I read an article on cyclingweekly.co.uk recently about the issues faced by cyclists as they head past the age of 40. I read with interest, mixed with a touch of scepticism, and accompanied by a brief inventory of my body and the state of its various aches and pains.
My response to articles like these is usually linked to my general state of morale, and whether I’ve been a good boy lately with my extensive pre-bedtime stretching regime.
The gist was that, beyond the age of 40, we cyclists are plagued by all manner of minor issues which need managing. So, you take longer to warm up at the start of a ride, and longer to recover after it, and the prospect of a mid-ride café stop becomes more appealing and, apparently, your memory becomes so shot to pieces that you forget how old various pieces of kit and you fail to replace things when you need to.
Hang on a minute…memory loss!? Settle down.
By 40 we’re only just getting going aren’t we? I thought 50 was the new 40?
Having said that, I’ve already documented the comical decline in my hearing, and my first pedal strokes along the road to a world where I’m forced to carry an ear-trumpet around with me just so I know when I’m the butt of the joke in the café (admittedly, a hearing aid would be more practical, but less funny in the context of a blog post).
The general state of my morale is usually directly linked to the amount of bike-riding I’ve been doing, and the amount of sleep my young children have been allowing me. And both of these things are linked to pure blind luck.
If morale is high I dismiss this over 40 stuff with a contemptuous wave of the hand, and a noise that sounds something like: ‘pssssffffhh!’ I often follow this up with a detailed breakdown of all my recent achievements on the bike, and a direct challenge to any twenty-somethings in the room to test their endurance against me on a five–hour ride through the wind and rain at the next available opportunity.
No-one has yet taken me up on this, which I take as tacit acknowledgement that I can comfortably mix it with the best of ‘em.
If morale is not so good, the baggy eyes and furrowed brow tell a story that I prefer not to dwell on. Occasionally, though, there are little reminders of the passing of time.
On a Wednesday afternoon recently I found myself all but skipping home early from work, having safely negotiated an early finish on a still and sunny day, with the plan for a couple of late afternoon hours on the bike.
As I walked and mentally planned my route I spotted a friend out of the corner of my eye across the road. Turning quickly for a jaunty I’m-off-for-a-bike-ride hello, I painfully cricked my neck.
For the entirety of the next thirty five miles on the bike I was unable to turn my head to the right. Every pot-hole sent a shock through the nerves of my neck, and as I overcompensated for this awkward spasm I began to ache first in my opposite shoulder, then down my left leg, and finally down the centre of my back.
At the time of writing I am still moving around awkwardly, with a self-conscious stiffness, as if my spine and neck are fused. With this, and my less than perfect hearing, I’m painting a plausible picture of one of those over-40’s that Cycling Weekly seem so keen to caricature.
And the worst of it?
I’m only 39.