Have you ever noticed anyone’s reaction when you tell them you cannot ride a bike? Then watch that disbelieving look appear in their eyes when their brain says – “He is over 60!”
I have the opportunity to teach a man who is 63-years-old on the rudimentary rules on learning to cycle. Maybe you are thinking of doing the same for someone you know. Let’s go see the best ways to teach him.
Get him to the doctors and check he is physical and mentally okay to cycle.
Why has he not learnt to master a bike?
The most common reason I have heard from people who do not cycle is that they have balancing issues. Take them to the local gym and test them on a stationary bike. Review how they mount and dismount from the bike. See what posture they naturally take up, focus on their knee movements.
Once on the bike. Do they pay particular attention to shifting weight when pedalling? Do they appear to lose their balance?
Have they ever considered cycling with a tricycle? With the extra wheel, they can enjoy the benefits of cycling without the worry regarding falling. Tricycles have another advantage of reducing the strain on your hands, back and bottom.
What if he asks about converting to an Electric bicycle? Many riders are finding these are an excellent alternative to the traditional bicycle with only one drawback I could find. They do not give you the aerobic type exercise that you get from pedalling.
These bikes can propel you without the need to pedal. Extremely handy when you feel fatigued or about to head up a steep incline such as a hill.
What safety equipment should I advise him to invest in?
Mirrors are essential on both the handlebars and on his helmet. This allows for fewer vibration effects and with a small movement of the head will enable a scanning opportunity when required by the rider.
Gloves. Protection for both hands. Hands are generally the first to make contact with the ground, and therefore it makes sense to protect the skin on the palms as they touch the surface. Another advantage of gloves they keep hands warm.
Bike Flags Usually fitted to the rear of your bike and often in orange or white for easy visibility. They also help when negotiating long queues of traffic.
Electric Lights. Attached to front and rear of the bike to ensure drivers can see the bike clearly and quickly.
Reflective Materials. Fitted to both the bike and the helmet. Not as effective as the reflective lights on the rear of the bike, but still have a small role to play regarding keeping the cyclist out of harm’s way.
Finally, the most crucial piece of safety equipment has to be the cyclist’s brain. Used wisely it is a font of practical information on what not to do to hurt yourself and the bike.
Let’s cover the benefits first and ask the question;
Is cycling safe for Seniors?
In a nutshell, YES, most definitely. Cycling is excellent for ageing bodies. Hearts love the benefits of:
Exercising within a low-impact sport.
Brain improvements such as reasoning, strategising, almost forgot remembering.
Almost no strain on bones and joints. Where walking and jogging can cause stress to your joints, cycling does not.
Working effectively on the cardiovascular system.
Slowing down of the ageing process, and often seen reversing.
Stabilising of Testerone levels in men.
Preserving strength within your declining muscle mass.
Positive results with the reduction of body fat levels.
Improvement of cholesterol levels in both sexes.
Improved immunity. T-cell growth becomes an age leveller when cycling.
Living longer when you cycle regularly.
Lower risk of attracting cancer, cardiovascular diseases and death.
Make sure your Senior citizen understands and accepts protecting his knees is essential.
Guide him on how best to position hid saddle/seat is as far back as possible from the handlebars. By making this small adjustment will change the angle of his knees and allow him to keep a straight line from his shins to his thighs.
Explain to him if he ignores this advice, he could create problems further down the road with his cartridges. Done with care the risk of inflammation will be reduced.
Help him to decide if the seat needs adjusting or widening to provide a more comfortable experience. By replacing the seat for a more wider one can assist in the improvements of balancing while cycling.
Examine if the bike is the right size to ensure undue aches and pains are kept at bay. Also, consider does he look safe on the bike?
If he is anything like the guy I am planning to train, he will not consider taking it easy. But, he must. No requirement for anyone to strain and push themselves to extremes. Cycling if done wisely will improve your endurance, your speed and distance covered.
Allow cycling to enhance your overall feeling of being healthy.
What sort of bike should we recommend for someone past the age of 60?
Whatever the final choice, it is imperative that the bike is in mint condition. Just like a car or bus, having an expert check its maintenance and roadworthiness on a regular basis will go along way in keeping everyone safe. Here are a few suggestions for your Senior Student to investigate and consider:
City style bikes that allow the rider to place his feet on the ground while he is sitting.
Cross training bikes that are utilised on or off the road. They should have shock absorbers in the fork, instantly stoppable disk brakes and flat handlebars to keep the rider upright.
Automatic-transmission bikes, which gives three speeds and a coaster feature.
What would a good bicycle training programme include?
It has to start with a military-style schedule, sorry only kidding, but it does make sense to have a schedule that both you and the cycling student can keep too.
Beginner’s Endurance riding start with 60 minutes. After that, adding 10 minutes extra each week up to a maximum of two hours. Eventually, you can grade yourself a seasoned rider and can take those endurance rides up to the max of 2 to 3 hours.
Interval Training & Uphill sprints. (Remember gentle steps.)
Well earned rest.
Gentle 45 to 60-minute ride around the neighbourhood. Stopping off at your favourite cafe for that mouthwatering beverage.
More strength training.
Missing that coffee? Have another gentle ride in the opposite direction to Thursday’s route.
Rest is as crucial as cycling. Never overdo it. If he does not feel 100%, do not fret, do not worry, rest is going to be the best medicine. Your brain and body are telling you so.
Every 5 to 6 weeks take a week off and entirely rest from cycling. When you get back in the saddle, you will be raring to go.
As a guideline, what speeds can you expect from a 63-year-old?
Well, do not expect Olympic track records. Keep his sights firmly on the gentle pace of the sport. As a Beginner allow him to have a goal of say 10 to 15 miles with an average speed of 12 miles per hour.
As his stamina and core improve, he can step up to a short-medium distance of say 20 to 30 miles with an average speed between 15 to 16 miles per hour.
After six months of regular training sessions, you can see if he can manage rides up to 40 miles with speeds of 16 to 19 miles per hour. But do not be surprised if he feels he does not need to push himself this far.
Now, if he turns out to be your superstar take him and his friends on a 50 to 60-mile charity ride, averaging a pace of no more than 20 to 24 miles per hour.
Help him to maintain his newfound self-confidence by engaging with other like-minded people.
I have always enjoyed the social aspect of cycling, It reduces the feelings of being isolated. Which in turn manifests into depression, and social withdrawal. Suggest your new convert to cycling becomes an active member of a cycling club.
Albeit, exercising by cycling is a great way to ward off age-related cognitive decline, never under-estimate the power of social interactions.
I look forward to one day cycling past you on the road of happiness.
Attributions and credits to:
Please forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Marcos, and I can be found in a fantastic new book in both English & Spanish titled
“Adventurous Tales from a Mountain Walk”
By Mike Bowley.
I am just one character amongst 23 chapters of short stories that all culminate together when a mountain ridge rumbles and groans. Who will survive to tell the tale?
Visit mikebowley.com to find out.
Many characters have secretly started to write new blogs and articles.