Is cycling the new golf?
Geoff Gabites, a young 64-year-old, discovered cycling in his 40s and quickly turned the sport into an occupation. Adventure South was established in 1992 and is now the leading cycle tour company in New Zealand.
Over the last decade, cycling has emerged as one of the strongest recreational trends across the world. The growth in cycling has been brought about by the advent of four key elements – an ageing population determined to stay healthy, increased time available to pursue healthy activities, a need for social interaction to replace that lost by our retirement, and the mushrooming of new dedicated cycle trails providing a safe environment to pursue the sport – regardless of age.
Instead of taking up golf in retirement, I’ve seen more and more over60s looking to cycling. Unlike golf however, females are the early adopters of the sport. Our generations (the over-60s) are strongly represented with approximately 40 per cent of riders surveyed on the Otago Central Rail Trail being in the 50-plus bracket. My experience as a guided tour operator over the last 15 years in particular, has been the age of our clients have grown steadily older, as clients return year on year to enjoy more cycling trips.
This growth in the activity and the steadily increasing age of riders, is driven by our recognition that we need to keep exercising, and that staying fit is an absolute must as we advance in years. Add to this the increased time we have available as we embrace retirement and our family ties creating less demands on our time, and cycling became the ideal gap filler.
Equally our need for social interaction increases as we often lose the work place interchange. Our pool of people we interact with becomes smaller and tighter, and it takes just a small factor like a minor illness to suddenly feel the loneliness that often accompanies age.
It also helps that the government has allocated money to cycle trails around the country, providing us the opportunity to develop and pursue a healthier lifestyle.
Technology is also starting to play a role in our ability to remain riding as e-bikes are developed. Electric bikes aren’t motor scooters – but they do provide an amazing ability to cycle without much effort as the levels of power are engaged. They allow couples of differing fitness and ability to enjoy cycling together. But technology comes at a cost and developments and offerings are coming at an increasing rate, making the buying decision important to get right.
Personally, I have yet to find and enjoy the pure social pleasure of cycling and I look forward to that time after I exit from Adventure South at end June to begin what friends are telling me is the retirement years. I hope to connect up with a group of social riders and enjoy midweek afternoon rides, but until that happens, cycling is still a relatively solitary form of exercise. It’s certainly far easier on my knees than trying to run which I never enjoyed. Mountain biking has become a new passion for me as I rediscovered the joy of single track riding. However, having now guided family groups for many years on the new cycle ways where safety is a now given, I am looking forward to sharing some of these trails with my grandchildren – now ranging in age from 9 through to 13. An extended family trip on the Alps2Ocean trail this summer is already under planning.
For any over60s looking for a new activity (for both social and fitness reasons), why not give cycling a go? Over the coming weeks, I will provide more information and stories around cycling. How did it develop, who is riding and importantly, where are they riding? I’ll summarise eight of the best multiday trail rides around New Zealand – starting with the mother of them all – the Otago Central Rail Trail.