Age, they say, is just a number and I think that nowhere is this more the case than in the world of cycling. My mom (who’s in her 70s) was recently shopping for a new bike. She declared that there was no point in her paying the kind of fancy prices for the bikes I suggested as “she wouldn’t still be cycling many years from now”.
I pointed out to her that the bikes I was recommending had a number of features that made them far superior to her existing bike and would probably put the fun back into cycling for her. I also mentioned the case of a French gentleman, Robert Marchand, who (at age 105) was named the World’s Oldest Competitive Cyclist by the Guinness World Records.
But, 70-something-year-old ladies can have strong opinions on things.
Either way, I thought it would be useful to write this all up in a guide to choosing a bike for a 70-year old woman – either for yourself or someone you know. I’ll also add in my recommendations for the top bikes I’d suggest.
Oh, and my mom? She bought #2 on the list below. She said that (1) her son was totally out of order trying to make her give up cycling (2) she would be cycling for many years to come and (3) would be spending a good chunk of the inheritance on buying herself a new bike.
How to choose a bike for a 70-year old woman
When you reach your 70s there are a number of things that are going to change that are relevant to cycling. Your balance might not be what it once was and you can feel a little wobbly at times. Maybe your legs don’t have the strength that they once did, so uphills are more of a struggle. Flexibility can be reduced, so high crossbars can be rather too high. Possibly you’ve started getting a touch of arthritis in your hands or wrists, and putting extra pressure on them can be painful.
Many people are tempted to give up cycling when this happens, but thankfully there’s no need to do this. Nowadays, there are so many different styles of bike that are great options and (like I told my mom) can put the fun back into cycling for you or your loved one.
Let’s take a look at some of the different styles of bike that are available and see why they’re so good for women cycling in their 70s (and beyond).
Electric bikes for seniors
Main benefit – electric assistance on days when your legs need a little support
In recent years there have been big leaps forward in battery technology and manufacturers have started to put them in a range of different transport options. We first started seeing electric cars as batteries began to come down in size. Now, as batteries have got even smaller (and more powerful), we’ve started to see lots of electric bikes hitting the shops.
Electric bikes (or ebikes) now come in all sorts of different shapes and styles and I’ll talk more about great bike types to look out for in a moment. The main things to be aware of though with ebikes is that the battery and motor are there to provide electrical assistance to you as you pedal. This means that you’ll be able to coast up hills that would otherwise be impossible and go for longer distances than you’d otherwise be able to.
The electric motor can also come into play when you’re pushing your bike along as many bikes now also have a special Walk-Assist mode, meaning that the motor will kick in to move the bike along at up to 2-3 mph as you guide it.
The batteries on ebikes are easy to handle and charge, and can take you along (if you wish) at the kind of speeds that will wipe the smiles off the faces of any spandex-clad cyclists you find on the roads.
Step-through bikes for seniors
Main benefit – there’s no need to do the splits to get on or off
For a long time it felt like low-step or step-through bikes had fallen out of fashion. Originally created for ladies who wore very long skirts to cycle on, these bikes have now found a new home for women (and men) who aren’t as flexible as they once were. This is a big group of people, many of whom are far less than 70 years old!
A low-step or step-through is simply a bike with a frame that doesn’t have a standard horizontal crossbar connecting the handlebar stem to the seat post. The crossbar adds strength to a bike frame but, unless you’re planning on going over jumps, then this is unlikely to present any kind of problems. And, in fact, the advantage that a low-step frame offers to senior cyclists is huge. Instead of either swinging a leg up high (or tilting the bike dangerously over to one side to lower the bar) you can now keep the bike vertical and easily ‘step through’ with one foot.
Adult tricycles for seniors
Main benefit – perfect if you need to concentrate more on keeping your balance these days
The name ‘trike’ or ‘tricycle’ conjures up images of something pink and sparkly, with princess decals on the frame and rainbow tassles on the handlebars. But, those are kids trikes. What we’re talking about are something entirely different altogether – adult three-wheel bikes.
Adult trikes are fantastic for seniors because they combat the challenge of impaired balance for seniors. As any 3-year old will tell you, bikes are tricky to balance on. In our early adulthood we tend to forget this, but it rears its head again when we get a few more miles on the clock. Tricycles are great at giving us back our balance as they keep the bike (and us) steady and upright with an extra wheel at the back. A useful extra side benefit to this is that it often gives extra cargo-carrying capacity (for groceries, dogs, and anything else you need to haul) tucked in a basket between the two rear wheels.
Dutch style bikes for seniors
Main benefit – alleviate long-term hand and wrist pain
Arthritis can be a real pain.
The pain is particularly noticeable when you’re cycling a bike where your hands are lower than the saddle as you put more of your weight onto your wrists. Manufacturers have gradually become more aware of this problem and there are now a wide range of bikes available that are in the ‘Dutch style’. These are bikes that have a much more upright riding position – often combined with a low-step frame – and position the handlebars above the saddle. This keeps your weight on the saddle, not on your wrists, and can reduce the associated pain dramatically allowing you to cycle, brake and change gears easily.
Feel free to ignore my advice (hey, my mom already did!) I just don’t want you to think that hitting the big 7-0 is any reason to give up the bike. Whilst the standard high crossbar road racing bike may not be the thing that works best, there are plenty of other options available. Electric bikes just keep getting better and better. Low-step bikes mean that there’s no need to wildly swing your leg over the saddle. Three-wheelers can give you the stability (and grocery-carrying capacity!) that you need.
Pick the right bike for you that will take you through your 70s (and on and on).
Have fun and take no notice of your kids’ advice.