If you’re over 60 and looking to begin cycling then it can seem like quite a daunting prospect. So, today we’re going to look at the benefits that you get from cycling (there are a lot!). We’ll then go on to see what you actually need to start cycling (a lot less than you might think). We’ll look at some of the best bikes for older riders, the gear you should have (don’t worry, there’s no spandex), and where to look for great beginner bike routes. Along the way I hope I’ll convince you that cycling in your 60s is not only possible but that it’s hugely enjoyable and an excellent way of keeping yourself healthy right through your senior years.
First up though, 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 actually start off in quite a shouty way. Just like the PT/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 someone like your old uncle Tom, or your best friend Mary, and I’ll be nice and say soothing things to you.
Ready? Ok, where were we. Yep, you’re procrastinating. The fact is that you’re over 60 and you want to start cycling. But the reality is that 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.
“People over 60 who cycle, could reduce their chance of suffering a heart attack by 50%”
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.
“A study…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.
Recommendations Low step for easy boarding Useful rear cargo rack Front suspension forks Heavy bike to lift Electric bike with powerful motor No-fuss no-mess carbon belt drive Up to 60 miles range Selling fast - don't miss out! Light & responsive aluminum frame Low crossbar = confident mounting Hydraulic brakes for safe stopping No electric pedal assist power
Low step for easy boarding
Useful rear cargo rack
Front suspension forks
Heavy bike to lift
Electric bike with powerful motor
No-fuss no-mess carbon belt drive
Up to 60 miles range
Selling fast - don't miss out!
Light & responsive aluminum frame
Low crossbar = confident mounting
Hydraulic brakes for safe stopping
No electric pedal assist power
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’s really important to make sure that you’re 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 indoor cycling on a stationary bike. Spend some time building up your strength and stamina on an exercise bike, and you should then be prepared for outdoor cycling. Again, always check with your doctor before you start.
Benefits of bike riding for seniors
There are loads of reasons why it’s great to take up cycling, no matter what your age. If you cycled as a kid – great! It’s just like riding a bike, after all. If you’ve never cycled at all, then that’s still no barrier. These days, bikes have gotten easier to ride, many require virtually no maintenance, and there are plenty of cycling classes and easy group rides to help you get underway.
Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons why cycling in your older years is such a great idea.
It keeps you healthy
Cycling at 60 years of age and above is great for keeping you healthy. We’ve already seen that people who cycle regularly 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 as you’ll be burning calories through pedaling and also through using your core and other upper body muscles for balance and controlling the bike. Cycling has even been shown to keep you mentally fit. Though that’s not really surprising as getting out into the daylight and fresh air for a few hours is always certain to put a big cheesy smile on your face.
Cycling can help improve 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 like this can have serious consequences and one of the ways that we can help reduce the chance of them happening is to work on improving our balance. 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 stabilisation 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. As a happy side effect it will likely also give you tight abs and butt-cheeks-to-die-for.
Cycling is good for bad knees
Cycling is an especially low-impact form of exercise that is great if you suffer from weak or arthritic knees, because 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. This is particularly so if you choose an electric bike. I’ll talk more about these in a moment, but they’re bikes that have an electric motor which gives assistance to your legs as you pedal along. This helps take even more of the strain off your knee joints and you can adjust the power as you ride along. For example giving more assistance on ascents and then easing back on the motor for the descents to save the battery power.
Happiness is riding a bike
It’s official: cycling happiness is a real thing! If you’ve ever wondered why you’re so happy biking, then read on. 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.
Find cycling 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. Bike riding with friends is a great way to keep you motivated and it’s an excellent way to meet new people who share the same interests with you.
Cycling tips for older riders
Whether you’re starting cycling at 60 or 70, or really any age, the most important first step is to 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.
We’ve looked at all the reasons why cycling in your senior years is so good for you, physically, mentally and socially. Now, let’s turn our attention to how to get started cycling and why you need to begin.
Getting started cycling – bicycle training program over 60
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. Bike instructors can teach adults to ride whether they’ve been cycling in the dim and distance past, or if they’ve never cycled before at all.
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.
My recommendation is to get yourself a new type of bike known as an electric bike. These have been around for quite a while and in the last few years the market has exploded. Electric bikes (or ebikes) are a push bike with an electric motor and battery fitted to them. In many cases you can hardly tell that they have a motor as all the tech is neatly integrated into the frame and wheel hubs. Press down on the pedals though and you’ll soon feel the difference! These ‘pedal assist’ bikes are designed to literally do just that. They give you a boost of power as you pedal and enable you to travel much further, and climb much tougher hills, than you would be able to do on a standard non-electric bike. For those of us over 60 that can make all the difference between cycling and staying put on the couch (of taking the car). Studies have shown that people who own ebikes travel more miles on their bikes than they would on a push bike. Sounds good? Then take a look at my recommended bikes below.
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.
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 which are closed to motorized traffic.
What to Wear For Cycling
Wear whatever clothes you have that are comfortable to move in and feel good. You don’t need to buy special cycling clothing, unless you have plans to work up to the Tour de France!
Padded bike 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 fibres like cotton or wool are excellent for moderating body temperature and “wicking” shirts wash and dry quickly. I’ve been testing out some merino wool clothing recently and it’s excellent for cycling – cool in hot weather, warm in cool weather, and no sweaty smells once you’ve finished your ride.
Make sure you wear a suitable cycling helmet and reflective gear at night and in cloudy weather.
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.
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.
Staying motivated for cycling
The easiest way 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.
Recommended bikes for beginners over 60
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite bikes for beginner cyclists with sixty or so miles on the clock. All of these bikes are enjoyable to ride and have a number of different features that make them particularly suitable for older riders. They are at a range of different price points so, whatever your budget, I’m sure you’ll find one of them that’s perfect for you.
Vvolt is one of the most exciting names in the world of ebikes at the moment and the Alpha Step-through is their easy-boarding version of the Alpha electric bike, their entry-level model which is perfect for cycling newcomers.
Launched in 2021, the team behind Vvolt have long experience in the cycling industry as they also design and manufacture a range of excellent waterproof bike gear at their Oregon-based sister company, Showers Pass. That heritage is clear when you look at the Alpha Step-through: sleek lines, fully-integrated electric motor in the rear hub and hidden-away battery in the frame tubing.
Why is the Alpha so good for senior cyclists? Well, take a look at the spec and you’ll see that this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The battery is good for up to 60 miles on a single charge and the motor can whizz you along at speeds of up to 20mph. Hop off the bike and you’ll find that the ‘walk assist’ mode is handy for easy pushing of the bike up steep slopes, but really you’re just going to want to hop back on as soon as possible. And, hopping back on is easy because of the step-through design, which you can see with the lowered top tube making it easy to get on and off.
One of the standout features of the bike – which is something that you’ll definitely appreciate over the lifetime of owning the Alpha – is the belt drive. If you’ve ridden bikes before then they’ll probably have had a metal chain. A belt drive like this is far superior as it is virtually noise-free, doesn’t use oil (which inevitably ends up on your pants) and lasts far longer than a chain
Rad Power sell a fantastic range of ebikes that are easy-boarding and stuffed full of features making them an excellent choice for seniors. The RadCity is a great example.
With a standover height at only 17”, the RadCity is super-easy to get on to and dismount from, without having to swing your leg up high enough to clear the saddle (as you would on a traditional shape bike). Looking at the overall shape of the RadCity, you’ll see that the handlebars are set higher than the saddle. This allows for a very comfortable upright riding position on the bike. That’s great for seeing the sights as you pedal along (assisted by the electric motor, of course) and it also helps if you have pain or a touch of arthritis in your wrists and fingers as it sets the body weight back onto the saddle, rather than being supported by your hands on the handlebars.
Speaking of the electric motor, this is low down in the rear hub (which is great for assisting with balance). The motor is a powerful 750W and provides 40Nm of torque to climb up hills that would otherwise be out of reach. And distance is no barrier with the RadCity either as the battery is good for taking you up to 45 miles on a single charge.
If you aren’t ready to take the leap into ebikes just yet, then the CTY 2.1 from Co-op Cycles is a great choice. More wallet-friendly than an ebike, the CTY 2.1 is a useful starter bike for seniors thanks to its step-through frame design, light aluminum frame, and upright ride position. Add in the front suspension forks to smooth out the trail surface, 700x40c grippy Kenda tires, and responsive hydraulic disc brakes and this is a powerful package.
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!