The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏
Ahead of a trip to southeast Georgia last week, I sent my friend Dick a text message. “I’d love to get together with you for a coffee or beer if you’re around.”
He replied, “It might be fun to meet me here, show you my place, then go on a little bike ride.”
I can’t say I was surprised that Dick didn’t want to just sit around and catch up while we sipped coffee. At 90 years old, the edges of Dick’s Type-A personality may have been rounded off a bit, but the core is still there; for him a “little” bike ride means spinning 15 miles at a steady pace first thing in the morning. Waking up early wasn’t originally on my vacation agenda, but that day I figured his stoke is my stoke.
As mountain bikers and cyclists, we can’t claim a lock on the one true lifelong sport. In fact, a few Google queries I tried barely mentioned cycling; most top five lists start with swimming and yoga. And don’t forget pickleball, America’s new lifelong sport. All of those are great, and perhaps even more accessible than biking, though they’re not my own cup of tea. As Dick likes to say, I’ll save walking for when I’m too old to bike.
A lot of us look at riders older than us and wonder if we’ll still be riding at their age, and if you ask me there’s a good chance we will. It seems the biggest key is finding an activity you love, and then to just keep doing it. As humans we’re hardwired to seek pleasure and so when biking is fun, there’s nothing we’d rather be doing. It barely registers as a conscious decision. Getting our stoke from a physical activity — as opposed to say casino gambling or watching TV — makes it much more likely we’ll be riding into retirement.
When biking isn’t fun — and for most of us, over a lifetime, there will be times when it’s not — going for a ride can take real effort and commitment. If you find yourself in that space for whatever reason, there are things you can try, though ultimately there’s no shame in hanging up your helmet and trying something new. In life, the stoke is certainly not limited to biking.
During our ride I asked Dick what he thought was the key to biking at his age and he responded, “I just get up and go.” At the time it felt like a glib reply, but the more I thought about it, the more wisdom I found in those six words. Biking into your 90s requires a certain drive, and some mornings you’re feeling it more than others. And sometimes, even when you’re stoked to ride, it ends up being a drag because of the wind, or the rain, or because you got a flat tire just a mile into the start. Not to state the obvious, but if we want to keep riding until we’re 90, we need to keep riding until we’re 90, rolling through the good and the bad.
My ten-year-old son is all about trying new sports, and it seems like every month it’s a different one. First soccer, then roller hockey and ice hockey, then baseball. Most recently he spent his own money to buy a lacrosse stick after watching a few games on ESPN+. I don’t know if he’ll ever land on a single, lifelong sport, and there’s something to be said for being open to trying new things. Still, I can’t help but think about the investment in time (and money for gear!) that it takes to start a new sport. Looking at my garage, my bikes will last at least another decade so I’m confident I will too, if not in body then at least in wallet and in spirit.
Of course ensuring that my body keeps up with my stoke for mountain biking also requires riding regularly. Yep, it seems there’s no way around getting up and going. For a long time I just assumed biking into my tenth decade on earth was a matter of winning the genetic lottery, which is of little comfort when pondering the future. Now, believing that my future happiness is, in large part, something I can control, makes me feel good today.
I guess Dick’s stoke for biking really is my stoke too!