Manchester bike brand Insync Bikes says the government’s £2bn cycling and walking revolution to tackle obesity will be a real game changer for the industry as it continues to enjoy its boom period.
Boris Johnson announced he would be urging GPs in England to prescribe cycling as he launched a major public health drive aimed at assisting those who are overweight in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Measures also include thousands of miles of new protected cycle lanes, cycle training for everyone and subsidising e-bikes. The announcement came as people were invited to apply for one of 50,000 bike repair vouchers worth £50 each to encourage people back into cycling.
Insync, owned by India-based Hero Cycles, has long championed the health benefits of cycling and brand ambassador Shanaze Reade, who competed for Team GB in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, has used cycling to combat her own weight gain.
The government intends to identify areas with poor health rates to participate in a cycling pilot. GPs in the scheme “will be encouraged to prescribe cycling where appropriate for patients”. A pilot scheme of GPs prescribing town bikes in Cardiff cut the risk of heart disease for patients when it ran last year.
Cycle training will be open to every child and adult who wants it, more cycle racks will be installed at transport hubs and there will be funding available for street storage for those who don’t have space for a bike at home.
The government also pledged to support local authorities to crack down on traffic offences and strengthen the Highway Code to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.
The BMX racer and track cyclist says the countless health benefits to cycling should not be underestimated.
She said: “Exercise is such a positive boost for health and cycling, along with a balanced diet, was key for me in losing weight I had gained in 2017 following my retirement from competitive riding. Due to the mental strain I was experiencing, I’d started to use alcohol to mask how I was feeling to the point where I gained a lot of weight. Cycling helped me return to a positive mindset and the physical effects led to me losing the weight and returning to fitness.
“I welcome the government’s plan for doctors to prescribe cycling to those trying to lose weight, which I think is a fantastic approach to tackling the national problem of obesity. I’m looking forward to seeing many more people out on the roads and enjoying the benefits cycling can offer.”
Wayne Clarke, sales director at Insync, echoed Shanaze’s thoughts on the scheme, which should reduce pressure on the NHS.
He said: “Insync has been buoyed by the way the government has championed cycling during the pandemic, which has seen thousands more people taking to the roads, giving the industry a significant boost. We are now delighted that cycling is being seen as the way the country can emerge from this crisis, through reducing reliance on public transport and cars with a focus on commuting by bike and now by encouraging people to use it to work on improving their health. We have long talked about the many health benefits of riding a bike, which include strengthening the immune system to ward off infection.”
For those attempting to use cycling to lose weight, Shanaze suggests starting with small goals and increasing these as you meet your targets.
She said: “When I started cycling again, I picked the bike back up and started to ride just for fun, with no measuring equipment but just to simply be outdoors. Build up your confidence by going out on short rides at first, even if it is just around the block or to the end of your road to get used to the feel of the bike.
“Once you start to feel comfortable, lengthen the amount of time you are out for but be careful not to take on too much – instead take small steps each time as you gain in strength and stamina.
“Importantly, drink lots of water and keep to a healthy diet to ensure you don’t feel sluggish when you ride. You’ll soon start to feel the benefits in body and mind, and you’ll find that cycling and keeping fit becomes addictive.”