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Observations for Older Riders July 7, 2007

Posted by Bill in Conditioning, Equipment.


Hey Guys,

And I am speaking to guys out there. I’m pretty certain that most women don’t go after hurting themselves when they try to get back into shape, unlike the guys. An observation I’ve made, and this is based on my unscientific visual poll of the bike trail population, is that I see the same women (ages 40-80 I’m talking about) week after week, walking or biking the parkway jogging/bike trail. Conversely, I see a very high turnover in the male population in the same age group. I’ve given this some thought during my time on the trail, and I’d like to hear from you if you have any comments on why this might be the case.

1. Men have swallowed, hook line & sinker, the PE coach advice “No pain, no gain.” This is garbage, but it’s a macho credo, and you’ll do yourself a huge favor if you drop it now. Pain is pain, and intelligent beings that we are, we will not come back for second helpings. Your body and creative mind will provide you with reasons a-plenty for not getting back on the bike, pumping and panting like John Belushi in an ultramarathon. Learn from the women… ride with a friend, exert to a level that allows you to talk, and take yourself out for good coffee afterwards. I saw a workout line of four older guys today, and they were having a blast. They had a good pace going, they had good bikes and proper clothing with helmets, and they were talking, not panting. So stop the torture, find some friends, and commit yourself to FUN.

2. You have worked hard to get this out of shape, now go get yourself a good bike and the right clothes. Taking Junior’s thirty-year-old Schwinn out of the storage shed out back and duct taping the handle bars will not leave you wanting more. Bikes are like people: they wear out as entire entity, and as the whole machine conspires to fail, with all its tired pieces in one grand groaning concert, you will not be left with a good experience seducing you back for more. And if you think all bikes with two wheels are equal, you would be misinformed. Ride a bunch of them, and don’t stop with the rides at Target and WalMart. Check out REI, City Bicycle Works (Sacramento), Carmichael Cycle, or anyplace else that’s handy, and listen to all the advice. Don’t be afraid to throw some real money into this. The co-pays for a heart attack run into the thousands, so why not take a goodly chunk of that to avoid the co-pay in the first place? Also, if you’ve dropped a thousand bucks on a bike, the phrase, “Honey, I’ve spent so much money on this bike I have to get out on it again if I’m going to get my money’s worth” works a whole lot better than if you bought the $79 special at Target. What do you get by spending more? Lighter weight (often by far), better bearings, stronger alloys, dependable machinery, UV-resistant plastics, and service. That last item should be in lights, as you’ll get blank stares from Target employees along with the suggestion you take your bike to a mechanic at, say, one of the stores mentioned above. Modern bikes are complicated. Shop and compare carefully.

Also, if your back and neck are fussy, but you want a speedy experience, consider the vast array of recumbent bicycles. This link takes you to a discussion of them. The parkway has a mess of them, so don’t despair if you don’t want to do the full-tuck racing thing. Click on the pic to visit a place in PA that sells ’em…

recumbent bikes

3. Clothes! You will not find an easy chair on wheels, so pad your butt. Heavily. This is not the place to skimp. That twenty bucks difference in riding pants with heavier padding will be your best investment ever. If your crotch begins to chafe, head back to the bike store and ask for advice. Consider the following: saddle upgrades, underwear (high-tech is good) adjustment, padding lubricants, etc. If you do serious mileage, you are bound to chafe your crotch somewhere, and magic goo known as chamois butter can help a great deal. A favorite of many is made by Assos of Switzerland. Pricey, but what’s your crotch worth, anyhow?

Also, as you get more devoted to the aerobic experience, you will find that you need to get rid of heat. Cotton will kill you because it resists evaporation and you will not be able to cool off. Put yourself into as much lightweight high-tech polyester as you can stand (logos, while cool, are not required) because it will wick moisture away from your body and cool you very effectively as long as you’re moving.

4. If you are into tools and are handy with them, have fun with your bike. Take a bike maintenance class (REI has them periodically) , and make yourself the bike guru for the neighborhood. Keep your bike pristine, pet your chain and dérailleur regularly with good lubricants, and have an old-fashioned mechanical relationship with it.



1. jim cuthbertson - June 10, 2012

Well, it may have taken a few years, but here I am, your first commentor. I love the first paragraph…I am an ex racer who is 56 yrs old. I started riding again a few years ago, and I find the most difficult part of riding again is not chasing every single rider down because I’m so competitive. Something happened the other day-I let a guy go who passed me and kept looking over his shoulder to see if I was coming. It felt good. A revelation. In another way of putting it:”Stop the torture!” I still rode hard and fast, but I didn’t chase him-and it was a good ride anyway.

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