Here, McCarthy & Stone and the experts at Energise E-Bikes explain the health benefits of cycling and offer top biking tips to encourage retirees to take up this activity.
If you’re looking to stay active in your retirement, cycling is a fantastic solution that offers physical, mental and social benefits. However, a recent survey by YouGov looking at the cycling habits of women over 55+ has shown that of this demographic only a small number are actively cycling – 66% of which never cycle at all.
The statistics are similar for men according to Cycling UK, and the older we get the less popular cycling becomes – in fact, on average those aged 70 and above make fewer than 10 cycling trips each year.
With this data in mind, and to help make it a little clearer why cycling in retirement can be a joy, here we consider the top reasons why you should take up this activity. We’ll start by looking at the benefits before asking for biking tips and expert recommendations from Neil Ridulfa and the team at Energise E-Bikes.
Why is Cycling Good for Your Retirement?
A healthy lifestyle and balanced diet are crucial to staying fit as you get older. Studies have shown that regular exercise doesn’t just help you stay physically fit, but it can also help you maintain your cognitive and psychological health.
Physical Health Benefits
Studies commissioned by the NHS have revealed that getting out and cycling for four miles a day can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the risk of type two diabetes and strokes. This makes complete sense, as 69% of YouGov’s respondents in England said that they cycle to improve their fitness.
On top of this, cycling is also a great exercise option in retirement because it’s a ‘low impact’ exercise, meaning that it places very little stress on your joints.
Psychological and Social Benefits
As well as being a healthy pastime, going on a family bike ride on a summer’s day can create memories that will last a lifetime.
Similarly, taking up cycling is a great way of meeting new people and making new friends, which is a factor mentioned by 21% of YouGov’s respondents in England. There are social cycling groups available across the UK, and the cycling community is renowned for being inclusive, warm and welcoming.
If you’re a resident at one of our developments, you could even start your own cycling group in your retirement community. This can help you make new friends and help you explore your surroundings. With 28% of YouGov’s respondents in England explaining that they cycled ‘to help with their mental health’, the social aspect of cycling is a big part of its appeal.
Finally, cycling in retirement can also add additional independence to your life. You’ll be less reliant on your family members and public transport, so you’ll have greater freedom. This new-found freedom was again a factor mentioned by 34% of English respondents to the YouGov survey.
Interview with Neil Ridulfa from Energise E-Bikes
McCarthy & Stone have also been lucky enough to have previously worked with Energise E-Bikes, helping our residents discover the joy and usefulness of cycling and electric bikes. So, to help us with this post, we called on their expertise and spoke with Neil Ridulfa from their team to get his insights and top biking tips for retirees.
What’s the best time of year for retirees to go cycling?
There really is no bad time to go cycling as each season offers its own pleasures. In spring you might enjoy a trip through a bluebell wood, but in summer you may prefer a seaside ride. Meanwhile, autumn outings when the leaves start to turn golden make for beautiful days out, and a winter ride with a stop for a hot coffee will really wake you up from hibernation!
The trick is to be prepared for the unique challenges of riding throughout the year. Having the right clothing and above all the right bike will help you ride whatever the weather. E-bike riders tend to ride throughout the year because the electric assistance helps to cut through wind or muddy tracks.
Would you advise retirees to warm up differently before going on a long bike ride?
No two riders are the same, so a few stretches to loosen up any tightness before you ride would be a good idea for any age group. Equally important is making sure that the bike is the right size, and that seat and handlebars are at the right height for you.
What’s your favourite cycle route in the UK?
Most places around the UK will have excellent cycling routes that you can try. My favourite is the Isle of Wight, which is very well set up for long bike rides around the island.
There are stately homes and gardens as well as harbours and beaches to keep you interested. It has become a favourite destination with both our staff and customers, and it is easy to take your bike onto a ferry.
What’s the main piece of advice you'd give to a retiree who’s considering taking up cycling?
Many who come to see us after retirement seek out a bike that is as close as possible to what they would have used in their youth. We would always advise them to be open to other styles of bike that fit their current lifestyle and physique.
Many retirees will be interested in electric bikes which help with pedalling uphill and over longer distances. The power of an e-bike can be adjusted as you get fitter.
Many over 55s in YouGov’s survey claim that they didn’t know much about bike maintenance, which puts them off cycling, so what’s the most important thing to know when it comes to repairing/ maintaining a bike?
Maintain the tyre pressure, keep the chain clean and lubricated, and make friends with a good bicycle mechanic!
Try to get on top of problems before they become bigger and take advantage of any support you can get when buying your bike. We for instance offer a free lifetime servicing on our electric bikes.
Many retirees told YouGov that they’d consider cycling if the ‘infrastructure around the UK was better and if cycling was safer’. How much have segregated UK cycle lanes and cycle paths improved in recent years?
According to a TfL study, a single bike lane can move five times more people than a motor traffic lane can, and without the air pollution. There are certainly more cycle lanes around these days, and the cycle superhighways in London, Leeds, and Brighton have seen cyclist numbers skyrocket.
The next step would be to have ‘protected lanes’ which prevent larger vehicles from driving and parking in them. The University of Colorado carried out a comprehensive review of 13 years’ worth of evidence which showed that protected lanes actually reduced road fatalities for all road users including pedestrians.
Would you recommend that retirees should encourage family members to go cycling with them?
Absolutely! I think people forget how sociable cycling can be. In this country we tend to think of cycling being done by a solitary figure wearing lycra, trying to beat their previous journey times.
In reality, a family ride that takes you around a lake to a picnic park, for example, is an affordable and enjoyable day out. It also sets a healthy example for the younger members in the family to stay active throughout life.
Finally, can you tell us a little more about the benefits of e-bikes for retirees?
E-bikes have many benefits, the main one being that they help you pedal up the hills on which you would normally have to dismount and walk up. Of all the advances in bicycle technology that have happened over the years, the electric bike has been the innovation that has encouraged ‘non-cyclists’ to become regular cyclists.
People worry that having a pedal-assist motor will ‘make them lazy’ however the evidence shows the complete opposite. People with electric bikes typically go out much more often than those on conventional bikes and will also ride for longer.
The cardio benefits are exactly the same as a conventional bike, and while you may get less muscle building exercise on an e-bike, you can always turn off the power to get that benefit back. The biggest benefit of an e-bike is that they are so much fun, so we invite anyone interested to give one a go at our showroom.
Alternatives to Cycling
If you’d love to give cycling a go but you suffer from balance, back, neurological, or other related problems, then alternatives are available.
Tricycles provide greater stability for riders, while recumbent bikes provide increased comfort when compared with a traditional bike. If you don’t have the confidence to be out on the open road, then an indoor exercise bike is a great alternative.
You can still get in a good workout that will provide you with all the health benefits of outdoor cycling, but in an environment that suits you. These bikes are particularly useful in winter, when weather gets worse and the nights are darker.
Do you Enjoy Cycling in Retirement?
If you’re an active cyclist who’s also retired, then feel free to get in touch on Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts on the benefits of this hobby.