Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

10 July 2015

How Old Is "Too Old"?



Today I stopped in a bike shop in my neighborhood.  It’s a tiny place that’s been there for about as long as its owner has been in the neighborhood—which is to say, most of his life.


There, I saw someone I hadn’t seen in a while.  He’s worked in the shop during the season for as long as I can remember.  Whatever they’re paying him, he can afford to work there:  He retired from a city job when he was 50.


(Old bike-industry joke:  “Wanna know how to end up with a small fortune in this business?  Start with a big one!”)


We chatted.  “Still riding, I see.”  I nodded, but I wondered why he said that.  As long as I don’t have a condition that precludes doing so, I intend to keep on cycling.


“What about you?”


“My cycling days are over,” he said. 


“I’m sorry.  Are you OK?”


“Oh, I’m fine.  Just old.  Too old to ride.”


“How old is that?, might I ask.”


He told me.


“So you’re retiring from cycling—but not working?”


He sighed.  “The legs can’t do what they used to do.”


“I’m sorry to hear that.”


“I’m not sorry.  I had some really good times on my bike.  Good memories.”


He didn’t mention any injuries or debilitating diseases.  I’m guessing that riding just became more pain than pleasure for him.



I must admit:  It wasn’t comforting to hear what he said, as I’m closer to his age than I’d like to admit.  He was younger than I am now when we first met and did some rides together. 



When I first started to talk about my gender identity issues with my former partner, she predicted that I might give up cycling. “It’ll suck,” she said, “when you’re full of estrogen instead of testosterone.”



“Why should it matter?”



“You don’t realize how accustomed you are to the strength you have.  I don’t know that you’d like riding without it.”



As I mentioned in an earlier post, I thought about giving up cycling when I first started living as Justine, about a year after I started taking hormones.  At that point, I hadn’t yet noticed much of a loss in my strength.  I just thought that cycling was part of my life as a guy named Nick and wasn’t sure I could bring it into my new life.



I love cycling now as much as I ever did.  Perhaps more so: I think that in my youth and my life as a male (which overlapped quite a lot!), I prided myself on riding longer, harder and faster than most other cyclists, at least the ones I knew.  Even more, I liked the admiration and respect I got from other male cyclists, some of whom won races.



Since my transition, I’ve become a different sort of cyclist.  I don’t have the strength I once did.  Some of that may be a matter of age or other factors besides my hormonal changes.  Surprisingly, I didn’t have to “accept” that I wasn’t going to be as strong or fast as I once was; rather, I found that cycling heightened the emotional release I have felt in living as the person I am.



I hope that I can continue it—cycling, or more important, what it’s become for me—when I get to be the age of the man I met today.  And beyond. 

From People for Bikes

4 comments:

  1. You may want to read "Cycling Past 50." It goes well past that age. Sadly, people in their 90's can't ride as fast or far as people in their 30's.

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  2. Wonderful thought-provoking post - thanks Justine.

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  3. So a typical over compensator... My strength does seem to have melted away but brain is slow to program that fact in, I sprained my hand trying to shear through some cable covering today to fix gears to keep this old body on two wheels.

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  4. Rebecca--Good to see you again. Thanks!

    Steve--Thank you for pointing out that book. I'll definitely look for it.

    Coline--Most of the time I've been forced off my bike (which, given how long I've been cycling, actually hasn't been that much time) was due to non-cycling injuries and issues.

    My brain is also slow to accept my body's decline. Perhaps that's a good thing.

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