Cycling and exercise addiction: how much is too much?

What does it mean to get hooked on riding your bike? CW investigates exercise addiction and comes face-to-face with its devastating consequences

Image shows a rider chained to the handlebars of their bike
(Image credit: Future)

Mark Bentley thought he was like any committed cyclist. Riding his bike wasn’t only a hobby, it also gave him a sense of purpose. A good training session made him feel alive and satisfied. But there was a problem: it could become allconsuming. Squeezing in training around his social life and work as a business journalist based in Frankfurt, Germany, sometimes caused friction. When we spoke by phone in early September, Bentley confided that he was thankful to have a “very understanding” girlfriend, but admitted that he frequently prioritised training over social events and household chores. 

“A few weeks ago there was a party, my girlfriend Su wanted to go to but we didn’t go because I had an early morning club ride the following day,” the 54-year-old told me. “Su sometimes complains that I neglect things in the house because of my cycling. I was put on part-time hours during Covid, which halved my salary, and my girlfriend felt I should look for another job, whereas I thought, ‘Bugger that, it means more time to train’.” 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeither agree nor disagreeAgreeStrongly agree
Exercise is the most important thing in my life12345
Conflicts have arisen between me and my family/partner about the amount of exercise I do12345
I use exercise as a way of changing my mood (e.g. to get a buzz)12345
Over time I have increased the amount of exercise I do in a day12345
If I have to miss an exercise session I feel moody and irritable12345
If I reduce exercising hours, and then start again, I end up exercising as often as I did before12345

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