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Be Like Lance continued...

Nonetheless, cycling is a still a great exercise and has its merits. It doesn't strain the knees, joints, and back to the extent that running does. In fact, as many runners age, they become cyclists because the pedaling motion reduces pressure on their knees, says McCormick.

People who bike to work report less stress from having to deal with traffic and say they generally feel good about themselves. Plus, some cyclists have the added satisfaction of being friendly to the environment.

If you're still not convinced, consider this: At age 50, Mary Madison was in the worst shape ever. She suffered from arthritis, complications from childhood polio, and had the beginning symptoms of emphysema after smoking for three decades. She did not think she could ride even one mile on the bike.

Fast forward 18 years, and Madison cycles some 2,000 miles from East Montana to Sacramento, Calif., to her 50th high school reunion. The retired nurse also made the trip back home. She says doctors now can't find signs of her emphysema, and her arthritis and complications from polio don't bother her as much.

What happened? Madison says she just started biking. First, she did one mile, then two, and then five. Gradually, she worked her way up to cycling multiday long-distance rides around her home state of Montana.

"When I biked, it was the one thing that gave me relaxation and help me feel good," says Madison.

Getting Into Biking Shape

To make her cross-country expedition, Madison used biking maps laid out by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). The group offers a network of relatively safe bike routes (mainly secondary highways and back roads) through a big chunk of North America. It also provides handy information for traveling bikers, such as location of campgrounds, bike shops, water holes, and general weather alerts.

The ACA's mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bike for fun, fitness, and self-discovery. They sponsor 7- to 93-day tours around the U.S. They also offer tour classes, and, at the very least, give interested bikers some tips on how to prepare for a trek.

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