Cycling is an excellent activity for all ages, especially seniors. Riding a bike involves smooth motions with low impact that puts little strain on a body for all ages. It is an activity that enables seniors to move and be active even as they get older. If you are new to cycling, returning after a break, or currently a bike rider debating whether to continue cycling as you age, there are some things you need to know to be comfortable and safe riding a bike as you age.
Benefits of Cycling for Seniors
Biking is considered a good activity for baby boomers because it has these benefits:
Popularity of Biking on the Rise
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-22 accelerated the trend for outdoor activity for all ages and cycling is one activity that saw an increase in participation. The renewed interest has prompted communities in all 50 states to build paved paths for use by bicyclists and pedestrians. There are also 25,000 miles of trails built on former rail beds. Bike lanes designated with paint and with barriers separating areas from cars are also being designated on roads. This bike infrastructure is not only being build in the US but all around the world making bike rides safer for locals and visitors alike.
Safe Senior Bicycle Riding
If you are concerned about how safe it is to ride a bike as you get older, know that preparation and proper equipment will enhance your safety and well-being.
Tips for Selecting the Best Bike for Baby Boomers
There have been many advances in bicycles over the years. They are lighter, have an updated geometry based on what riders want today that is different from what was available when seniors were kids. There are many different styles for every person’s riding goals.
The most significant innovation today in bicycles is the electric bicycle (ebike) and these are a fast-growing segment of the global bicycle market and are especially relevant for senior adults. The motor and battery on an ebike provide assistance while the rider is pedaling giving an additional boost called “pedal assist.” This enables the rider of an ebike to tackle hills with little additional effort and ride farther and longer without becoming exhausted. Some ebikes include a throttle making it possible to ride without pedaling for a short distance. Seniors who use a bike to carry a heavy load (i.e. transporting children, carrying groceries), want to ride further than they would normally on a non-assisted bike, be active in spite of physical limitations, or ride with a faster friend, should consider an ebike.
Other tips for selecting the right bike for seniors include:
Bicycle Styles Popular with Seniors
There are bicycle styles for everyone from the serious athlete using a bike for a workout and to obtain or maintain fitness to the casual rider who wants to ride around town with a little low-impact movement for transportation or recreation. Most older adults prefer a bike designed for comfort and ease of use but can take on the occasional fitness jaunt. Here are some popular styles:
Fitness hybrid – a hybrid is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike and is the perfect all-round bike for casual riding or fitness ride around city and suburbs on a paved or packed down trail or road. These feature an upright riding position, medium width tires, flat handlebars, and seven to 24 gears.
Comfort hybrid – this may also be called a “cruiser” bike because it features an upright riding position supported by a wide, padded saddle with a suspension seat post, wide tires, lightweight shock absorber in the front, and swept back handlebars with 3 to 24 gears. Some come with smaller tires 26 inches in circumference, others come in 27 inch or its close cousin, 700C and step thru or low step frame.
Foldable bike – a bike with 20 inch wheels and a frame that folds in half, saddle that tilts up, handlebars that fold down and pedals that retract take up less storage space and can be easily transport in a RV, SUV or minivan with no bike rack required. The smaller wheels makes them low to the ground with enables them to fit shorter riders. Downsides are the smaller wheels which are are appropriate only for slower, shorter trips and, even though they are more compact, they are just as heavy both folded and when riding.
Adult trikes – riders with balance issues might consider a bike with a third wheel, either two in the front and one in the back or one in the front and two in the back. A trike is more stable to ride on flat surfaces. Downsides are since they have an additional wheel they are heavier, not suited for riding up hills, feels like tilting to the right on road that are dipped lower at the shoulder, and the large size makes them difficult to transport. There are electric versions.
Recumbents – these specialty bikes feature a sleek design with a laid back, low to the ground riding position that provides good hip and back support. Because the market is smaller for these bikes they are harder to find and are more expensive.
If you are of the age where you have more leisure time like many seniors have, cycling is a great activity that gets you outdoors, moving, exploring new places, and meeting new people. The old saying is true, that once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget, so hop on your saddle and ride and rediscover the freedom and joy of riding a bike once again.
Earth Rider Blog about Cycling
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories