Can I Start Cycling If I’m Older? Try Some Fresh Thinking
Read on for some possible added freshness to your starting cycling thinking

Can I Start Cycling If I’m Older? Try Some Fresh Thinking

Hello to you, and welcome, Dear Reader! So what about this question: Can I start Cycling if I’m older? I’ve had cause to ask myself this. Maybe you’ve been doing the same lately. I’ve been cycling for the last 50 years, never too seriously. But that fact often seemed to count for little when every time I started cycling a different way, or with a different end goal, or noticed some other subtle or not-so-subtle bodily mechanical waver or fail, it felt as if I was starting afresh each time. It’s led me to think to myself, ‘so I can ride a bicycle, but can I really start cycling at my age, properly I mean, or am I just too old?’  Hopefully I can get across what I’ve learned cycling over the last 300,000-some-odd miles (yep I worked it out!) in a way that’s clear and of some utility to you dear reader.

In simple terms the question: “Can I start cycling if I’m older?” whether that older is 40+, 50+, 60+ or 70+ has for me across the span of all my empirical testing yielded an answer something like: absolutely, positively, and without qualification yes, you can!  

Wait just a minute, you might be thinking, there are exceptions to that unqualified ‘yes’ aren’t there? Cos when you get to my age and all, there are always exceptions. Well, there are considerations certainly. Some physical or mental health concerns can indeed block our ability, but moreover block our desire to start cycling.  That in turn suppresses any fledgling ‘I can be a cyclist too’ mindset we might be nurturing.

However, if we’re specifically asking can I start cycling if I’m older then there are no exceptions to my unqualified yes, you can start cycling at any age. Provided you’re capable of taking a measured approach, the only barrier to starting cycling at our age, whatever that age is, would be a bottomed-out level of desire to just get on your bicycle and start riding. And even if that’s the case, we can address that too.

Exceptions no, considerations yes

Allow me to specify a few things.  Firstly, I’d like you to appreciate that the question we’re going to answer, ‘Can I start cycling if I’m older?’ is asking about cycling with regard to age. That isn’t the same question as, ‘Can I start cycling if I’m older and have had knee surgery?’ That questions isn’t really asking about cycling and age. It’s asking instead about cycling and knee surgery. It’s the former question we can answer with the unqualified yes, whereas the latter question would be unanswerable except by yourself, or someone with intimate knowledge of your health.

And it’s to those folk, naturally I would defer and direct you to should you be seeking assessment for your suitability for cycling – or any sporting activity for that matter. I think that’s a given, right? What I’m saying here is that while starting cycling if you’re older is conditional upon many things, your age on its own is absolutely not one of them. So my unqualified, ‘yes you can start cycling if you’re older,’ absolutely stands 🙂

Secondly, the question I’m answering here is specifically what’s being asked: CAN I start cycling if I’m older. Because this is once again different from the question: HOW do I start cycling if I’m older?

That particular question I’ve tried to give a beginner guide to in another article that might be relevant to your searches: Can I Start Road Cycling at 50+? Absolutely! Here’s a Guide

Lastly, when we ask, ‘Can I start cycling if I’m older?’ what do we mean by older? Well, I’d think regardless of whether we’re 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, 60-something, 70-something or into the power years beyond, we mean older-than-someone-who’s-younger-than-me, don’t we? I hope to show you why the alternative, ‘fresh thinking’ in this article means the same logic applies whether you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70-plus.

The concerns that underpin the question?

When something’s changed in my cycling, for example, in my 30s I changed jobs for one further from home; too far for a daily cycle commute… Mind, I’d be able to manage that now! Ah but what did I know, I was only an neophyte, unworldly 30-something… Okay, where was I, yes I changed jobs, no longer cycled as a commuter, maybe had a lay off over the winter, never lost the bug though. I began cycling again shortly after, not as a seasoned hardcore commuter but as something else: a hobby rider. So when something changed like that, as it has done for me over many, many iterations, and I’ve felt as if I’ve gone back to square one, I’ve wondered of myself, ‘Can I start cycling now I’m older?’ And I realised there was more going on behind that question than the apparently simple question itself.

cycling-questions-fresh-thinking-for-starting-cycling-when-youre-older
Fresh thinking around starting cycling when you’re older? Okay how do we start?

So let’s see if we can sample some of this so-called alternative, fresh thinking so we can draw out a definitive answer.

Let’s go then. When I’m asking,”Can I Start Cycling if I’m Older?” is that really my main question? Or, could it be that my age per se is NOT the primary issue that’s driving that query? All specific health concerns aside, what is it I’m actually worried about? What do I fear most about getting a bicycle – or grabbing the one stashed away in my garage or basement – and just riding it?

Based on that line of thinking we can ask, 1. what are my actual concerns when it comes to starting cycling if I’m older, and 2. How do I address those concerns?

1. What are my ACTUAL concerns when it comes to starting cycling if I’m older?

Just as an fyi, as well as being a happy cyclist, I also work with clients as a cognitive and behavioural counsellor so I do a bunch of this kind of thinking, but in my professional estimation, and using my own experiences, maybe my concern about starting cycling if I’m older might, have its core somewhere else NOT concerning my age as much as concerning other aspects of me cycling such as being…

  1. worried about how I’ll appear to others when I’m on a bicycle. For example, I’m a bit overweight, or I don’t have all the proper equipment or bells and whistles and I’ll feel embarrassed, or at the very least self-conscious
  2. worried about how unfit I’ll be trying to ride the bicycle. Compared to younger people then me, I’ll be out of breath or red-faced and sweaty, that will make me focus on my age-related failings rather than my successes and achievements at getting on any bicycle

    cycling-questions-how-unfavorably-will-i-compare
    How unfavourably will I compare to other, younger folk?
  3. fearful of riding so slow that it will make me look like “an old person” in the eyes of others which is something I definitely don’t FEEL like I am!
  4. worried in the eyes of others I’ll be an old person trying too hard to look like a young person, neither of which I am or want to be, I’m just me!
  5. fearful of my balance not being as good as it once might have been resulting in me falling off the bicycle or crashing it, and at the very least looking like an old fool, or at worst, hurting or damaging myself or some poor innocent bystander in the process
  6. concerned about bicycles themselves not being what they used to be when I was younger and they were just a simple get-on-and-ride thing, whereas nowadays they’re horribly complicated and I won’t know how to use all the gears and equipment and I don’t want anyone thinking this is because of my age!
  7. worried about lack of current knowledge of these complicated bicycles and all the gear and equipment, could result in me being taken advantage of by the store salespeople, being talked into buying something expensive that’s the wrong thing completely or that I don’t need or want, or being patronised because of My age and lack of knowledge of the latest bicycle gear
  8. fearful of roads being hazardous and road users who are competitive for space are dangerous, and add that to my reduced distance perception or reaction times or impaired hearing or vision and we’re making a recipe for disaster!

That’s eight plausible sounding concerns to get us started. I’m certain though there’ll be other examples more specific to your own thinking. But all I want you to do at this stage is understand the tenor of my thinking here. And if any of those concerns – or similar ones – do reflect your own way of thinking, I’d want you to know they are all legitimate concerns regarding starting cycling, or in my case, feeling as though you’re starting cycling all over again. There aren’t any of those concerns I’d ever suggest we just ignore. Because for me, if they’re concerning enough to merit you asking the question that’s brought you here, then they merit getting cleared up so you can just go and get pedalling.

Hopefully you can see that while those concerns do indeed have validity, they don’t themselves count as rebuttals to my initial assertion that unequivocally YES, absolutely ANYONE can start cycling at absolutely ANY age. Nevertheless, in order to overcome those fears of starting cycling at your age, maybe it would be of benefit if we address those concerns together.

But before we do, and perhaps most importantly of all here – if you take nothing else at all from this article, I’d like you to notice this one thing – it’s that in each of these concerns, we’re having an underlying thought that is driving how we’re feeling about the situation.

I’ll explain that taking each of the examples above in turn. Are you with me so far?  OK then…

2. How do I address those concerns?

  1. I’m worried about how I’ll look on a bicycle, for example, I’m a bit (or a lot) overweight, or I don’t have all the proper equipment or bells and whistles and I’ll feel embarrassed, or at the very least self-conscious.
cycling-questions-worried-about-how-youll-look
Be honest, Susan, these stripes just aren’t doing my figure any favors are they?

Let’s pedal through this in logical order.

What’s a typical SITUATION here, real or pictured, that’s causing the concern?

The situation is that I’m overweight to some degree, but dressed up in cycling gear, which is, by definition, figure-hugging. What happens is that I encounter another younger, fitter cyclist and I can’t help notice they’re smirking at me.

And what am I THINKING in that situation?

They’ve saw my fat rippling through this tight cycling jersey or these hugging cycling shorts and they’re smirking. They’re thinking, pffft, imagine that fat lump dressed in that proper cycling kit riding around giving cycling a bad name, and at THEIR age too!  They may even say something offensive, laugh or mock me.

cycling-questions-what-others-think-when-i-start-cycling-at-50
So, what, now you’re all mocking me cos I look funny or something?

And, that being true, what FEELINGS does that thought bring about?

Well I’ll feel embarrassed, maybe even ashamed of my weight, and certainly for having the ‘barefaced cheek’ to try cycling in all that getup at My age!  At the very least I’ll feel self-conscious of my age and my physique.

And then what ACTION does that feeling cause me to take?

I may become more self-protected or defensive. Either I’ll ignore everybody in case they glance at me, or I’ll cover up to hide myself, or turn back and go home so I can disappear, or, if I’m still just thinking of starting cycling at My age, I’ll probably give up on that idea and not start pedalling at all!

And will that process have been beneficial to me, to my self-esteem and confidence, to my sense of satisfaction and achievement?

No, in fact the whole idea of starting cycling at My age will be dropped. I’ll be sad. I liked the idea of it.

Essentially right there, we’ve just covered the basics of CBT, or Cognitive & Behavioural Therapy, so well done if you’ve understood thus far. And if not, don’t worry. It’s not necessary or important, just that you get a gist of how our thinking controls what we do, or don’t do.

I’m not trying to subvert the simple answer to a simple question here. What I’m trying to do is to give a deeper understanding of the concerns potentially stopping you from starting cycling at your age. Why? Well so you can just get riding. So the question now is, how do we tackle the above merry-go-round of a process? Without wanting to go any further into the wherefores at this late stage, the most expeditious approach is to look objectively at that THOUGHT up there that kickstarts these processes that lead to us acting in certain ways.

So regarding concern a). “I’m worried about how I’ll look on a bicycle, for example, I’m a bit overweight, or I don’t have all the proper equipment or bells and whistles and I’ll feel embarrassed, or at the very least self-conscious,” we’ve divined that our actual thought in that instant when that situation kicks off is, “They’ve saw my fat rippling through this tight cycling jersey or these hugging cycling shorts and they’re smirking, thinking, pffft, imagine that fat lump dressed in that proper cycling kit riding around at THEIR age!  They may even say something offensive, laugh or mock me.”

So that right there what we’d call a Negative Automatic Thought

Negative Automatic Thoughts

Yes, it just kind of magickally popped into our head seemingly out of nowhere, didn’t it? That’s exactly it. It’s formed out of the fabric, weft and weave of our lives to date. That’s not important for now, I just want you to see how that thought that isn’t particularly beneficial to us. In fact it’s the crux of the problem.

So it’s automatic and therefore our thought is our thought, and there ain’t much we can do about that, right? Well, in part yes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t alter that thinking. I’m not suggesting we suddenly brainwash ourselves into some kind of cultish positive thought, no way dude. But what I am suggesting is that because how we think is indeed moderated by how our lives have been etc. that our thoughts aren’t always 100% objective and trustworthy!

cycling-questions-negative-automatic-thinking-when-starting-cycling-at-50
We’re not machines at all, but sometimes, our thinking is completely automatic in a negative way. Push our button and watch the show! Wait… Albert, I can see your reflection. You’re sitting there in the nude again, aren’t you?

In this case, we’re thinking that someone younger or fitter seeing me in tight cycling gear with my fat bearing out, is smirking at me or may even make a mockery of me. That thought may be true in fact. But how certain can we ever be that we’ve interpreted it correctly?  Could there be a chance because we might not view ourselves in the most positive light, well thinking we’re fat and old isn’t exactly seeing ourselves through rosy lenses is it, and therefore that we might be putting a negative spin on that situation?

Unless we’re clairvoyant!

Can we be sure that younger, fitter cyclist that passed is smirking for the one and only reason that we’re old and fat and wearing tight cycling gear?  Could they be smirking because of something else?  Are they even smirking at all?

I’m sure you take my point. It’s our own experiences and self-appraisals that moderate these thoughts. They take a simple situation and make it all about us. That other cyclist might be smirking because they’ve just told their horrible boss to stick their job. They might, on the other hand, just be remembering a joke. What I’m saying is, unless we’re clairvoyant! we don’t know for sure without asking. And we can’t guess what might happen ahead of time either.

Personally speaking – and maybe this goes for you too – if I pass someone in tight gear who is, or who believes themselves to be overweight and showing, will I even notice?  Possibly. Or possibly I’ll be thinking, “it’s a bit windy out today isn’t it!” or I’ll be thinking, “I wonder have I enough water to get around this route I’m on.”  What I mean is, I’m more often preoccupied with myself or how my own body’s reacting to the ride than with the person (you!) who happens to be out cycling too and who may or may not be overweight to some degree.

We don’t always notice every minutiae of everyone else

What I’m saying is that even if we think we’re the centre of someone’s attention, often people pay us no mind, so engrossed are they in themselves. We can all be that way at times, right?  We don’t always notice every minutiae of everyone else.

On the other hand of course, someone may indeed find my fat belly or fat ass funny when I’m out cycling in my cycling gear. They may think I look completely ridiculous. They may even laugh aloud. It’s rude, that’s true. It may even be done in a deliberately offensive manner.  But we can’t control other people, can we?  And here’s the thing. If they truly are the kind of person that mocks someone else different from them, ie. ME, older and with my bulging belly! then are they the type of person I care to impress or get right with?  We all want to be socially accepted but then again, we all have our own path to ride. I say if anyone requires you impress them by being something you’re not, are they the kind of person who’s worth the effort to impress? I think we’ve been there and done that and got over it, you’re with me on that, right?

A certain irony

As mentioned above, my response to non-beneficial thoughts about starting cycling if I’m older, or my actions might also cause me perhaps to be more closed off, more defensive. And in which case I’ll be unlikely to notice that other younger or fitter cyclist nod me a civil hello, which would kind of disprove the truth of my thought that ‘everybody will mock’. And certainly if my thought causes me to become closed off or wanting to hide away, I myself will be unlikely to nod a civil hello to that passing cyclist so I’ll never know if that was a friendly soul just pedalling happily on their own ride. You see what I’m pushing at with all this? There’s a certain irony in it all.

BALANCED thinking is the key

So if we change our THINKING in that situation we can just hop off that merry-go-round process any time we want. If instead, I now think, not in a more positive way, because that’s self-delusion, but rather in a more BALANCED way, taking equal account of both the good and the not so good, my thought might be more like:

“I am indeed a bit overweight and it is indeed showing through this tight cycling gear, but most other people are too busy with their own stuff to notice. If they notice, what are the chances of them even caring?  And if they care, and they smirk or they’re deliberately mean, are they the kind of person I care to impress or would want to change for?  I’m just me. I’m here how I am. This is how I look when I start cycling at My age. And I’m all good with that.”

OK so it’s a terribly wordy to illustrate the point, but if that thought were agreeable to you and didn’t feel like it was a self-delusion, can you see how it might encourage you to just start riding, you’d have the right gear for the job and you’d see that your age was no impediment to you starting cycling at YOUR age, right?  Doing so has now changed the entire situation. You get on your bicycle, you start cycling at YOUR age and you give yourself a jolly good pat on the back for doing it!  Don’t forget that last bit!!

Lastly, don’t forget if weightloss is a goal of yours at any stage, that cycling itself is a fantastic kickstart to any weight reduction programme. Weightloss can take time (Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was my belly! lol) but if you’re minded to, the process can begin just as soon as you get pedalling.

The desert island question

So if you’ve made it to here, you’ll hopefully understand that I wouldn’t wish to coerce you into wearing what you’re not comfortable wearing, that’s not what this is about. It’s about allowing you the choice to wear what’s appropriate for you and what you’re comfortable wearing on your bicycle rather than allowing your thoughts of how other, younger folk may or may not be judging your appearance dictate to you what you absolutely can’t wear, right?

For those reasons we’ve covered, you’ll understand too then why I’m not about to suggest you “size up” in the gear that you pick to wear, just to somehow hide or cover yourself away. Naturally we come in a multitude of body shapes and have varying predispositions to the old adipose tissue as we age. That means I’m not suggesting either that you bundle yourself into something that doesn’t fit your shape. But I’d always suggest you wear the garment and the size that’s appropriate for your shape, how it’s meant to be worn first and foremost. It’s just that often that happens to be reasonably fitted kit. Worst comes to the worst, look for cycling garments with “relaxed fit” or maybe “casual fit” depending on the manufacturer’s naming.

I’m not talking the super skinny skinsuits or anything. Most cycling-specific gear tends never to be excessively flappily loose, because that eventually just saps your energy. If you’re not persuaded to my argument, try and imagine you were alone on a deserted island (with pavement of course so you could ride on it!  But would you be comfortable in some cycling clothes on that island that you wouldn’t be were you cycling at home? If so, what do you think that demonstrates?

Why are cycling clothes so tight again?

Let’s talk shop here for a moment. The reason for cycling garments being the way they are is simple. They’re the most efficient and functional clothing items for riding at any speed over any distances. They’re stitched to hide the seams so there’s minimum chafing, the panel construction allows best articulation of your arms and legs and unrestricted freedom of movement for you on the bicycle. The materials they’re made from are often antibacterial which helps avoid skin irritations. Those same materials can create comfortable temperatures for varying weathers and allow airflow to take perspiration from the body and allow the garment to remain as dry as possible. In particular, the lack of excess material means there’s less to catch the wind when you’re riding, so your pedalling energy isn’t wasted.That’s what the marketing says. And I can attest to that as truth, fat belly or not! Anyway, the fat belly gets a nice massage riding in the cycling jersey, ahhhh…

cycling-questions-and-the-fear-of-not-being-skinny-enough
So I says to her, I says, let me tell you, Gloria, I’m planning to wear the cycling gear just as soon as I lose another pound or two

But seriously, there are plenty of fitted cycling tops, jerseys and shorts that are tailored for the more average man or woman, companies usually refer to something like having a ‘relaxed’ fit. Save the skinsuits for those folk whose bodyfat percentage is in the single figures. And if that’s you, and you’re in the 50-70+ age range, please do share your secrets! I’d welcome the info!

Whatever allows you to get out and ride

But if you remain unconvinced, that’s perfectly fine that you do. I can only urge that at the very least you de-prioritise  any concerns about shopping for kit in line with how you believe others will judge. I’m hoping to have given you the insight into being able to shop for the right reasons rather than prohibiting yourself from buying certain items because of the tendency we all have in certain circumstances towards negative automatic thoughts. If you’re starting out, just wear what you’re happiest wearing no matter what that might be, it’s unlikely to make or break your initial rides. All that matters is that you wear whatever it takes to get you out riding.

Summarising the first part

  • When asking, ‘Can I start cycling if I’m older,’ we’ve established one possible ACTUAL underlying concern is the potential self-consciousness we’ll feel when we wear fitted cycling clothing because of how we think we’ll be perceived by others.
  • We’ve established that often we can all have negative automatic thoughts that aren’t particularly objective or trustworthy (those fit kids will mock me in this getup).
  • And from those thoughts we take certain actions (hiding ourselves in baggy clothes or not starting cycling at all).
  • We’ve looked at how to consider more BALANCED thoughts (I might well look on the larger side in fitted gear, but cycling is about me getting fit, enjoying my freedom and I’m losing weight besides)
  • So if that thought’s agreeable to us and we can remind ourselves to adopt it as a ‘replacement’ thought it may give us more options in our subsequent actions (I can start cycling at my age!)

The other seven concerns b) thru g) above can be tackled in exactly the same manner as concern a) that we’ve just covered. If you feel you know how, feel free to skip over the latter part of this article. Otherwise, I’ll briefly outline the remaining concerns in the same fashion as above.

Continuing…

Our second underlying concern about starting cycling was that:

  1. I’m worried about how unfit I’ll be trying to ride the bicycle. Compared to younger people, I’ll be out of breath or red-faced and sweaty, that will make me focus on my age-related failings rather than my successes and achievements at getting on any bicycle

Now that we’ve done the hard work with the first example concern, maybe you can see how similar this one is?

What’s a typical SITUATION here, real or pictured, that’s causing the concern?

I’m out of shape, out of breath, sweaty and red faced from the effort of trying to start riding the bicycle. Other people out cycling look younger, fitter, are achieving more and generally having more successes with their cycling.

And what am I THINKING in that situation?

Seeing other comparatively younger fitter cyclists has me acutely aware of my age-related failings. I’m incapable of being as fit as those other cyclists and I think I’m just too old to be starting cycling.

And what FEELINGS does that thought bring about?

I feel foolish for thinking I could start cycling at my age amongst these other younger and fitter cyclists. I feel unable to achieve any success in cycling, or maybe anything physical or sporting. I feel old and that makes me feel sad, possibly at its extreme, lacking in basic hope.

And then what ACTION does that feeling cause me to take?

I’ll stop trying, I’ll stop pushing the pedals and slow down, accept that I’m too old to ride the bike fast like a younger, fitter cyclist. I may become more self-protected or defensive, or, if I’m still just thinking of starting cycling at my age, I’ll probably give up on that idea and not start pedalling at all!

And will that process have been beneficial to me, to my self-esteem and confidence, to my sense of satisfaction and achievement?

No, if I think I’m INCAPABLE of being as fit as someone else, there could be a built-in implication that I’m incapable of being fit at all. If I bore with that notion, I see it could push me down the hole of feeling not only old, but old without hope of achieving anything. Not only is that hopeless feeling a stymie to the whole idea of starting cycling if I’m older, but I know it can be a route to into depressive disorders.

cycling-questions-unfair-comparisons-when-starting-cycling-at-50
Why, who says I’m hiding? I’m back here.. fixing… bike things! Anyway, I’m not coming out until you stop comparing me unfavourably

Cutting to the chase

Hopefully you can see here again that it isn’t the situation or concern itself that’s the primary issue, rather it’s how we’re thinking about that concern that’s the dynamo for maintaining the downward cycle. Let’s cut to the chase as it were. Firstly let’s take that THOUGHT: “Seeing other comparatively younger fitter cyclists has me acutely aware of my age-related failings. I’m incapable of being as fit as those other cyclists and I think I’m just too old to be starting cycling.”  I think that’s three related thoughts that we’d get away with paraphrasing and distilling into this one: “My age means I’m incapable of being as fit as those other cyclists.”

If we were to alter that thought to a more balanced thought, notice I keep saying balanced, not positive!  Balanced implies objectivity, it’s not biased in an unfairly negative or positive way. So a more balanced thought in this case might be what?  What do you think?  Can you think of a more balanced thought?   What do you think of this?

“I may be older or less fit than other cyclists, but age is not the only determinant of capability, my perseverance, patience with myself and acknowledgement of my own success in doing so, is all I need to make appropriate fitness gains through cycling.” 

OK I’m losing marks for being too wordy yet again, but at least I’m consistent! Lol.  But as long as you get my point then I’m happy 😉

What do you think would be the effect on the above concerning situation regarding starting cycling if I’m older if I had that new thought or a balanced one like it?  Could it cause me to focus less on what I’m not currently capable of and more on making steady progress towards my desired fitness level?  Because when we’re starting cycling at OUR age, all we really need is a seed of faith in what’s possible that we can diligently tend. This is what starts the virtuous cycle of seeing success and congratulating ourselves for that success – no matter how small in comparison with anyone else!  That encouragement engenders more success and so on.

So hopefully you can see how we can examine our concerns from the inside. That way we aren’t dancing around the actual issue, but are grasping it at its core.

Congratulating yourself is crucial

In terms of gaining fitness by starting cycling, it’s another unconditional yes from me!  If I had advice for starting cycling at YOUR age (and by YOUR age, I mean my age and any age!), it would be to cycle regularly, little and often – a few times per week if you’re motivated enough to fit it into your schedule, and make it a habit. Following that, in my experience, it’s crucial to acknowledge your success in having got out on your bicycle and ridden it. You set a goal to ride your bicycle for just a short distance or short duration and you congratulate yourself for having achieved that simple goal. That’s a crucial point because it can encourage you to take more beneficial action.

Marginal gains, even for beginners

Then if you feel like it, try adding an additional ride of the same distance, or you could cycle the same number of rides but go a little further, maybe 10% further. Or you might want to try riding a little faster, just what you’re comfortable with. But each time, set your goal, make it a modest goal so you can absolutely guarantee you’ll achieve it with the level of effort you’re happy with, and be certain to encourage yourself when you’ve finished. That’s imperative!   Marginal gains is one of the buzz terms in professional cycling at the time of writing, but I think it fits here. When we start cycling at OUR age, we’re not doing ourselves any favours by overdoing it going for maximum efforts, that is a counterproductive strategy. Instead, it’s little by little, be sure to notice the improvements (Mindfulness is a great technique to becoming body-aware) and go easy on yourself. That harsh critical inner voice has a place. But it’s in a soundproof room!

The other typical concerns

OK so there are 6 remaining typical concerns that could be behind the question, “Can I Start Cycling if I’m Older?” and I’m not going to tackle them all in the same fashion. I have faith in you that, if you’ve managed to read to here, you’ve got a handle on what ideas I’m trying to put over, without me shoving it down your throat! 🙂  What I will do instead to finish off is to just throw in some tips relevant to those particular concerns.

Regarding worries over  starting cycling slowly and “looking like an old person”

Riding fast can be fun, for sure. Riding speed is all relative though, isn’t it. I’ve been cycling for the last 50 years, maybe more seriously for speed for the last 30-some-odd of those and I’m waaay slow compared to someone who races bicycles as a serious hobby. Of course they in turn are slow compared to professional riders.

But besides that, who ever advised a beginner to ‘ride as fast as you can’?

Ride slow, get the feel for riding, get used to what way your bicycle moves under you, practice Mindfulness over what you’re doing, listen to what your body is saying to you and don’t ignore it!  Above all, look around, feel the elements, find your joy in riding and use it to push you on!

As for looking like “an old person”, well I can understand that sentiment. But could it be that we grow to look like how we feel?  If, through our own efforts towards those aforementioned marginal gains in starting cycling, through setting modest goals for cycling regularly, and by developing our gentle inner voice that acknowledges our successes in those goals, can we start to feel capable and competent, at least in our cycling, and thus increase our self-esteem?  I believe that to be true. Will that affect the age we look outwardly?  Again, I have to say I believe it can. Please let me know what you think 🙂

Regarding fears of crashing or falling resulting from a lack of bicycle handling skill when starting cycling at YOUR age

Again, that’s a valid concern. My simplest advice is wear a bicycle helmet!  For me personally there are no exceptions to this. I understand that we all have our differing risk profiles and aversions so a helmet may not be for everyone. I can only advocate for helmets because in my experience cycling I find no advantage to NOT wearing a helmet. So I don’t have any good reason for not wearing one 🙂

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If you’re planning to fall off of your bicycle, choose somewhere soft to do it 😛 #heedingtheadviceofthepros

Secondly, pace yourself, take it slowly. I mean SLOWLY!  As with increasing your fitness, choose modest goals for riding the bicycle across a cycle path, public parkway or lot. And acknowledge success in achieving that goal. Once again, I’m assuming we’re talking here with the understanding that you’ve got green light on any physical or motor impairment  from your health practitioner!

With increased time on the saddle, you will without doubt gain proficiency and confidence riding and handling the bicycle. I would still urge prudence over speed and reckless abandon lol. Go easy on yourself when starting cycling. Give yourself time and space and the confidence can do nothing BUT come to you.

I would harken back to the notion that most others out there cycling are so engaged in their own activities and focussed on their own bodies, or the prevailing traffic conditions or other road users etc. that they’re paying less attention to what you and I look like that we probably imagine they do.

Regarding concerns over the complexities of bicycles themselves in comparison to simpler bicycles of times past

On the face of it, this is a well founded concern. Many aspects of bicycle componentry in particular is sufficiently different from componentry of seventy or eighty years ago to require some learning in their operation. I’m thinking in particular the deployment and use of gears moving from a single speed, push-off-and-pedal pre-war bicycle of the 1930s and three-speed Sturmey Archer geared Roadster or utility bicycles of the 1950s, we have bicycles now with more complex wirelessly operated gear shifters and derailleurs, hydraulically controlled brakes and suspension to name a few.

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Is that right, Norm? You mean they had wireless gear changing and hydraulic disc brakes back then too? What, but no pneumatic tires?

But these things are to make cycling more efficient and easier for us and ultimately more fun. I would simply say that a bicycle of today has considerably more similarities to a bicycle of eighty years ago than it has dissimilarities. Sometimes folk can state that a thing is more complicated than it is. Bicycle gears when starting cycling is a little like that. If I were being Devil’s Advocate, I’d wonder could the issue lie more with folks unwillingness to figure something out for themselves?  If you’re from my generation or before, you didn’t make it to here without a little figuring out stuff for yourself, right?

Lastly, regarding the fear of public roads being hazardous and road users being discourteous at best and dangerous at worst

This one is subjectively very true. The competitive nature of road users, be they drivers (and if you’re a driver I’m sure you can relate!) or motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, you name it, the shortage of space and the competition for that lack of space – I’m thinking urban areas in particular here – definitely could be a discouragement to start cycling at YOUR age; at any age!  Statistically, cycling accidents are not the most likely cause of injury or death on our roads. But our perception of risk and danger can temper the statistics and suppress our desire to start cycling.

I suggest once again, use of a cycle helmet. While plainly this doesn’t prevent collisions, it can protect should one happen. But I have seen enough near misses caused by apparently inattentive or distracted drivers, even among cyclists wearing high-visibility clothing. Your own alertness is key. I would always advocate against headphones for that reason anywhere you cycle where you’re sharing with motor vehicles. Finding quieter routes is preferable though not always practical. Once again, it depends upon your own risk profile. Taking adequate steps to build your own confidence in riding on shared roadways (it takes practice so take it slowly) increasing alertness and maximising visibility can’t eliminate, but can and do mitigate any risks, whether they’re real or perceived. Again, do what you feel you need to in order to give that piece of mind when you cycle.

I’ve given my take on cycling when you’re older in a video on CyclingQuestions YouTube channel.

Check out the other vids on the channel too while you’re there!

Final wrap up

This has been a fairly broad-brush approach to addressing some of the concerns about starting cycling at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and beyond as well as some Cognitive and Behavioural methodologies thrown in to help give you some insight into what causes us to ask, “Can I Start Cycling if I’m Older?”  I intend to write more specifically on many of these subjects in the coming months of my CyclingQuestions project, so please check back. And if you have any thoughts on anything I’ve covered, I’d very much welcome comments.

In conclusion, dear reader, if you’re like me, sometimes you feel your age. Personally speaking I have to perform some calculation or other to figure exactly what age that is!  But I regularly feel I’m not my chronological age. Maybe you do too. I’m just me and you’re just you. And yes, you can start cycling at YOUR age. Just get out and start cycling! And if you’ve any Cycling Questions, just ask!

Ride safe and have fun, David

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