Safety Concerns for Older Riders -Portland Bicycling Club

Safety Concerns for Older Riders

I consider myself a member of the subset of older riders in our club. Generally, our septuagenarians and octogenarians are in much better condition than non-cyclists of the same age. However, there is no denying that we do not have the strength or endurance that we had 40, 20, or even 10 years ago.
When I joined the club 30 years ago, it was normal to ride 75 miles on a Saturday, 60 miles on a Sunday to cool off, and to perform yardwork in the afternoons. Now, 35 miles and an afternoon nap are standard. 

Sometimes we fail to recognize these changes and overestimate our abilities. Sometimes we experience fatigue on rides that interfere with our ability to think clearly or to control the bike. But either way, serious safety issues can ensue.

One of the strongest members of our club famously rode into the back wheels of a moving semi-truck years ago (fortunately, he was not seriously injured). Others have overexerted and lost control of their bikes and fallen. And some, who are prone to getting lost, continue to ride alone, with no one along to provide help if needed. Solo riders with impaired awareness can present more perplexing problems. We can’t control what others decide to do.

How we respond depends on the situation. If you feel that you are getting exhausted or not riding properly, don’t push on. Stop and rest (preferably with a riding buddy). There’s no shame in taking care of yourself, and it’s better to drop out of the ride than to be involved in (or cause) an accident. If you see someone whose riding seems impaired, tell them (they might not be aware). If they brush you off, have another rider back up your observations. And if someone else tells you that your riding seems impaired, believe them, and respond appropriately. They’re concerned for your well-being.

Remember that the best exercise for maintaining cardiovascular fitness is moderate. You’re doing much more for your health if you slow down and take shorter rides, rather than pushing for miles or speed. Plus, you’ll probably enjoy the ride more and feel better afterwards!

Doug Myers, Lame Duck Member at Large and Newly Minted Septuagenarian