Getting Back on your Bike –
Terrific at Any Age!
By Joanne R. Alloway
Most of us must work in different ways to stay in shape as we age. I felt this profoundly when my knees began hurting, my hair rebelled at swimming in chlorinated pools and my gym visits dwindled to twice weekly. I needed something vigorous and fun! When I was young, biking was a favorite, but I didn’t do much as an adult. Now it’s been 30 years since I’d been on a bike, but I was determined…
Using three avenues of research — the Internet, bike shops and friends – I began hunting for all the types of bikes available today. At a local bike shop, I was asked what type of riding I would do – recreational, touring, roads, off-road or racing? He explained, mountain bikes are for off-road, cruisers are for flat terrains, road bikes are for paved surfaces, racing bikes are for speed and touring bikes are for long distances and carrying gear. I wanted a hybrid bike – a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. Size and frequency of use should figure into your decision. Bike prices range from $150 used to $5,000 (www.ebicycles.com/article/what-type-of-bicycle-should-i-buy.html#). I bought the bike, but now how would I make the investment pay off and find enjoyment too? Being a novice, my comfort level was low. My first trips demonstrated I could ride, but I didn’t know how to shift gears, climb hills or understand the parts of my bike. What’s a derailleur? Gradually, I became more comfortable by padding my seat, wearing a helmet, adding a water bottle/holder and staying close to home. One day, a neighbor waved hello; I braked to chat with her. It had been 20 years since she had ridden. She decided to join me. It was fun having a riding partner, someone to struggle and laugh with! Our leisurely trips went from 20 minutes to 60 minutes when we decided we were ready for new venues. She hated helmets; I insisted that safety was paramount and she complied. We ventured to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis; where there are six-plus miles of trails. One morning while riding, we met three cyclists from the Potomac Pedalers D Group in Virginia, which led us to the idea of becoming part of a local group.
Searching for a biking club nearer home, we discovered the Annapolis Bicycle Club (ABC) (www.annapolisbicycleclub.org). We weren’t ready for ABC’s 30-mile trip, which is scheduled for weekend mornings, however, I talked with their president, Jim Black, who has been most helpful. Jim said ABC members range in age from 30 to 80 years, many returning bikers. On weekend rides, there’s a stop at the halfway point for refreshment and no one is ever left riding too far behind the group. Jim also said, “a returning rider should be able to bike two-thirds the distance of the trip and be able to keep up the mph pace indicated.” He emphasized that “preparation for the ride is important; any training on bicycle safety and maintenance is good.” ABC’s Bike Links detail clubs, organizations and stores that offer area opportunities, i.e., Crofton Bike Doctor has a class on Thursday evenings on bike safety (www.croftonbikedoctor.com).
There are many beautiful bike trails right in our area, beginning with the B&A, which is 13-plus miles long. For a comprehensive list of local trails, log onto www.aacounty.org/RecParks/parks/trails/
Making friends in this sport is relatively easy. Get out there and participate by joining a club, going to a class or riding with an informal group. My friends Kathy and Bill decided to start biking again about 20 years ago, and found it comfortable going about five miles. Then they biked in an Annapolis event, sure they’d be the oldest riders. They weren’t. There they met another couple who they’ve been riding with for many years.
Kathy says finding advertised rides is another way to get involved with others. “But gathering your friends, setting up your own destination, distance and pace is fun and keeps the sport interesting,” she said, adding that now they have a great group to ride with.
Next year the Baltimore Bicycle Club will offer an instructional ride series for new or returning riders. Find information at www.baltobikeclub.org
The cycling community has been open, friendly and willing to share much with this novice rider. I’ve made lots of new friends and met many interesting people. Although there is a lot to absorb at the outset, it is well worth it. I hope to see you on your bike somewhere soon.