Can you be too old to start mountain biking? Well if you assume that being old means being unfit, then yeah you can be too old to do a lot of things, but of course we know that’s not the case.

Just like people of all ages vary in fitness, bike trails vary in difficulty. So if you’re fit enough to ride a normal bicycle around town, you’ll be fine riding a mountain bike on novice trails. But what if you want to take it further?

I didn’t start riding with Steven until around 12:30, and by then he had ridden the whole morning—after pedaling here from his house. Someday, when I get older, maybe I’ll have as much endurance as he does. Steven is an XC or Cross Country mountain biker. Like Cross Country Skiing and Running, his focus is on endurance and speed. While today’s XC mountain bikes can take the sting out of bumps and drops, they’re stiff and rigid compared to trail bikes. They also have a geometry which puts you in an aggressive, forward position. Steven rides his XC bike over the most difficult trails here, keeping low over jumps and drops to maintain his speed. In the ridiculously humid, midday heat of South Florida, I almost ran out of water trying to keep up with him.

So how long has Steven been mountain biking. (clip) You heard right, Steven started mountain biking at age 55. He was riding the dirt fire road with his son, and was forced into the trails because the path was blocked. The rest is history. Now I don’t consider 55 or 62 to be all that old, but I get emails from people in their 40’s who are wondering if they can start mountain biking. Well, stop wondering, and start riding.

Richard is very well known here at Markham Park.

Besides having a hand in building almost every trail here, Richard tests all the features himself, from rocky descents, to drops, to jumps… especially jumps.

This new table top and berm are pretty easy to session by looping around part of the trail. I saw a lot of people ride this feature today—and here comes Richard.

Richard and I have a very similar riding style, in that we’re not content with just pedaling through the trails. Anything that’s possible to get rad on is fair game. Richard has the right bike for the job too. While Steven’s bike is mean for XC, Richard rides a trail bike with a dropper post, and plenty of suspension travel.

Having ridden motocross for the better part of his life, Richard just can’t stop jumping around. Considering how hurt you can get riding motocross, mountain biking is actually a less risky activity, but that doesn’t make it any less physically demanding. I’ve seen guys my age walk some of the features that Richard pedals right through.

Both Richard and Steven are here at the trails almost every weekend, and indeed there are plenty of people in their age bracket competing at local races. For anyone who participates in action sports this wouldn’t be too surprising. Mountain bikers, surfers, rock climbers, and everyone in between know a handful of people twice their age, out there doing the same thing.

So, besides entering the play area at McDonalds, or being tried as a minor, there aren’t many things you can be too old to do. An activity like mountain biking is a great way to keep your body and mind young. It’s something you can improve at rapidly, and use to benchmark your fitness and agility. So getting back to our original question, I think that you could be too old to not start mountain biking.

Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll see you next time.


# Comments

  • k2rider

    I was on a shop ride in Hurricane, Utah a couple years back and we were riding up on the Guacamole Mesa. I was riding with an “older” gentleman that I guess was probably 60 years old. During the ride, one of the local regulars didn’t make stover a rock feature and the shop owner/ride leader jokingly gave him a hard time. The ride said “give me a break, I’m 56 years old”. The guy I had been hanging with piped up, “that’s not old, I’m 72!!” It was at that point that I decided that I had a long way to go (I was 48 at the time) and totally inspired me.

    As I dropped him off at the shop, the guy told me to look him up if I ever made it to Sun Valley. I asked who I should ask for and he said “just ask for Andy, everybody knows me”. Once I got home, I googled him and found out he was a 2-time age group National Champion for marathon MTB races. Obviously, you’re never to old to get out and ride….and excel.

  • Brian Kennelly

    On my way to join my brother for a mountain biking holiday. I’m 66 and he’s 70. We’ve both been mountain biking since the 80s. I just finished a 1000+ km MTB trip across the province in under 7 days. Good times just keep rollin on.

  • asasailor1

    I started when I moved from suburban NJ to Staten Island, a borough of NYC. I couldn’t ride a rode bike here, too congested. A ski buddy gave me a mountain bike and told me of the Greenbelt. Eventually, I left my Trek 12 speed in the basement of an apartment. In my home I have 2 bikes now. Hard tail and dual. Fruita & Loma last year. Road trip commencing in 14 days. Repeat of last year with Moab. 64 years old. I can’t ride enough because retired life gets in the way. Sailing & USCG captain. Oh, I did play golf today, lol
    Life couldn’t be better! I’m satisfied with my high intermediate skills on the bike. Riding 2-3 week. I like all the other stuff, so lets call me Jack, of all trades.

    I have this saying posted on my wall and in the garage…

    Finally, the goal…
    Walk into my home in the evening, the same way i walked out. one step at a time.

  • bcottrellthompson

    One of my favorite people to ride with is 72. He is in better fitness than myself (I’m 40) and I have a great time chasing him in the woods. As long as your body and mind can handle it, too old is something that should never be uttered. Everybody get some!

  • ironhead700

    I guess age isn’t really an important factor – after all everyone rides within their respective capabilities based on many factors such as fitness level, skill level, experience, trail conditions, quality of bike, etc and the ability to take calculated risks based on these factors. But it is good to see all ages enjoying the sport.

    • asasailor1

      You hit a BULLSEYE!
      Well said Ironhead!

  • hproctor

    I was already 60 when I bought my first bike. Less than 3 years later, I’ve logged over 6,000 miles, in 18 different states and one Canadian province. Never to old or to late!!!

  • Bruce

    I was 52 when I started mountain biking with my son. I’m 71 now and still hitting the trails in Marquette , Michigan. I can still ride technical terrain, though I have eliminated a few of the high-risk trails from my repertoire. I usually do two or three XC races a year. A couple of years ago I ditched my XC bike for a trail bike. Not as fast, but a lot more fun. Get out there and ride!

    • asasailor1

      Great! I’m planning a 2017 trip to Michigan and Minnesota areas. Upper P area of Mi, any suggestions of areas to ride? I use a trail bike too. Thanks

    • Bruce

      Marquette and Copper Harbor are must-rides. A couple of days for each. Lodging can be challenging in Copper Harbor (it’s a very small town) so you may have to look elsewhere. Lot’s of lodging options in Marquette, but they’re full in the summer, so plan ahead.

      There are also good trails in Houghton although I haven’t personally ridden them.

      Copper Harbor trails are very scenic but can be challenging (blue squares might be black diamonds in other places), but there is a range of difficulty.

      Duluth, MN is also a well known destination for mountain biking, but I haven’t ridden there.

      My local trails are so good (Marquette) that it’s hard to justify traveling to ride elsewhere!

      Have fun!

  • William Engebretsen

    I started four years ago. I ride mostly Intermediate trail, but I love it to death. I’m very conservative and don’t let my wheels leave the ground very often. The real challenges aren’t keeping up with my 28 year old son, but keeping going week after week and getting in shape. Every now and then I beat an old pace I set at a certain trail, that’s encouraging. Last year (2015) I rode 94 miles of single tack trail, this year (2016) I’ve already matched that and there’s still plenty of riding days left this year. I certainly hope one is never too old. BTW I’ve also left about 25 pounds on the trail this year.

    • asasailor1

      Yes, i don’t allow, or try not to allow the wheels to leave the ground too. Same for skiing and boating…. lol
      Smartest precaution to be taken ensuring our next birthday without injury too. RIDE ON

  • Edslittleworld

    I understand the overwhelming optimism on this subject and everyone’s glory stories on knowing some 85 year old that still competes in open class races, has a 25 year old girlfriend and arm wrestles college kids in bars…but I don’t think this question has been properly answered.

    While even I (at 52) still ride the advanced trails in my area on my new Tallboy…I do realize that I won’t be able to ride like this forever…and really…do I want to? Do I want to be hucking & crashing when I’m 64? Probably not. Do I still want to ride? I sure hope so.

    So, the question (just like in motorcycle forums) is when one should stop mountain biking. I think it’s when you don’t feel comfortable or safe riding on skill levels that were easier years back. Then, one should either scale back or possibly seek less dangerous and/or lower impact activities.

  • OMR

    You ride until your body doesn’t let you anymore. We are all little boys in big boy bodies. Our wives know this if they are smart! As mountain bikers, our best days are riding Pisgah or Moab trails. I so totally love this sport! It gives me a reason to look forward to something such as building up my latest bike… a 160mm of softness.
    OMR (Old Man Riding)
    75 years young going on 18!

  • Chris Pickford

    It’s sad to see some of the friends I used to ride with when we were in our 20s and 30s give up mountain biking and become sedentary as though once they hit 40 they can’t have fun anymore. I am all for doing as much as you can when you are young but I think that mountain biking and other outdoor adventures have become more significant and important to me as I have gotten older.

  • gerryl

    I say keep riding as long as you feel comfortable within your abilities. I am 57 this fall and love it. I broke my clavicle the end of July. The pain / recovery time has been a real bummer. Regardless, I plan on riding as long as my knees allow me. I hope to get on my bike in the next two weeks in order to ride some this fall before the snow flies.

    Was I riding over my abilities? Not sure, as I rode drops like the one I crashed on numerous times. I have never been interested in keeping up with my kids, and they know that.

    It is a great family activity before kids head off to college, etc.

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