Inspiration …

Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.     

Herbert Henry Asquith

      or perhaps lasted for ever but that’s not how it works. What departs with it depends a lot on the accidents that befall us along the way and the less wise decisions that we make. Most of us have the capacity to hang on to a lot more for a lot longer. This is the story of Gayle’s Uncle Kel, largely in his own words.
Kelvin was born in 1927. Before he was big enough to ride in the saddle he would ride his father’s bike standing on the pedals with one leg through the triangle of the frame. This was the era when …

For night riding the bike was equipped with an acetylene light mounted from the handlebars using a sprung trapezoidal frame. The light had a lower compartment to hold carbide and a water compartment above to allow a regulated drip through to the carbide which generated acetylene to be burnt in front of a reflector to supply light.

Kel bought his first bike in 1937 …

with money earned from delivering morning newspapers. This was the only time that I can recall my father being angry. He seized the new 24 inch wheel bike and later returned with a 28 inch bike that I would not grow out of. I rode this bike from Westgarth to Preston for school for three years. On wet days I used a waterproof cape which extended over the body and forward over the handlebars.

He joined the scouts …

In the early 1940’s, preparations were made in anticipation of Japanese air raids and the Air Raid Precaution Organization was formed. Various scenarios were practised, using scouts on bicycles as messengers to relay information between headquarters and “bomb sites”. In other scenarios, the scouts were used to play the part of injured civilians who needed first aid and to be transported to hospital. My family did not have a telephone at this time, so a person living in Regent was rung to pass a message to his neighbour (another scout messenger) that his services were required at Air Raid Precaution Headquarters. This scout would jump on his bike and collect me en route to Northcote Air Raid Precaution Control. The Scouts were allocated roles as messengers or the injured.

During these war years new tyres were not available so we learnt to retread our own tyres by spreading a rubber solution over the tyre and sprinkling the tyre with crumbed rubber. At night, the suburbs were blacked out to prevent any enemy aircraft from identifying the geography of the city. Even our car and bike lights conformed to blackout rules by having shields to cover the front light and thereby permitting only a glimmer of light to escape.

About this time, my paternal grandfather came to live with us and he took to riding my Dad’s bike. I was amazed! He was 81 years of age and still able to ride a bike!!

The bicycle is fun for kids but to most adults of Kel’s generation it was merely utilitarian. The motor car slowly took over. Eventually, though, Kel and his wife, Gwen were blessed with grandkids and they seem to have been a catalyst …

Many years later our young granddaughters were given small bikes, our daughter, Helen, received a new mountain bike for Mother’s Day and I was given a hybrid aluminium bicycle for painting their house. I joined a Bicycle Victoria event and along with my five and six year old granddaughters we rode from Carlton for the 50 km over the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown and back through Footscray to Carlton. Then when the girls were aged seven and eight and I was 77, we completed our first Great Victorian Bike Ride from Port Fairy to Geelong and never once walked nor required the sag wagon! I continued to participate in the Great Victorian Bike Rides for a further six years.

After six years on the hybrid, I changed to a Jamis, steel framed road bike, but changed the handlebars from flat to butterfly bars to give me a better hill climbing attitude.

By 2015, my wife, Gwen’s health deteriorated, necessitating her move to an aged care facility and I began riding my bike the 5 km from Eaglemont to Alphington every day to visit her. Looking for a new activity, I signed up with the Banyule Bicycle Users Group (BUG), made up of a group of retired men and women in their 60’s and 70’s. I was then 87. Banyule BUG ride two days of the week, travelling along bicycle paths, roads with bicycle lanes and some minor back streets over distances of 30 -95 km

Arriving home and feeling tired after the Banyule BUG ride, and still with another bike ride ahead of me to visit Gwen, I began to look for an electric bike. I chose a CUBE brand, step through frame with derailleur gears. I ride this bike in the evenings to visit my wife. It suits the hilly terrain when I have a heavy load and I am feeling tired. The ebike is heavy and ponderous and I find my road bike much more responsive so I prefer it for the weekly BUG rides.

At nearly 93 years of age, I enjoy my bike riding and look forward to active, safe riding for the next few years.

Amen to that and thank you Kel for taking the time to contribute this blog.


Something I’m trying to cultivate an addiction for, Long Slow Distance.

In my cross training days, 30 odd years ago cycling had to be fitted in with running and swimming and was pared back to fit the available time. I tried to do one long ride, one session of intervals and one or two short rides a week. A short ride was usually followed immediately by a run to help get used to the transition between the two activities. Long slow distance was helpful for building stamina without leaving yourself so over-tired that the next session could not be faced. Sadly all my swim sessions were short slow distance, not my strong suit the swimming.

Now that I’m a born again cyclist I’m looking forward to introducing both a long ride and some interval sessions into the routine. With three months of setting down a base during which time three kilograms just went away without dietary modification I’m ready for the LSD. The added bonus is that exercising at a relatively gentle pace will metabolise fat.

Back in the jogging boom of my middle years I came across a rule of thumb for calculating your chances of surviving a long run. If you had a base fitness derived from four or five sessions a week you could expect to cope with a run that was up to three times your average run. You would need to back off on your pace a bit. It worked well enough for me.

So in working out what my long ride should be I took my typical ride of 20 km and multiplied it by three and scaled it back a bit in deference to my advanced age. I completed the second one today …

Achievements, my goodness, Strava just keeps on giving!

Post exercise recovery is slower in older athletes largely because of poorer muscle repair processes. A very readable article on the subject can be found by clicking <Here>. It suggests that …


  • Masters athletes should consider implementing age-specific dietary protein strategies. Specifically, increasing their post-exercise protein intake to ~0.4-0.6, and consuming high quality leucine-rich whey (milk-based) protein, particularly if previous training has resulted in muscle-damage.

  • Masters athletes should consider implementing the above dietary protein strategies, namely increased dose of protein at all main meals and post-exercise to optimise daily protein synthesis rates for muscle protein remodelling and thus facilitate adaptation to training.

Going too hard too soon will make you feel lousy and leads to abandoning your exercise routine. With that in mind I don’t intend to start high intensity training (intervals) right away.

It is, however, a good time to scrutinise my diet.


Exercise and the Elderly …

The theme of late has been resumption of exercise in an older dude who was recently sedentary. As always I have a need to know that drives me to the books or the internet. It’s easy to find material on getting older people out walking eg <This paper> that details a beneficial impact on the frontal cortex or strength training as in<This one>. Clearly the training effect occurs in older folk just as it does in the young.

When it comes to cycling it is hard to find papers that deal with sedentary older people taking up a cycling regime. Research has focused on comparisons of masters athletes with those at peak performance or with the inactive. The bad news is that performance declines after a certain age. VO2max, the highest rate that we can use up oxygen as we burn our fuel, declines largely because our maximum heart rate declines. Muscle mass is reduced (sarcopenia) and body fat tends to go up. The good news is that these effects are less in those who continue to train. <See here> and <Here> or you can take my word for it!

The battle with age is fought and won. I say won because we are the survivors. The decline in performance is just one of the battle scars. The choice now is between this you or a fitter you. Go for it.

Are you fit enough to get fit? That is a discussion you should definitely have with your doctor. There may be some preparation to do first. Certainly, if you can’t lift your bike off the ground don’t get on it!

Which activity?

Here are some recommendations based on my reading and own experience.

I think cycling is an excellent choice. It’s far lower impact than running but like running can start right outside your front door. The amount of exertion is infinitely variable because you are in charge of the distance and the speed.

I wouldn’t buy a bike right off the bat. I would see if you can’t rent an eBike for a month. The big advantage to that is hills and headwinds can knock the enthusiasm right out of you. You don’t need that. When your speed drops below say 10 km/hr up the level of assistance until the going gets easier then drop it back. Try and ride five times a week, work slowly up to about an hour and then endeavour to get a little further in that time. Never bust a gut. Today’s exercise will do you no good if it prevents you getting out again tomorrow.

Ride somewhere safe. Wear a helmet. Carry your mobile phone.

Towards the end of the month try riding without the motor.

The improvement in the first month is terrific. It’s time to make some decisions. If you got on well without the motor consider a good old fashioned bike. It will be much lighter than an eBike, the transition will not be too hard. If you ride with a partner and can’t keep up or headwinds and hills will spoil your rides get an eBike. There is no shame in riding an eBike you can still put in a big effort and get great benefits.