Basic Guidance for Senior Cyclists

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senior cycling

At seventy-three, I am proud to be one of the millions of senior cyclists.  I encourage other seniors to get on a bike.  As a way of assisting them, I offer the following guidelines to seniors who are just getting started cycling again.

Ride With Other Cyclists

There is no doubt that physical activity is one way to keep age-related intellectual decay at bay.  So is socialization. Researchers are finding that social associations can halt or slow down the advancement of Alzheimer’s infection. It likewise lessens the probability of social withdrawal, fear, and depression. Hanging out with others can even work on your self-assurance, which assists you with developing and maintaining a superior personal satisfaction as you age.

If for some reason your search for riding partners has not produced any, consider joining a cycling club. You’ll meet new individuals and surprisingly many club members are your age.  Joining the club will inspire you to get your bike out on the road more often.

Managing Balance Concerns

As we grow older, balance often becomes an issue.  Cycling will prolong good balance.  If you need help mounting and dismounting a bike, just ask a fellow club member to hold your bike while you climb on.

Surely, you have heard the old adage, “you never forget how to ride a bike.”  That is primarily an affirmation that your brain does not forget how to balance your body on the bike.

Cycling is an excellent preventative for balance problems in the future.  It does not, in and of itself, cure balance problems that are already manifesting themselves. I would not advise riding a bike if you are already experiencing balance problems while walking.  Make sure to consult a doctor.  A physical therapist may be able to help you with some exercises that might ready you for getting on a bike again.

Yoga and calisthenics may also bolster your ability to balance well.

A stationary, exercise bike or trike can still provide excellent cardiovascular exercise without risking a fall.trike

Stationary bikes take the weight off of your hip joints, hands, and back, allowing you to peddle without pressure.

With a trike, you can cycle on roads with other cyclists without fear of falling over.  The number of persons riding trikes is increasing every year.  There are some pretty fancy ones out there.  Don’t think you will look weird as an adult riding a tricycle.  Every time I have seen someone on a trike, I hear other cyclists admiring the three-wheeled ride.

Relax

We senior cyclists, especially those just beginning to ride again, should not overdo the mileage or speed until they have completed a couple dozen shorter and slower rides.

Take it easy.  There is no need to go over 15-20 miles at 12-14 miles an hour for the first few months.  It takes the legs some time to get conditioned to go further and faster without injury.  Overtraining has caused many a rider to be sidelined due to fatigue and strained muscles.  Some have even experienced heart issues.

Some recent, research has brought to light that a ride for 20 miles at high cadence and speed is much better conditioning than longer, slower rides.

Gravel riding is all the rage.  Many, especially in the United States, have taken to the dirt and gravel roads to avoid traffic and enjoy new scenery.  However, a new, older rider might do better riding on a paved road for a while before venturing onto the unstable and rough gravel roads.

Pay attention to your body.  You can always slow down or cut your ride short.  Make sure you have a phone with you so you can call someone to pick you up if you are struggling and are still a distance from home.  Do not be embarrassed.  Almost every cyclist at some time or another has had to call someone to pick them up.  Senior cyclists should not be ashamed to make such a call.

Relax!  Cycling is recreation.  None of us senior cyclists are going to be picked to ride in the Tour de France.  Have fun.  Don’t push it.  Enjoy the ride.

Be Alert

First off, all cyclists are required, by law, to obey all posted signs and signals.  Disobey at your peril.  Senior cyclists usually do not have trouble obeying the rules of the road, but at times we do not see the signs.  We are looking around at the sights and getting involved in conversations while cycling.

Be alert.

Many of us senior cyclists do not see as well as we used to.  Make sure that you get your vision checked on a regular basis.  If you normally wear glasses, don’t forget them at home.  Remember, you may have become very used to seeing signs, signals, and traffic while you are driving.  You are positioned at a different vantage point on a bike.  It will take a bit before you get used to this new perspective of the road.

Choose less traveled roads and paths so you do not have to contend with a constant procession of vehicles in front and behind you.

It also helps immensely to wear a mirror on your helmet or handlebar.  There are even very accurate radar units that mount on the seat post.  These warn you of vehicles approaching from behind.  These units are affordable for most of us.

Riding during the day is safer than riding at dusk or in the dark.  So, in the beginning, stick to riding in daylight.

Be Seen

Senior cyclists need to have tail lights or reflectors.  Turn on those lights before you start your ride, even in the daylight.  You want cars to see and avoid hitting you.  Let them know you are there.  Reflectors are better than nothing.  I recommend very bright tail lights.  One is ok, but two or three is better.

If you are among the senior cyclists who ride at night, make sure that you wear some reflective gear.  The more than better.

Fuel and Hydrate Your Body

Ensure that you have enough energy for the day’s ride.  On a 20 mile ride, you can burn between 600 to 1800 calories depending on your speed, weight, and conditioning.  Eat a meal a couple of hours before you set out.  Do not be afraid that you will cause yourself problems eating a light meal even 30 minutes before your ride.  It is important to be fully fueled.

A meal high in carbs is best.  But, no need to overdo it.  You can carry energy bars, gels, or drink with you.  These prepared sports snacks can give you the boost you need during your ride.  As you ride more you will be able to know when you should take on more energy.  If you wait until you are out of energy, it is way too late to refuel yourself.  Take on some energy at least every hour that you are riding.

For senior cyclists, hydration is critically important.  Two very good accessories to buy are a water bottle and a bottle cage to put it in.  It is best to have some type of electrolyte replacement in your bottle.  These days, many riders have a light backpack that has a bladder that can hold a couple of liters of liquid.

Whatever you use, stay hydrated.  Dehydration can not only ruin the day’s ride. It can cause some long-term damage to your body.  Especially, for we seniors.

Get Enough Rest

Your body will perform better when you’re getting sufficient rest.

A 20 to 60 mile or more ride does not have to be ridden without stopping.  Take a rest when you need to.  Stopping for a couple of minutes can do wonders for your performance.  Unless you are a professional cyclist, there is no shame in stopping to rest a bit.

Getting sufficient sleep is very important to all cyclists.  Your body gets torn down during a ride.  Sleep allows your body to rebuild and replenish itself.

Riding hard day after day can bring on fatigue or even serious injuries.  Take some days off.  For seniors, it might be best to ride only 3 or four days each week.

Cycling is a fantastic exercise for seniors.  It delivers health and emotional benefits.  Just pay attention to the above tips.

Take a look at this article about a 100-year-old senior cyclist who broke world records.

I am 73 years old.  I had triple bypass surgery on my heart 15 years ago and 7 stents since then.  I ride three days a week.  It is an excellent exercise.

Ride on!

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, I’m 73 and I live in Wisconsin. Outside riding is coming to an end soon. I have my road bike on a trainer. What training app. do you recommend for me?

  2. Hello, I’m 73 and I live in Wisconsin. Outside riding is coming to an end soon. I have my road bike on a trainer. What training app. do you recommend for me?

    • I have used Zwift for years, but I am about to move to Wahoo X. It is much more realistic and has many more training options. Either way, keep riding.
      I am 74 and continue to ride inside and outside.

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