Holiday by bike to feel happier

In his book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain", John Ratey, psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, talked about the benefits of using the bicycle as a therapeutic way to feel happier. Ratey explained how a group of patients showed great improvements after a year of cyclotherapy, despite their severe forms of depression. Many scientists and professors later agreed with Dr. Ratey, stating that a cycling, in addition to all the best known benefits, can make people happier. So, in order to break from the daily frenzy and feel happier, why not try a different holiday experience by going on a bike adventure?
Obviously, making you feel happier is not the only benefit of cycling, though perhaps the most surprising. Just think that riding a bicycle for an hour can burn up to 500 calories: an entire journey of this type, therefore, could be an excellent expedient to get back in perfect shape.

In an average trip you can ride a bike from 3 to 8 hours a day, without necessarily having to ride fast. Imagine cycling as if you were on a city tour: same speed, but for a longer time. The bicycle also provides great benefits in terms of muscle tone, but without weighing on the joints, in addition to the beneficial action on the whole cardiovascular system and the respiratory system. Various studies have shown that cycling is a useful activity for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and is able to limit their damage in older people. On the other hand, you know, cycling is a sport of endurance: cycling gradually strengthens not only the heart but also lung ventilation.

In short, the idea of travelling by bike seems to have many advantages and no downsides.

How to prepare for the holiday?

Before mounting on the saddle and starting off, you need to think about some basic aspects of your holiday, and prepare yourself accordingly. Travelling by bike, especially if you are alone, is in effect a real adventure, so you must always be ready for any eventuality.

Choosing the right bike

What frightens many, at first, is the idea of having to choose a bike without having much experience. Of course, using a city-bike for a stage trip is not exactly ideal, but to choose the perfect bike you don't need to have special knowledge or spend a lot. All you have to do is focus on two key aspects: the route you are going to take and the type of road surface. If you have chosen to follow a flat route with well paved roads, you can opt for a bike with a narrow wheel, so as to minimize friction with the ground, saving on weight. On the contrary, if you have decided on a more mountainous route and on white roads, then you should choose the lightest possible bike with wide wheels, so that you don’t have to stop all the time to fix a flat tyre.
In short: the more uphill the route is, the more the weight of the bike becomes important; the more paved roads you follow, the more the wheel tightens. Pay attention also to the handlebars: for a long lasting bike holiday the traditional "T" is advisable compared to a racing one, because it leads to a more comfortable posture and allows you to get to the brakes more swiftly, two elements that professional cyclists give up in order to gain in aerodynamics.

What to eat

A long bicycle journey requires a significant amount of energy. Moreover, if the chosen season for your holiday is summer, then the first thing you need to take care of will be your hydration. Never leave if the water bottle is not full and never venture onto a path or a road that is not very travelled if you are not first informed about the presence of fountains, streams or bars. Underestimating this factor can be very risky for your health, especially when you are travelling alone.

The advice of experts is to bring a water bottle as well as a bottle of energy drink. As for food, we recommend fruits and chocolate. During meals it is advisable to stock up on carbohydrates whenever the occasion comes, not forgetting abundant doses of vegetables, which help the body to rehydrate faster. Consume beers and cheese in the evening, clearly without abusing them, as they can help reduce lactic acid pain.

Clothing

Shocking as it may sound, there is no need to worry about clothing. You don't have to dress up as a cyclist to make a long journey by bike. On the contrary, it is even better not to do it. What you need is a jersey, light or heavy depending on where you decided to pedal, the right protections from rain or sun, like a hat with visor and glasses, and comfortable shoes - not necessarily cycling ones. The only important thing you must have are padded shorts: you will be riding for several hours for several days; better sit comfortably and not have pains at every bump!

The contribution of technology

Technology is also a key ally for your cycling holiday. It is essential to have a GPX track of the route to follow: all the official sites of the various cycling routes allow the download of the route, and on the network there are several apps that allow you to use them, so as not to get lost during the holiday.

Finally, a less obvious advice than it may seem: as important as having maps is, it will be impossible to use them without a charged up smartphones. To solve this problem, a good solution can be a solar panel charger, because the sun will certainly not fail. Could this be what makes cyclists happier?

Best destinations for a cycling holiday

At this point, the last question one needs to answer is: where to go? One of the great advantages of travelling by bike is that there are almost no limits to the place to visit, as long as there is a viable road. For those who want to discover the latest trends, this article offers some of the most popular Italian and European destinations of 2018.

The king of tourism on two wheels in 2018 is Trentino Alto Adige, as also confirmed by two editorials from the Economist and Forbes. For nature lovers, Trentino Alto Adige offers a unique experience in the world: more than 400 kilometres of cycle paths connect alpine huts, turquoise lakes and medieval villages immersed in a fairytale landscape. Moreover, the respect for nature, the rich biodiversity and the genuineness of the local cuisine are the perfect cure for those who suffer from nature deficit disorder, that malaise that takes those who lost contact with nature.

Another popular destination for its mild climate and volcanic landscape is Lanzarote, the island of the "Eternal Spring". Despite the distance to the island, the satisfaction of being able to swim in the crystal clear water after a day spent fighting against the Atlantic winds attracts cyclists of all levels.

Finally, for lovers of the countryside, Tuscany is one of the most popular destinations. Tuscany has a rich cycling heritage, hosting every year the Heroic competition, where only bicycles built before 1987 are allowed. In addition, the combination of smooth hills and dirt roads in the countryside are a great attraction for those who want to experience a purely hedonistic holiday.

Useful tips for your cycling holiday

In summary, let's summarize some of the most useful tips for an ideal cycling trip:

  • Choose your bike according to the route you have decided to take.
  • Never leave with the water bottle empty or without knowing the refreshment points closest to your route.
  • Intake carbohydrates whenever you have the opportunity.
  • Dress up comfortably, avoiding technical clothing, and wear padded shorts.
  • Use solar panel chargers, and always have your smartphone charged.

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