The Middle-aged Cyclist

Time pauses for nobody, and before you know it – if you’re not already there, or beyond it – you too will be middle-aged. That does have implications for your cycling, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the end of your cycling!

Over the years, I discovered a few tricks that work for me. Your mileage may vary.

A sight for sore eyes

Obviously, there are exceptions, but generally people’s eyesight deteriorates with age. That results in many middle-aged people needing reading glasses. That has immediate implications, starting with being able to read the display of your cycling computer.

I found I needed reading glasses, especially when cycling in the dark, to be able to read the display. Of course, like so many other cyclists, I wear protective eyewear. Now, you can buy cycling goggles with built-in reading lenses, but the price tends to rise quite quickly.

Add into the mix my habit of regularly destroying such goggles, and we have a problem. I’ve long taken to buying my cycling goggles from Lidl – typically the type that has replaceable lenses. I use one pair as cycling sunglasses for the summer, and in winter, or whenever there’s any chance of having to cycle in the dark, I use a pair with yellow lenses.

I overcame the need for separate reading glasses by using these silicon stick-on lenses. These do just what you think they do: you stick them on the inside of any sunglasses, or cycling goggles, and suddenly you’re able to look straight ahead with no magnification, or look down to use the reading lenses.

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Because they simply stick on, you can easily peel them off and move them to different eyewear.

Joining the dots

As you get older, you’re more at risk of getting arthritis. In severe form, it’s a debilitating condition that can leave people in excruciating pain. However, even milder forms can put a serious damper on things, as it could leave sufferers with a constant pain.

Down the hill from where I live, there’s an old man who had a very old Staffie dog. She was riddled with arthritis, and really struggled to walk. One day, I was walking along the lane, when I saw her trotting along. Amazed, I asked him what caused the incredible improvement, and he referred me to a veterinary brand of Glucosamine Sulphate.

With my curiosity piqued, I did some research, and soon ended up buying Glucosamine Sulphate tablets for myself. I never had anything more than dull pain from arthritis, but because of these tablets, that simply went away altogether. These are the specific tablets I started taking.

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe

You cannot fight aging, and one of the side effects is that your VO2 Max rating will steadily decrease. In case you didn’t know, that’s the maximum rate at which your body can absorb oxygen. Typically (and there are no absolutes here) it starts declining by around 10% per decade, from the age of around 40.

Let’s clarify that: it’s cumulative, and doesn’t mean your VO2 Max drops from 100% to 90% by the end of your 40s, then to 80% by the end of your 50s, 70% by the end of your 60s, and so on.
Instead, what happens is this: it can drop from (an assumed) 100% to around 90% by the end of your 40s, then to around 81% by the end of your 50s, 73% by the end of your 60s, and so on.

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Additionally, these are rough estimates, and it vary considerably from person to person. There are more variables than just your age, too.

The good news is that the average VO2 Max decline of 10% per decade (after 40) is based on the overall population, and sadly, most westerners of 40+ live quite sedentary lives. It is proven that exercise can and does slow down this decline, often very significantly.

Finally, because VO2 Max is different from person to person, it’s entirely possible that you, as an active person in their 40s, 50s, 60s (or more) can have a higher VO2 Max than someone in their 30s.

It’s not all downhill

I have a life philosophy that started as a cycling philosophy: The hill is not in the way, the hill is the way.

Hills are good for you. They challenge you, and make you stronger. Do not do yourself the disservice of avoiding hills. Instead, seek them out, and try to include at least one good hill on every bike ride.

Yes, you’ll suffer up especially steep or long climbs, and you can stop as often as you may need to, but try not to walk your bike. Sometimes, you may have no choice, and that’s OK, but your muscles, fitness and endurance would build faster when you cycle up hills.

As the legend Eddie Merckx said, don’t buy upgrades – ride up grades.

Moderation

As with almost everything, moderation can be very valuable. Don’t go diving in at the deep end, but gradually build up. Also, before taking any medication, do consult with your doctor.

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