I am lucky to talk to people about new bikes all the time, people of every stripe. There are a fair few who are genuinely trying to go fast, either to beat up on their friends on a weekly throw-down ride, or to achieve some real race or distance goals. And then there’s another category who all want, basically, “to just keep riding as long as I can.” These are my favorite people to talk to, with the onboard humility of having once been fast, lost that, and then come back to some pure place, where they appreciate every day on the bike, no matter what.
Many of them are older, of course, but some too have had accidents, illnesses, or injuries that put them off the bike, sometimes off their feet entirely, for long periods, former military maybe, or serious diabetics, cancer survivors, and people who didn’t manage to walk away from a car accident, but learned to walk again and now want to ride. You can hear in their voice that they’re excited even to be considering a new bike.
So sometimes I think about how much road is left in front of me. This is, touch wood, a mostly academic exercise. I’m 46. I’m in excellent health. I try not to think too hard about illnesses, because I imagine you think plenty hard about them when you actually have them. The average life expectancy for an American man is currently 76.3 years, a few more because I live in Massachusetts evidently. So that means I have 30 years give or take, maximum riding left.
How many of them will I ride?
That’s not this week’s question. That’s the question I ask myself. I’ve watched my father’s physical deterioration, exacerbated badly by Parkinson’s disease, and noted the way his body changed and became less able. I see his peers, some of them spry still, buy many hobbled by back and hip issues, lack of muscle mass. They don’t walk well, even if they can still ride. And I know that even then, you CAN ride, but you have to maintain the will to do it. You have to continue to find the joy in it. Am I that kind of resilient? I don’t know.
This week’s Group Ride asks, how long will you ride? I know that some of you are older than others. Maybe you can give us your view, physically, from where you are and illuminate the challenges, if there are any. I’m not as fast as I was, but I may be a better bike rider generally, and I enjoy that part of riding much more now than I used to like duking it out with faster riders. Maybe I’m just and old (slow) soul.
Image: Podium Cafe