Never too old to ride a bicycle; extreme example is 96-year-old

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Think you're too old to take a bicycle tour or long-distance bike ride? You're not.

The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) recently published its online survey of 5,900 cyclists from the summer of 2010.

The average age was 44.6 years old; 7% of the RAGBRAI cyclists were 65 or older, left.

When I left on my coast-to-coast bicycle travels many years ago, I feared I might be too old. I was 34. It seems laughable now, but bicycling seemed like such a youthful pursuit at the time that I thought I'd be one of the oldest folks on the road.

Not the oldest

Although we ran into quite a few recent college graduates, I wasn't the oldest cyclist by any means. In fact, many of the touring bicyclists we met were in their late 30s or 40s. I even recall meeting up with two retired couples.

The Adventure Cycling Association hosts numerous cross-country bicycle rides every year. The average age of the group's members is the mid-40s, with a spread of ages from the 20s to the 70s and occasionally the 80s.

Although the Outdoor Industry Foundation reports that 27% of the bike riders in the US are 45 or older, David Harrenstein of The National Bicycle Tour Directors Association told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the average age of participants in long-distance bike rides is about 50.

Many examples

I'm always running into examples of older folks who are staying healthy by riding bicycles.

— The most extreme lately is 96-year-old Jack Thacker of Naples, California, who rides his bicycle 12 miles a day down to where the Queen Mary is docked in Long Beach. His cardiologist told the Press-Telegram:

“His only drug is exercise. Obviously, the fact that Jack's not overweight is helpful, but he's always exercised and kept in stellar shape.

Al Emma, who at age 62 began a quest to ride organized centuries in all 50 states. He started in 2002 and finished in 2009. This year, at age 70, he completed riding a century in all of Canada's provinces.

— I thought I was a hot shot by riding 60 miles on my 60th birthday last January; that's until June when I met up with Bill Glaeser, who was riding a 70-mile loop around Lake Washington on his 70th birthday.

— At this year's Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (the Cascade Bicycle Club's 200-mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland in 1 or 2 days) the oldest cyclist was 87 years old.

— Then there's Heinz Stucke, the German who left home at 20 on his bicycle and has been traveling by bike ever since. Now 70, he's been traveling in the Americas the past few year. His story was published about 10 years ago at Bike China Adventures and there's an interview with him at Travelling Two.

There's probably no age limit to bicycle travel, as long as the person is healthy and can maintain a good sense of humor under occasional adverse circumstances (mechanical, bad weather, getting lost, etc.). I'm glad I fell into cycling at such a young age and have been able to keep at it over the years.

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1 ping

    • Michael Karpman on November 1, 2020 at 8:31 am
    • Reply

    I have ridden the annual Seagull Century for about 16 years. It begins at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD and goes to Assateague Island and then back to Salisbury University. This year due to the pandemic the ride was made “virtual.” That meant that each rider was to create their own route and send in the information. The ride was scheduled for October 10, but that was the day one of my daughters was getting married. Fortunately I could choose my own day to ride so I chose, October 26, which would be my 70th birthday.I ended up riding 106 miles (due to some wrong turns)

    I am curious if anyone knows the oldest age that someone has completed a century. If so, please post it here, with any links to stories about it. I plan on keeping it up as long as I can.

    Stay healthy and safe!

    • Al Emma on February 1, 2021 at 9:21 am
    • Reply

    In 2014, at the age of 74, I rode a bicycle 3872 miles in 52 days on a tour with America By Bicycle, Inc. We did a cross country tour. (San Francisco, CA to Portsmouth, NH). There were 8 days when we did a century. Have done a century or ultra in all 50 States and all 10 Canadian Provinces
    Lifetime: 100 organized ultras and century rides.

    Have done a marathon in all 50 States and all 10 Canadian Provinces.
    Lifetime:221 organized marathons and ultras. 215 of them after turning 70.

    Now 80, Covid 19 has cancelled most of my 2021marathons but did 3 in2020 after turning 80.
    Al Emma

  1. […] isn’t an age limit, there are no rules, it’s you, and the road. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You can stay wherever you […]

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