Yes, you should! Here’s why and how
You’re procrastinating, aren’t you?
I’m going to level with you here.
This article isn’t going to be like all the others you’ve read about getting into cycling when you’re older.
I’ll start off in quite a shouty way. Just like the PT/PE/Athletics teacher you had when you were a kid. You know, the one that made you go running around the track when it was freezing cold, until you collapsed in a sweaty heap somewhere near the finish line.
But don’t worry, because then I’m going to change into something like your old uncle Tom, or your best friend Mary, and I’ll be nice and say soothing things to you.
Ok, where were we. Yep, you’re procrastinating.
Fact: You’re over 60 and you want to start cycling.
Reality: You’re sat on your backside, reading through article after article, looking at video after video. With titles like “How to Get Into Cycling When You’re Over 60 and Never Done It Before” and “Help! I’m over 60 and Want to get Back into cycling after an 86-year break”.
None of that will help you get into cycling again.
Here’s another fact.
Starting is scary.
Want another one?
Okay, how about this.
Studies have shown that people over 60 who cycle, could reduce their chance of suffering a heart attack by as much as 50%.
That is a massive number.
Let’s make a deal? Read this article. In full, no skipping bits. Then make a commitment to yourself to turn off the computer, get up from the couch and get into cycling. Yes, it might be hard. Yes, you might feel a bit silly and out of shape to begin with. But the rewards for you will be amazing.
A study at King’s College London found that fit amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 were physically much younger than most people their age.
If that sounds like something you’d like, let’s take a look at a few more reasons why you should take up cycling in your 60s. Then we’ll look at how to actually go about doing it. And then you can get off that couch.
Rant over. Mary here. Let’s go.
But first, Check with Your Doctor
If you’ve never cycled, it’s been a long time since you’ve been cycling, or you’re not doing other regular exercise, then you should check up with your doctor first. It is really important to make sure that you are healthy enough before you start any new exercise program.
Even if your doctor advises you against cycling on the road at the beginning, you can always start with a stationary bike. If you build up your strength and stamina on a stationary bike, you should then be prepared for outdoor cycling. Again, always check with your doctor before you start.
Why you should cycle
There are loads of reasons why it’s a good idea to take up cycling, no matter what your age:
- It keeps you healthy
- It improves your balance
- It’s kind on your knees
- It makes you happy
- You can make new friends
Why you should cycle
1. It keeps you healthy
We’ve already seen that regular cycling can reduce the risk of chronic physical illnesses like heart disease. It can also lessen the chance of you suffering from cancer, type 2 diabetes and strokes.
It helps you keep your weight under control and it’s even been shown to keep you mentally fit.
Should I bother continuing….?
2. It improves your balance
The WHO (World Health Organisation) has estimated that between 28-35% of people aged 65 or over will suffer a fall each year.
Falls can have serious consequences. Better balance and core stability is a form of non-medical intervention that can significantly reduce the risk of falling.
Cycling is a great exercise for improving balance due to the isolation of the glute muscles (your butt) and stabilization of the core (your abs). Good balance is important whatever age you are, but particularly when you’re in your sixties and beyond. Beginning cycling will give you a huge benefit to your long-term mobility.
3. It’s kind on your knees
Cycling is an especially low-impact form of exercise that is great if you suffer from weak knees. It uses smooth regular movements and doesn’t put huge amounts of stress on any part of your body. In comparison with activities like running or squash which are high-impact and can put strain on your joints.
4. It makes you happy
Physical exercise can make you more content, calmer and more awake, and according to the Mental Health Foundation UK, cycling boosts your mood in the same way that all physical exercise makes you happy “by influencing the release and uptake of chemicals in your brain that make you feel good.
Studies have also shown that cycling reduces stress, boosts self-esteem, reduces depression and anxiety, more effectively than medication, and alleviates and reduces the chance of dementia.
Wow. Even reading that makes me happy.
5. Make new friends
Cycling also gets you involved in a new community of like-minded people. Whether they be casual groups of bikers or cycling clubs and meetups.
This can be really important when you’re in your 60s if you’ve just left the office behind you and started on your retirement.
Cycling past 60 – how to do it
It’s not as difficult as you might think, here’s how:
- Make a commitment to get started
- Get Started!
- Get a bike
- Carefully Consider Your Physical Needs
- Find Easy and Accessible Places to Begin Riding
- Decide What to wear
- Learn to Maintain Your Bike
- Rest more than when you were younger
- Stay motivated
How to do it
a. Make a commitment to get started
We’ve already made a deal on this, so I won’t bang on about it. But like Nike says, Just Do It. You know it makes sense.
b. Getting Started
First off, you don’t need to be afraid of riding a bike. Find a nearby program that teaches adults to ride and the skills to ride on the roads. In the US, a good starting point is the Bicycle Friendly America program.
On their website you can find bike shops, clubs, classes, events, and bike instructors in communities throughout the US. There are lots of knowledgeable and friendly people who are eager to see you riding a bike safely and with a grin on your face.
c. Get a Bike
Decide how much you want to spend and make sure you budget for essential accessories like a helmet, lights, and a lock. If you are fortunate to live in a city with a bike share program, try one out before you buy. There may be a bicycle recycle program near you where you can purchase a bike for a very low price.
For a new bike, go to your local bike shop ask lots of questions and take any bikes that interest you out for a test ride. Good bike shops will help you find the right bike for you and your budget, the correct size and style for your needs, and make any final adjustments to maximize your comfort.
d. Carefully Consider Your Physical Needs
As we get older, our agility and suppleness can decrease, no matter how physically fit we used to be in our youth.
Thankfully, many bike manufacturers now offer models that are designed for women, seniors, and people with physical limitations. If you’re learning to ride for the first time, or haven’t ridden in a while, then a speedy racer / road bike may not be the best choice. Cruiser or hybrid bikes are made for comfort, and with their upright riding positioning are very manageable.
You might also consider a three-wheeler if you find balancing on two wheels a challenge. Don’t worry, they’re not just for kids anymore!
If you find that lifting your leg over a high cross bar proves to be difficult then look for a low step-through bike which can be handy for all genders and ages.
e. Finding Easy and Accessible Places to Begin Riding
When you first start riding, roads can be a daunting place if you’re feeling nervous and a bit wobbly.
Take some time beforehand to find places to ride that are easy and where you feel safe from traffic. Look for bike maps of your area and ask your local bike shop for suggestions of traffic-free routes. Organizations that offer learn to cycle classes may also offer easy group rides, usually free of charge. Also, be on the lookout for community bike rides, many of which are on roads that are closed to motorized traffic.
f. Decide What to Wear
Wear whatever clothes you have that are comfortable to move in and feel good. You don’t need to buy special clothing, unless you have plans to work up to the Tour de France!
Shorts are great, but if you’re wearing long pants or trousers, just make sure that there’s no chance of the hem getting caught in your chain. If you think it will, tuck the hem into your sock or use reflective ankle straps that clinch around the bottom of your pant leg. Wear shoes that are comfy and protect your feet. Natural fibers like cotton or wool are excellent for moderating body temperature and “wicking” shirts wash and dry quickly.
Make sure you wear a suitable cycling helmet and reflective gear at night and in cloudy weather.
g. Learning to Maintain Your Bike
Bikes are sturdy vehicles and, unlike a car or motorbike, all the parts are visible and easily repairable.
To begin with, you should learn how to clean your bike and change a flat tire. A good bike shop will be able to show you how to do this and can also give your bike a regular service. This will give you the confidence to go out riding and not worry about being stranded due to a poorly maintained bike. Adding a tire repair kit and a multi-tool to your bag will cover most road-side repairs.
If you’re cycling at night, make sure you have a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back. Make sure that you always have fresh batteries with you.
If you’re like me, then you tend to jump into things with both feet! That’s fine when you’re young, but when you’ve got a few more miles on the clock, then rest is just as important as exercise.
Make sure you give yourself time to recover after a big cycle and always keep properly hydrated, take in adequate protein to rebuild your muscles, and get a good night’s sleep to allow your body to heal. Without taking proper care of your body while cycling, you will put yourself at risk of injury.
i. Learn and follow the rules of the road
In the US and many other countries, bicyclists are required to follow the same rules as drivers of other vehicles. Check to see what the rules are in your area before you head out.
When you’re out on the bike, communicate with those who share the road with you. Make eye contact with them and use hand signals to indicate what you’re about to do. Simple gestures, like extending your right or left arm out to signal a turn, can avoid a collision.
j. Staying motivated
The easiest way to get into the habit of cycling regularly is to use your bike as a means of everyday transport. Go see your friends, pick up groceries, head to the beach.
If you want some company on your bike ride, whether it’s to work or just for fun, find a cycling pal through a local bike club or persuade one of your friends to take up cycling.
Mix it up by finding new places to explore. There are many wonderful places to cycle in cities and the countryside.
When you get confident on your bike, why not consider a charity ride or park cycle? Signing up for a bike ride is a great way to stay motivated and experience the great outdoors.
Final word on cycling for beginners over 60
I’m sorry I was mean to begin with. But I hope I’ve persuaded you of the benefits of cycling and shown you how easy it is to get out and get started.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go buy that bike and get planning your first ride!