It was once considered a sport better left to elite athletes but today more and more fitness fanatics are joining the lycra-clad cycling pack.

From getting out in the fresh air and exploring the outdoors, to getting fit, toning up and dropping those extra kilos, cycling has grown to become a much-loved recreational activity.

While there’s no denying the health benefits of jumping on a bike, Toby Hodgson of peak WA cycling body WestCycle, says it is not just limited to fitness.

“Cycling is about freedom, exploring, fitness and friendship, ” he says.

“It’s a chance to not only ride with the wind in your hair but also set your own challenges. You might want to see what’s down a back-lane, or raise your heart rate, ride with a friend or do the shopping a little more green.

“A bike allows those challenges to occur and, as you ride, those challenges grow with your love of the freedom.”

But before you hit the pavement or road on your new wheels, there are a number of things to consider.

First and foremost is cycling etiquette, making sure you know the rules both on and off the road.

“It is important for all bike riders to remember that when they are riding on the road, you are considered to be a ‘vehicle’ and subject to the same rules and regulations as other road users, ” Bicycling Western Australia’s Jeremy Murray advises.

“This includes obeying traffic signals, stop signs, avoiding careless and reckless riding or riding under the influence of alcohol, and keeping left. Generally, a bike can go wherever a car can go unless specifically prohibited. For example, freeways.”

When it comes to riding off the road, Mr Murray says it is important for cyclists to consider their surroundings, particularly when it comes to shared paths.

“Pedestrians always have right of way on shared paths and riders should always proceed with care, ” he says. “Riders over the age of 12 are not permitted to ride on footpaths. However, there are plenty of shared paths where bicycles are permitted.”

Cyclists should be aware of where they can and cannot ride, particularly when it comes to speed.

“The most common abuse we get from motorists is ‘Get off the road, you should be on the path’. But if you’re doing more than 28km/h on the footpath, it’s actually illegal, ” Wayne Evans, an experienced cyclist and owner of Perth bike shop Cyclemania, warns.

“You’re not meant to be riding at speed on a pedestrian footpath.”

© The West Australian

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