Guest Post-Cycling after 60

sharon2I feel a bit like an interloper here. I don’t think of myself as particularly fit – though I am not really sure how to judge that. And then there is the fact that I am more than a decade past 50. But I am a feminist and I do read this blog and when I saw Samantha’s question How Does It Make You Feel? I really wanted to answer it, partly as a way of saying “thank you” to her.

I started cycling about a year and a half ago. My first bike (see How Many Bikes is Too Many? ) was a mountain bike. I didn’t intend to use it for mountain biking exactly but a mountain bike seemed like it would be comfortable because of the suspension and those big tires made me feel safe. I’m an old lady after all. What I didn’t know is that I would want to go fast – faster than I seemed to be able to get the mountain bike to go –it’s just too heavy. It took a lot to get it moving and even when I thought I was flying along everyone was passing me!

The solution? A road bike. But getting a road bike meant that I would have to ride all hunched over with my feet attached to the pedals! Terrifying – and some little voice was saying to me that it was not something for sixty-one year old woman to do. I was faced with a dilemma – if this was something that couldn’t be done at sixty-one it was something that I would never do – and I really wanted to do it.

It was not the easiest of transitions. I fell more than once. There is nothing quite like feeling yourself falling over while your feet are immobilized. It happens in slow motion, like a felled tree going down, and all you can do is watch and anticipate the pain. I have a piece of road in one elbow as a permanent reminder of the learning process. But I haven’t fallen (not like that at any rate) in a while now and it is such a high to have learned something new and to get better each time I ride.

One of the big benefits of starting a new physical activity when older is that I have no point of comparison with a younger me – no regrets for lost strength, speed, or skill. Right now I can only get better – and I do! I started out struggling with 10 mile rides and I now routinely do 20-25 several times a week. I never used to ride where there were hills. I was afraid I would slow down too much and just fall over – does that even happen? This morning I did my best time so far up Torrey Pines (400 foot climb)  – 14 minutes at 6.2 mph compared with my first climb 17 minutes at 5 mph.  Okay, that’s not really very fast and I still get passed but I feel powerful going up and I feel like I am flying when I’m going down those same 400 feet. And, let’s not forget, I am 62 years old after all.

So this blog post has several messages. First, get a (at least one) bicycle. Second, don’t think you are too old to start something like this (I also started running at 50 – and there were similar pleasures in that experience). Third, if you are (almost) 50 there are good times ahead. Finally, a big thank you to Samantha – her Facebook status updates on cycling may have been the final nudge that I needed to get me out on a bike.

sharon

Biography: Sharon Crasnow teaches philosophy at Norco, College in Riverside County California and lives in San Diego. Fortunately these are both excellent places for cycling. Her philosophy research interests are methodology in the social science with an emphasis on feminist methodology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. She is the co-editor with Anita Superson of Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy and with Joanne Waugh of Philosophy Feminism and Popular Culture. She has two daughters, a stepdaughter, and stepson and is married to a pretty incredible political scientist who also is an avid cyclist.

8 thoughts on “Guest Post-Cycling after 60

  1. Tracy I says:

    Great post! Thank you so much. I can tell you from my own experience a couple of weeks ago that yes, it is possible to slow down so much on a hill that you just topple over!!

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  2. Jean says:

    Congrats. and welcome to the circle of older women cycling passionately ..for life.

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  3. catherine w says:

    Hi– I loved your post (and definitely am getting the Out from the Shadows collection– it looks great). Congrats on the new personal best on your climb– that’s some serious improvement, and it also shows what it’s like to be an athlete. We push ourselves (even when no one’s looking), take pride in our accomplishments and form ambitions for future goals. I restarted cycling at 43, and now (at 51) cannot imagine a life without it, even though I am sooo slow on hills. A friend once commented at the top of a long steep hill, “it’s impressive how you can go so slow and not fall over”. I choose to take it as a compliment.

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  4. Thanks for the comments! @Tracy – oh no! I was hoping that it couldn’t happen but a little thinking about physics should have made me wiser. Although @catherine – I am glad one can slow down a lot before it does. And Jean, thanks for the welcome.

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  5. mk4524 says:

    Not sure how I stumbled across this one but I too started riding late in life too. My son was born when I was 48. He went to a private middle school where mountain biking was part of the curriculum so I bought a mountain bike so I could sneak into his school rides as a “parent volunteer”. I was able to start off slowly riding with these kids although some of the rides were quite formidable. His 8th grade trip went from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, some 200 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing over 12 days. I kept riding after he quit and continue to mountain bike but I’m no where as aggressive as I used to be so I switched to road riding which I find is great for keeping me halfway healthy. I’m in my 70’s and not riding as fast as I used to but still getting some riding in. I signed up to do the Aids Ride again from San Francisco to Los Angeles but my main obstacle is raising the $3,000 to do the ride.

    So I agree, get a bicycle (or two or three) and it’s never too late to start riding. In fact, I find it much easier than walking and I’m able to get my heart rate going at a nice pace. I had open heart surgery a couple of years ago (aorta valve replacement so it was a pretty big one) and my cardiologist pointed out that because of my bike riding, my prognosis for recovery was very good. I did a 22 mile ride three months after my surgery.

    I was never an athlete and as my doctor pointed out, while my peers were playing a lot of team contact sports, they were getting their bodies beat up. In my case, my joints and limbs are OK so I’m in excellent condition to ride.

    I’m probably preaching to the choir but glad I started riding in my late 50’s.

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  6. […] ideas I’ve come to love. I get the same feeling when a friend buys her first bike (see here, here, and here) as I do when a student decides to major in Philosophy. I’m all “See […]

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