Advantages & Disadvantages of Cycling

Follow safety rules when bicycling in urban areas.
i Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Good for you if you’ve chosen cycling as one of your means of exercise. Cycling is an aerobic activity that you can do inside or outside, alone or as part of a group. It’s easy to sustain the exercise because, with all the available options, you aren’t likely to become bored. Although cycling has plenty of advantages, you should be aware of some of the sport's disadvantages to help avoid injuries or accidents.


Cycling is an aerobic exercise that, like all aerobic exercises, increases your heart rate. This is good for cardiovascular health. Because cycling isn’t a weight-bearing exercise, it is easier on the joints than running, for example. You also burn a good amount of calories when you cycle, comparable to other aerobic exercises. A person who weighs 155 pounds burns seven calories a minute when cycling at a leisurely pace of 10 to 12 miles an hour.


Cycling can combine exercise with a utilitarian purpose: transportation. If you use your bicycle to get to work instead of your car, for example, you are helping the environment and saving money on gas. You are killing two birds with one stone by cycling to work; you are likely meeting the recommended exercise goal of 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.


You can experience ankle, back, knee, finger, thigh and neck pain while cycling, usually from poor posture, improper bike settings or using the wrong gear. Ankle pain is typically from bad pedaling technique, called ankling. This occurs if you point your toe upward when pedaling up and downward when pedaling down. Poor posture causes back pain. Sitting upright, for example, can cause your back to hurt. Although cycling is generally recommended if you have knee pain because it is less stressful than many aerobic activities, knee injuries can result, typically from the seat not being the right height. Your knee should be slightly bent when in the down pedal position. Your fingers could become numb by resting your hands in a bad position on the handlebars; don’t place the soft, middle part of your hand on the bars. A helmet that is too low in front causes riders to raise their neck too much. This leads to neck pain. Your inner thighs can chafe from a too-wide bicycle seat.

Safety Issues

There were 618 bicycle fatalities in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most, 72 percent, happened in urban areas. Sometimes, 34 percent of the time, alcohol was a factor with either the cyclist or the driver of the motor vehicle involved in the accident. An additional 52,000 cyclists were injured from motor vehicle crashes in 2010. Cyclists need to follow the rules of the road, be careful passing parked cars — a door that opens suddenly is responsible for many accidents — and wear a helmet.

the nest