Our Head of Behaviour Change Innovation shares her experiences with becoming a cyclist and feeling like an athlete for the first time at age 50.
I’ve written previously for BetterPoints about how much money I’ve saved not owning a car, which you can read here. You’d think that giving up my car in 2000 would have led me straight into cycling – but I was living in Montreal where it’s often below zero, and cycling never seemed like a good idea to me when there was a metro station and various city buses quite close to my place.
A cyclist friend offered us some bikes a few years back. She and her partner had a folding bike they weren’t using, and they’d been given another that they thought would be perfect for my partner Steve. Little did they know that it would ignite a crazy fire within Steve, who had been a cycling enthusiast when he was younger, into a love of long-distance cycling that has been his absolute obsession over the last 5 years. I took a little longer to get me started but I must admit that cycling is one of the best things in my life and has changed me for the better in every way.
Being quite tall and stocky, I’ve always felt a bit awkward in my own skin. Certainly, the idea of dressing myself up in skin-tight clothes and getting on a road bike seemed fairly ludicrous. I only noticed the tiny women flying by on bikes and sailing up hills whilst I huffed and puffed my way up a slight incline. And yet, she persisted. The freedom and beautiful feeling of being outdoors, the wind on my face, the tired glow I felt after each time out on the bike and the joy of riding with friends was wonderful enough to keep me coming back for more and more. I went from barely being able to cope with 5 miles to being able to do 40. After all these years, I realise that these stocky legs are the perfect engine to propel me into spaces I never thought I’d go – up hills and into sweet quiet spaces where I’m truly ensconced in the moment. Thinking of nothing but the next climb and often – of the next cake to fuel my engine!
Wanting to go further – I bought a second-hand e-bike a few months back. I’m happy to say that I’ve just returned from an 80-mile weekend cycling trip. Far from cheating, the eBike allowed me to go further and faster up hills when I needed the assistance – but I still burned 2,500 calories over the two days. It’s given me the confidence to say yes to adventures I never thought I’d say yes to, not to mention that carrying 25kgs of shopping up my hill is no longer a chore. When I get on my normal road bike now, I’m stronger and faster and more efficient on hills.
I’m still often the biggest woman I see out on a bike, but I no longer shy away from lycra. I only think about what this body can do and how far it can take me. I am at almost age 51, and for the first time in my life, I feel like an athlete.