Get Inspired: CYCLING - ROAD

The rise in cycling's popularity continues, boosted by the success of British cyclists in the Tour de France and 2012 Olympic Games.

A report designed to measure  the effect of London 2012 on cycling said 52% of people had been inspired to participate in cycling as a result of following Team GB, compared to just 20% prior to the Olympics.

Why is it good for you?

Road racing is an exciting and physically demanding sport, which burns approximately 844 calories per hour. The strain of keeping the bike in motion over long distances increases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and improves endurance.

BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Shaun Keaveny issues a rousing Churchillian address, urging the nation to take to their bikes for Sport Relief

As the thigh, calf and hip muscles are in constant use, it is an effective way to help build lower-body strength.

Unlike other high-energy sports, bike riding has a much lower risk of injury as there is none of the physical contact between athletes found in football or rugby, while it is much gentler on the knee and ankle joints than long-distance running.

Biking does not only have to be done as a sport. A study by the International Bicycle Fund found commuters who begin to ride their bicycles to and from work instead of driving lose an average of 13 pounds during their first year of biking.

As road racing is a team-based pursuit, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond just riding.

Get involved

Approximately two million people in Britain cycle at least once a week, and there are more than 80,000 members of cycling clubs.  The ability to ride comfortably and safely in a bunch of riders is perhaps the essential skill of road racing.

It has a strong club-based culture, so a great place to start is by joining a club which regularly runs training rides on public roads.

Before taking to the course, it is essential to wear safety equipment such as a helmet, cycling gloves and elbow and knee pads. If you are riding on public roads, it is important to wear high visibility gear.

Some clubs allow members to hire bikes and helmets. A decent starter bike costs around £100-£300, and it is important to buy a road bike as mountain and hybrid BMX bikes are ill-suited to ride on for long distances.

Training days and taster schemes are run for people of all ages and abilities  throughout the year. Visit the British Cycling,   Cycling Ireland,   Scottish Cycling  and Welsh Cycling  websites for more information.

For regional and national events, membership of British Cycling  or Cycling Ireland  is required. There are a number of bands related to how regularly you wish to compete.

Small fees are often required to take part in the 3,000+ meets held annually throughout the country.

For parents looking to get their children started in competitive racing, British Cycling are running a number of events for under-16s throughout the United Kingdom this year. Visit the Go-Ride Racing  website for more details.

Sky Ride  are offering free cycling events across the country throughout the summer. Their website also contains information about where you can find your nearest cycling route.

Fun, free and informal bike rides just for women are also available through Sky Ride's Breeze scheme. 

History

Road cycling at the Olympics explained (Part one)

The sport of bicycle racing has been around since the early 1800s when the precursors to modern bikes, the 'velocipedes' were invented.

Did you know?

The 1920 Olympic road-race course in Antwerp was intersected by six railway crossings. Harry Stenqvist of Sweden was held up for four minutes at one of them as a train went past - luckily for him, organisers had posted time-keepers at each crossing to record any delays, and the subtraction of the four minutes from his finishing time earned him a gold medal.

Before the end of that century in France, long-distance races from city to city such as the 572km (355 mile) race from Bordeaux to Paris, or the punishing 1280 km (795 mile) race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris, were contested.

Road racing's most popular and enduring event, the Tour de France, was then established in 1903.

A number of road-race disciplines were present at the inaugural Modern Olympics in 1896, including an 87km contest that started and finished in Athens, as well as a 12-hour timed-event.

There was no road racing at the next three Games, before it returned to the schedule in 1912 and has remained a permanent part of the Olympic programme ever since.

The 1984 road race in Los Angeles marked the first time women had competed at a cycling event at an Olympics.

Road racing has gone on to become the highest-profile cycling discipline thanks to the Tour de France, which attracts global viewing figures of around 44 million each year.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Road Cycling? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.