child under the age of 10 who is riding a bicycle;
  2. the footpath, alongside  the road with a speed limit exceeding 50km/h, is at least 2m wide and there is no marked bicycle road or lane;
  3. weather conditions are such that the cyclist's safety on the road is at risk (snow, strong wind, heavy rain, black ice, thick fog), subject to conditions in Item 6.