Cycling for Over 70s

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Think you’re too old? Think again

It doesn’t matter whether you haven’t been cycling since you were in your 50s or your 60s.

Or, whether you haven’t been on a bike SINCE the 50s or 60s.

Cycling is good for you and, with recent improvements in bike technology, it’s accessible to everyone in their 70s and far beyond.

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Recent studies of older bike riders have found that cycling:

  • Slows aging
  • Rejuvenates your immune system
  • Preserves muscle mass and strength
  • Makes you physically younger

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

If you want even more evidence, take a look at this. Robert Marchand (107 at the time of writing) was setting time trial World Records in his 100s and has only recently given up competitive cycling!

It’s fairly clear that regular cycling can give you more, healthier years of life. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

In this article, I’m going to take a look at the things that are different for you when you take up bike riding in your 70s. With some advice on what you can do about them.

I’m then going to have a quick run-through of the bike technology that has arrived recently and that will make your cycling easier and more enjoyable. Because all this healthy stuff is great, but if it doesn’t put a smile on your face, then you’re not going to keep doing it long term.

That’s important because the benefits that you’ll get from cycling come, not from buying a bike and cycling it once. They come from making a commitment to changing your lifestyle to become healthier and making bike riding a core part of that.

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But first, Check with Your Doctor

If it’s been a long time since you’ve cycled, this is your first time cycling, or if you’re not doing any other form of regular exercise, then you should go and see your doctor first for a check-up. It’s really important to make sure you’re healthy enough before you start any new exercise program, particularly when you’re in your 70s.

Even if your doctor advises you against cycling on the road to start with, you can always begin by using a stationary bike. Build up your strength and stamina indoors, and then you should be prepared for outdoor cycling. Again, always check with your doctor before you start.

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Things are different in your 70s:

  • Loss of aerobic fitness
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Less supple and flexible
  • More joint pain
  • Worse balance and coordination

1. Loss of aerobic fitness

As you get older you might find that you get tired sooner when you’re exercising, and it takes you longer to recover than it did when you were a young whippersnapper.

Don’t worry about this. After all this is a marathon, not a sprint, and remember that what you’re trying to do is make a change to a new healthy lifestyle. Not win races.

Take the proper time to recover between bike rides. Eat healthily and get lots of sleep. Then go out and do it all again. Within no time you’ll be feeling the benefits.

2. Reduced muscle strength

Coupled with the first point, you may also not feel as strong as you used to. That’s fine. Your legs may not feel able to power you up that hill today. No problem, it doesn’t matter. Get off the bike and push up. You’re still out in the fresh air getting plenty of exercise and you’ve got a big grin on your face!

Insiders’ tip: what if I told you there was a way to power up those hills AND save your legs? Hint: electric bikes. More on this below.

3. Less supple and flexible

One of the things that often worries folk about bikes is that they have to swing their leg up high to get over the crossbar and actually get on to the bike. This can get more daunting as you get older and you find that your flexibility gets worse.

There are many different styles of bikes these days. One popular type is called Low Step-through or Easy Boarding Bikes. I’ll include an example below. These are great if your mobility is not so good as the crossbar is down at pedal level. So it’s easy to get on the bike and set off.

4. More joint pain

Do you suffer from joint pain? I know I certainly get pain in my knees when I go out pounding the pavements. Cycling could be the answer for you as it is an especially low-impact form of exercise that is great if you suffer from weak knees and joint pain. Because it uses smooth regular movements it doesn’t put a huge amount of stress on any part of your body. In comparison with activities like running which are high-impact and can put a lot of strain on joints.

5. Worse balance and coordination

The World Health Organisation estimated that approximately 28-35% of people aged 65 or over will have a fall every year.

A fall can have really serious consequences, whatever your age. Bike riding is a great form of exercise for improving balance as it strengthens the glute muscles (your butt) and your core (abdominals). Good balance is important, but particularly when you’re in your seventies and beyond. Starting cycling gives you a huge benefit to your long-term mobility.

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Improvements in bike technology that help you in your 70s

When I was a youngster, I’d often have my grandparents tell me something along the lines of, “Back in my day, things were different”. You may have even said this yourself…?

It’s true though, isn’t it? But what we wouldn’t necessarily admit to the young ‘uns, is that actually some things are better these days. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to bikes and bike accessories.

Here are a few new bike developments that will be a real benefit to you:

1. Comfortable seats

You didn’t think it would be possible, did you? Yes, the professionals sit on saddles that look more like knife blades. That doesn’t mean you have to.

Saddles these days can come in extra wide sizing with soft padding and suspension. So no more numbness and discomfort as you ride along, which means that you can ride for longer (and still sit down the next day!)

This saddle is a great example:

2. Bike helmets

I think, when I was a kid, the closest I got to head protection, was putting on a woolly hat that my mom had knitted. These days, there are better options for keeping our heads in one piece.

This helmet, by Schwinn, is a very good starter design and will give you a lot more confidence when you’re starting to ride. Especially if you’re feeling a little wobbly.

3. Three-wheelers

Talking of being wobbly. We discussed earlier how our balance can be affected as we get older. This can sometimes be a barrier for people in getting on a bike.

Thankfully, bike manufacturers have realized this and there are now lots of three-wheeler bikes on the market that are specially designed for adults who like the comfort of a third point of contact with the ground.

Many of these bikes also come with great storage capacity, which can be handy if you’d like to change your grocery runs to bike rather than by car. A great way of integrating cycling into your life.

This trike, also from Schwinn, is a really good option:

The rear basket is very practical, and the seat is sprung with deep padding to keep you comfy. You’ll also notice the cruiser-style handlebars and frame, which means that you’ll be riding this bike in a comfortable upright position. Much better than a hunched over racing-type position, if you have mobility problems.

The Schwinn also has a low-step through frame i.e. no high crossbar that you have to swing your leg over to get onto the bike. Again, a fantastic feature if you’re no longer the high-kicking dancer you were in your youth!

4. Electric Bikes

For me, the biggest development in the bike industry is electric bikes (ebikes).

Originally developed back in the late 19th Century, they’ve really started taking off in recent years as battery technology has improved. You’ll also see these biked referred to as “Pedal Assist” bikes and they have an electric motor that gives you a boost as you pedal.

These can be an easy way to get into cycling as you get older. You pedal, so burn calories and get fitter. But there’s no need to fear hills or being stuck out in the middle of nowhere without the leg strength to get you back home because the motor can kick in when you get tired.

Take a look at this bike from Nakto:

This easy boarding bike has a comfy upright riding position, lightweight frame and handy rear cargo rack. Best of all, the battery and motor are hidden, so those young whippersnappers won’t know why you’re cruising past them up those hills.

LOL, as the kids would say.

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Final word on cycling for over 70s

Without a doubt, cycling in your 70s is different from riding a bike in your 20s. But in your 70s there is so much you can do to improve the quality of your life and getting out on a bike is an easy and fun way to do that.

So why not give cycling a go?

Cycle on.