Taking up cycling in later life

·3-min read
Senior couple having fun together while cycling on bikes.
Senior couple having fun together while cycling on bikes.

With the Tour de France starting recently (1 July), perhaps you're feeling inspired to get out on two wheels. As a non-load-bearing form of exercise, cycling is excellent for older people or anyone with joint problems that prevent them from running. Cycling has also been found to help fight the physical ageing process, with elderly cyclists performing as well as healthy young adults on some tests.

Whether you're considering buying a bike for the first time since childhood or want to get more use out of the one that's languishing at the back of your garage or shed, we've got some suggestions to help you get back in the saddle.

See also: Four hidden benefits of cycling

See also: Cycling to work halves risk of cancer and heart disease

Choosing a bike
If you don't have a bike yet, it's worth asking friends who ride for their advice - and perhaps to recommend a trustworthy local bike shop to make sure you end up with the right steed.

For those who lack the flexibility of their youth, yet want a road bike with dropped bars – there are now many "sportive" or "endurance" bikes which offer a more upright and relaxed riding position.

Hybrid bikes with road wheels but a flat handlebar offer a still more upright position and are ideal for the kind of shared-use traffic free trails often built on old railway lines. Mountain bikes are still very popular, with the increasing popularity of larger 29in wheels meaning they carry speed better and are more versatile for mixed on and off-road riding than in the past.

Join a beginners' ride
British Cycling might be best known for their gold-medal winning efforts at the Olympics, but the sport's governing body has made big efforts to increase participation in cycling in recent years.

Now sponsored by HSBC UK, the organisation's Let's Ride programme offers a number of options to help newcomers or returning riders find the right group ride for them. There are guided rides led by local riders, "Breeze Rides" just for women and "City Rides" which take place on closed roads in UK city centres. Check the Let's Ride website for more information.

Find a club
If you've seen cycling clubs out on the road in matching team lycra you might get the impression that they're only for the super-fit, however that's often not the case at all. Many clubs offer rides for beginners which are ridden at the pace of the slowest, and often with a stop for tea and cake en route.

There are also many midweek, daytime social rides which often attract retired people – taking advantage of quieter country lanes when others are working.

British Cycling's website also allows riders to find out about their local cycling clubs, which will usually allow potential new members to scope out whether they think a club might be right for them.

It's also worth looking for local cycling groups on Facebook, where more informal rides are often organised – and where it's easy to make enquiries about the level of fitness expected.

Get charged up
The fastest-growing sector of the bike trade at the moment is pedal-assist "E-bikes", which use a battery and motor to allow riders to cover more ground with less effort. These are available in both road and mountain bike variants.

They are limited by law to 15.5mph before the motor cuts off, but that makes them ideal for leisurely riding or commuting – and they have even been used by former pro riders heading into their 80s.

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