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This guy isn’t letting age stop him! Photo: Snow Bike Festival / Zoon Cronje

I’m feeling old today. I’m riding this damned bike up this damned hill, and I’m feeling old. My old knees hurt, my half-healed rotator cuff hurts, hell even my butt hurts. I’m feeling like a battered old man with a battered old body, and I’m climbing up this hill for no good reason that I can discern. I was up ’til nearly 4am after too much coffee yesterday. So now I’m riding on 4 hours of sleep, and I’m tired, and I hurt.

I planned to leave by 8 or 9, but ended up with morning grandpa duties instead. So now it’s past noon, and it’s hot and muggy as a rainforest. I struggle up the climbs, unsure of where I am. Switchback 12? 10? Is this climb ever gonna end? Finally, I reach the crest, head up the red leg, and top out on the ridge. And I realize I’m done. Spent. No más.

I hang my head in shame; I’ve made this climb dozens of times before. Hell, maybe I am getting too old for this. Maybe it’s time to shelve my knobby tires. But then the breeze picks up, and I raise my head and take a look around. No one here at the top but me and the trees. Nobody else out here, busting their hump and climbing the mountain on a sticky July afternoon. 15 switchbacks and I didn’t push a lick of it, I think. Guess that’s not too shabby for an old guy charging past the double-nickel.

Photo: Timm Muth

Some perspective filters in, like sunbeams through the leaves, and I see instead that this isn’t a fail. I rode my bike up to the top of this friggin’ ridgeline without so much as someone to holler “Attaboy!” And if I want to skip the rest of the loop, and just roll back down the mountain, then I’ve damn well earned it. So I turn my bike around, grab a quick drink, and point the wheels downhill. I get two cranks into it, and the wind washes away all my doubts. I catch some air, and my soul starts to fly. I dodge the big dead oak without even tapping my brakes, with just a little side hop and a wiggle. And I realize once more, that I belong here, that I deserve to be here: on my bike, in the woods, riding like a crazy old geezer.

I feel like a kid again. I’m flying back down the mountain, and I feel 30 or 20 or maybe 12 years old. My bike’s bucking and bouncing like a pissed-off mule, and nothing hurts except the grin on my face. I feel strong and alive, without a pain or a worry. I hit a string of four hops in a row, and laugh like a fool for no good reason. I drop through the last pack of switchbacks, then roll to the end of the trail, feeling blessed, like I’m king of the mountain. Blessed to be in the woods. Blessed to still have a healthy body. Blessed to have the time and the energy and wherewithal to be out riding. And the truest blessing of all? A little perspective.

Photo: Timm Muth

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# Comments

  • Plusbike Nerd

    I’m almost 60 and I am in better shape than when I was 40. I have more time to ride now than I did then. My kids are mostly grown. I don’t work as much as I used to. Bikes are better and more rideable than ever. Modern geometry and Plus size wheels really help. I can’t imagine giving up mountain bike riding because I have never come up with a more fun way to stay fit. I’ve tried jogging, swimming, working out at the gym, etc. and nothing compares with getting out in the woods and having a good spin. Maybe, I’m a pagan? I require frequent attendance at the Church of the Tall Pines and the Chapel of the Snow Capped Mountains. If I quit riding I would likely end up an over-weight, depressed diabetic with high blood pressure. So, to the best of my abilities, I will keep on turning the cranks.

  • Chris Callahan

    Still at it at 65+…also have a new knee and rotator cuff repair. Two surgeries in one year — didn’t go through that to sit on the couch! Bought a new bike, using a March race to prompt my full attention to getting back into top shape, well, for me.

    I figure I’ll revisit quitting mountain biking when I turn 80. By then, technology will have lightweight e-assist bikes and that should extend my “best by” date to eternity.

    Keep riding!!!

  • rmap01

    Never let age define you. At 51, I am probably the most fit I’ve ever been. Over the years I’ve come to realize that age is just a number you use to fill out forms. It should not define who you are or what you are capable of doing. Whereas your “ceiling” may be lower – in terms of physical potential – how many of us have ever max’ed out our potential? There is always room to grow and improve regardless of age. To me, you are only as “old” as you allow yourself to feel… and there are plenty of “old” 20 and 30 year olds out there that you can smoke on those climbs regardless of how grueling they feel.

  • Greg Lytton

    54 here. The only time I think I’m getting too old is:
    1. Beginning of season when you are getting back into top shape. Around here it’s March and
    2. When you wreck. Man it takes awhile for a broke bone to heal as you get older. Only a finger this year thank goodness.

    I used to ride to improve my times. Now I ride to maintain my times haha. Sometimes though, when you are out on a solo ride and nobody for miles around, I just slow down, ride slow and enjoy the scenery because i know i have less years ahead than i have behind. I want to enjoy every minute!

  • Dirk Racine

    56. Sunny today, 18 degrees, off to the local trail to reverse the rewind clock……

    • Timm Muth

      Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night …

      Ride on!
      Timm

  • Wryfox

    I’m in my late 50s and healthier now than 10 yrs ago when I was 30lbs overweight, resting heart rate 92, BP and cholesterol sky high, working myself to death. I thought I was important as a corporate executive. Look at me, right? Big man on campus. It took a stroke(thankfully non permanent) to wake up. Almost 9 months to recover. It took that time to remember all the times my wife, friends and parents told me to slow down(oddly enough no one at work ever told me that). I could barely do 5 minutes on a treadmill due to the heavy BP medication. I picked up the old mountain bike my father in-law had given me 10yrs before and had never touched til then. Slowly but surely I rode around the block, then weeks later the neighborhood. At the same time I begged my boss to allow me to change jobs due to my health. He agreed reluctantly but never forgave me (I later quit) A fellow I met in my new position told me to try riding in the woods..I said are you crazy? He said its the latest thing, and he went with me to a small park with small hills and I tried it out. The hook was set that day. Today, 30 lbs lighter, cholesterol 100 pts lower, resting heart rate 59, BP 30pts lower to normal. Now I run my own business where I set the hours. I am truly blessed every day I get out into the wilderness and move my body with a new lease on life. The pain I feel in my aging joints is nothing but a positive reminder of the new life I have chosen. I am convinced had fortune not shone on me in so many ways back then I would be nothing but a fancy headstone today. The article perfectly captures the experience in words. Thank You, Timm.

    • Timm Muth

      Brother, I am honored that you enjoyed it and got something out of it.

      Who knows how long we’ll ride. There are guys on this thread that are nearly 70 and still at it.
      I guess if you’re gonna ride up and down the mountain, you’re eventually going to be a tough old bird, no matter what. And old roosters keep on running a long time!

      Ride on, my friend.
      Timm

  • simplemind

    You youngsters have a lot more years provided you don’t ride like you did 20 yrs ago. Had a broken hand after an OTB event, and it was a long 4 months before getting back on the trails. FWIW, I’m 72 and my Strava times are about the same as they were 3-4 years ago, when I started using Strava.
    Give yourself plenty of time to rest and sleep, eat right, and do something everyday that’s not “ride related”.

    • Timm Muth

      72?! Add you to my hero list, brother!

  • pgclydesdale

    Just turned 60, still 250 lb Clydesdale. Getting out later, riding a bit softer, shortening the loop from time to time but still out there when others blow off the ride. Keep at it, geezers!

  • oldkeeper

    Ran into a group of “elder statesmen” riding in Dupont last summer. The oldest of them was 87. Life goals….

  • rutirobart

    63 riding my pedal assist Turbo Levo 5 to 6 days a week about 30 miles a week. Hoping to ride into my early 80’s. Starting at 59 by myself I covered anything I injured with body armor, I am riding technical easy trials like obstacles, I crash a lot, I hop up and crash again, 3 times on the same rock yesterday, never made it, but I will. I may look like the tin man from the wizard oz, on my 52 pound electric bike, but when I clear that new obstacle, I feel ageless. I am never going back to unassisted riding yesterdays ride was only 1.81 miles 40 minutes but still 450 calories 11 calories a minute not bad for an old fart.

    • gidani

      67 and 6 years with Parkinsons Disease (it sucks) and still having fun on the mtn bike doing cross country and downhill. Also just replaced my 2007 dirt bike with a 2016. I exercise nearly every day but riding the mtn bike or dirt bike is by far the best therapy and most fun. I do have to push uphill more than I did a few years ago but still in decent shape. I got the award for being the oldest person downhilling at Angel Fire, NM last Memorial Day but must admit I stayed on the greens and blues. Will keep doing the things I love as long as I can. Hope you all do the same.

  • Timm Muth

    Greg, thanks for even more Perspective. I’ve watched my older brother battle MS, and seen how badly it impacted his ability to be outside doing the things he loves. I’m dealing with neurological issues in my arms (probably from heavy metal poisoning), and have had to adapt my riding style a bit to accommodate it. So of course I worry when it might get worse and force me off the bike.

    But Dude, you are The Man if you’re still out there riding with Parkinsons. For most people with debilitating illnesses, the response is to draw back from everything that causes you pain. But you just thumb your nose at it, and keeping on spinning! I am in awe of your fortitude, brother!

    Thanks for the Perspective.

    Timm

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