Coming full circle and getting back in the saddle of cycling

Lee Tate

I’m back on a bicycle and loving it. Like a lot of baby boomers, my life’s come full cycle.

It’s just a discarded bloke’s bike, all black with a cracked seat and rusty bike stand.

Certainly not suited in any way to joining those gung-ho, lycra lads who know only one speed.

Being back in the saddle has opened pathways to unexpected and welcome new outings and adventures. Big and small.

I remember my first bike as a schoolboy. It was bright red and also pre-loved.

Coming down my very first hill, I slammed into a light pole in Swanbourne. While the rider was intact the bike’s front fork was forced back towards the frame.

From then on the front wheel could turn only when the pedals were vertical, stationary and clear of the turning front wheel. But you adapt. In our day you knew there’d be no replacement.

Cycling for seniors enriches your life but not in a high-powered way.

Not for us hurtling along highways or pounding down pathways packed with petrified pedestrians.

Speed isn’t the point of it. And you may have a gammy knee or arthritic joint to consider.

There’s pure pleasure, the newfound freedom of setting out at sunrise or coming home at sunset after a session of open-air peddling. You don’t have to work up a sweat.

My wife, Robyn, and I now take our bikes on holidays with us. It’s the last luggage to go into our caravan after all else is packed, tethered tight to the caravan kitchen table with rubber straps.

Country expeditions have taken us down bush tracks we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, along water drains, beside rail tracks and, in Broome, past a dumfounded dingo.

In Busselton there are bike/walk trails that hug the coast and from the caravan park to town it’s about 30 minutes, just the right distance for a cycle outing.

I do it religiously before breakfast. Rain, hail or shine it clears the head and stretches the legs, bracing you for whatever else the day holds. I also have a beach swim.

Why wouldn’t you have a bike? Bikes are easy to use. Cheap to buy, sometimes free.

Seniors certainly don’t need the latest, lightweight streamlined machines. They come at high prices and need to be carefully looked-after.

For boomers, enjoyment is the object. If fitness follows it’s a welcome side benefit.

Bikes cost little to run, after obtaining helmet, lock and good air pump and are cheap to service and fix.

My battered bike is kept outside in the elements. I put a plastic bag over the seat to stop water seeping into the split.

Occasionally I spray its moving parts with an oily spray. Apart from cleaning-off red dust after riding in the North-West, I barely touch the bike.

When I got the bike, I had the bike shop mechanic give it the once-over and replaced a tyre and tube. And I’ve been cruising ever since.

My bike is no lightweight. But it’s tough and doesn’t easily damage if it topples over.

The bike came with a rack on the back, handy for a Sunday ride to get a newspaper or occasionally to collect some light shopping and an occasional chance to leave the car at home. What’s the rush?

We’ve had plenty of adventures and a misadventure. Between 5.30am and 7.30am, the only two hours it was unlocked, Robyn’s bike was nicked from a caravan park in Busselton.

We reported it at the cop shop and then, not wanting to ruin a holiday, tracked down a second-hand bike in the area and used that for a few days. Busselton police did a top job, investigated and later rang to say the bike had been found in sand hills Ð not an uncommon occurrence, they said.

But now we had a surplus bike. So, for a quick sale on Christmas Eve, Robyn took a photo of the surplus bike and put it on Gumtree. The bike sold immediately for the price we paid.

On one of our outings, on the track near Busselton hospital, we encountered a dugite at close quarters – almost under a front tyre – but we gave way and it turned for the bush.

Since then I’ve seen several snakes of varying hues dashing across or sunning next to bike tracks.

Two longer-term bike buddies tell me they are switching to electric bikes: one has hernia issues and the other is finding some steep hills near his home becoming too grueling and doesn’t want to aggravate old wounds.

Some senior blokes order women’s electric bikes because they won’t have to throw the leg over the bar, risking injury.

Bike riding leaves you feeling good.

A study published in Aging Cell magazine compared 125 keen and longtime cyclists aged 55-79 with same-age non-cyclists.

Results showed cyclists had far better muscular strength, lung function, fitness levels, blood pressure and immune systems than the others.

A recent Swedish survey of 200 women, middle aged to 90s, found that the physically-fittest of them reduced their risk of dementia by 90 per cent.

They all make good reason for all of us riding into life’s sunset.