Cycling can be a metaphor for living life at the right pace
by Gordon Lamont (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To consider how cycling can be a metaphor for living life at the right pace.
Preparation and materials
You will need a bicycle and a cycle helmet.
- Optional: you may wish to ask a colleague to introduce you at the start of the assembly.
Note: you may find the following websites useful:
- Benefits of cycling: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Cycling.aspx
- British Schools Cycling Association: https://britishschoolscyclingassociation.com/
- Biking expert: http://www.bikingexpert.com/
If possible, ask a colleague to introduce you, and then arrive at the assembly by bike (wearing a helmet, of course). Ask how many of the students have a bike, how many come to school by bike and how many cycle regularly.
Point out that those who don’t have a bike, and those who have a bike, but don’t use it, are missing out on some fantastic benefits.
Cycling is good, healthy exercise. When you ride a bike, you are automatically exercising and, if your cycling leaves you breathing a little heavier than usual, this is aerobic exercise – the best type!
Cycling reduces the risk of some serious illnesses. If you’re a regular cyclist, you're less likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and the most common form of diabetes, and you are less likely to become obese. For example, a rough calculation suggests that, if you take up cycling for even short distances, you can reduce your risk of death by heart disease by nearly a quarter.
Cycling can help to maintain strength and coordination. All that regular exercise is so good for you that doctors have concluded that it benefits your whole body, making you stronger and better able to resist illnesses. It also helps you to keep your body flexible and improve coordination.
Cycling can help you to lose weight. Cycling for one hour uses up about 300 calories, which is the number of calories in a typical chocolate bar. A 15-minute bike ride to and from school five times a week would burn off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat in a year.
Cycling can improve your mood. It can have positive effects on how we feel. Nearly all cyclists take to their bikes because they enjoy it. And, as with all healthy exercise, it can make you feel better when you’re feeling a bit down or fed up.
Cycling with a group of people, either on a day out or even a cycling holiday, is perhaps the best fun of all. You can stop where you want because a bike doesn’t need a parking space, and you can get out into the countryside, away from the busiest and smelliest roads.
Sponsored cycling for charity is a great way to enjoy yourself and help other people.
You could introduce some local stories here about cycling clubs, events and charity rides, if appropriate.
But aren’t there downsides to cycling? What about all those traffic fumes?
In fact, there is evidence that cyclists are exposed to five times less air pollution than those in cars (see: http://tinyurl.com/mfx46m5).
What about accidents?
Yes, accidents involving cyclists do happen, just as they do to pedestrians. However, cyclists can reduce the risk by following some simple rules.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Use cycle tracks wherever possible.
- Be aware of traffic – learn to keep an eye out for any danger signs and don't assume that car and lorry drivers have seen you.
- Take a proficiency test. (Mention if you have them at your school.)
- Keep your bike in good condition, and check the brakes regularly.
So cycling is a fantastic way of keeping healthy and having a lot of fun. It’s also pretty good at getting you from place to place quickly and cheaply!
There’s also another way of thinking about cycling and we’ll use that for our reflection.
Time for reflection
All cyclists know that they have to make just the right amount of effort for every situation.
You have low gears for when you want to take it easy or go uphill – the bike is easier to move, but you have to pedal faster to go a certain distance.
You have high gears for when you are on flat ground, so you can go further with each push of the pedals.
Sometimes, you can just coast downhill with no effort at all.
Then, there’s the wind, and how lively you’re feeling.
All of these things make a difference to how fast you go, how tired you feel and how much of that wonderful cycling exercise you get.
So let’s think about a question. If today were a bike ride, how would you handle it?
- When will you need to pedal hardest and when will you be able to slack off a bit?
- What hills and difficult weather conditions will you face today – and will you keep enough energy aside to deal with them?
- Will you need someone alongside you to give you a push and keep you going?
- Will you take the necessary steps to keep yourself safe as you journey through your life?
Help me to have strength for the uphill challenges
And joy for the freewheeling, whatever the day brings.
‘One more step’ (Come and Praise, 47)