Cycling for the over 40’s (in your 30’s)

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?

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Jens Voigt not doing too bad in his forties (Image: sum of marc via Flickr cc)

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.

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Jens Voigt (Image: via Wikimedia cc)

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.

Jackpot!

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.

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16 comments

  1. Interesting. I didn’t start riding until I was nearly 40. Now at nearly 60, I can outlast many 30 year olds I know. I’m in better shape than when I was 25. I have the creaks of many 60 year olds, but they go away when I ride. There is a degree of truth that age is just a number and an attitude. I’m planning on retiring in about 7 years and it’s then that I’ll have the time to ride across this country. That’s most definitely the plan!

    Liked by 3 people

    • One of the great things about cycling, it seems, is that you can retain your endurance until later in life. Your plan sounds great – although I’m in no hurry to retire just yet the extra cycling time definitely appeals!

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  2. I didn’t start running until I was 38, and not seriously until I was 43 or so. I never had aches and pains until I started running seriously. I thought the aches and pains were related to running, not age. 😉
    Enjoy the young kids while you. Mine are off to college and careers, so plenty of time for running and blogging.
    Cheers – Andy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m 67 and the big difference I notice on big climbs compared with when younger is that I don’t have an explosive acceleration.Apart from that, going up the big cols round here in the Pyrenees is still ok, just at a steadier and constant speed. The short steep climbs are ok too – but with a 34-28 ratio! But in the end, it’s about weight (I’ve lost 18kgs in the last 2 years) and the “mentale” as the French say …

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember this article via Twitter & was pretty appalled by it. I found this article to be witless and littered with unimaginative, shabby writing and a lack of credible evidence.
    Thankfully this level of journalism will fade now that the pro racing season is nearly upon us so that my timeline isn’t cluttered with such nonsense. I liked this post and think that CW have a worthy replacement…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m 38 and sometimes feel like every part of me is wearing out far quicker than they should.. then I see old classmates and take in their over sized bellies and thinning hair and realise I’m actually in pretty good shape 🙂

    I didn’t read the article but I’m going to now, even if it it gives me something to laugh at

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s it, those are the guys to compare yourself too. There are several lads in their mid-twenties who I ride with at times, and although I can happily hold my own, I do sometimes have to disguise the odd niggle here and there!

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