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« Does a riderless bike prove anything? | Main | Stopping »

Actually going somewhere

I love riding long distances; I always have. As a teen I would ride up to 50 miles in an evening after school; and on the weekends up to 100 miles.

I often did these rides on my own as friends my age were not keen to cover these distances. Later at age sixteen after I joined a club, I started riding with adults aged twenty years and older.

We would often go on weekend rides in excess of 100 miles. At age 17 I rode in the National Championship 12 Hour Time Trial, and covered 220 miles in the 12 hours.

In order to enjoy riding these distances it is necessary to be at a certain level of fitness, otherwise the rides become a great deal of suffering and less pleasure. I am just starting to reach that level once again; in the last six weeks I have been riding 200 miles per week.

I have been riding with a local club group on Saturdays; there are three groups at different levels. The elite group is a little too fast for me riding at 20 to 25 mph; but the intermediate group mostly made up of guys around fifty years of age, ride about 65 miles averaging around 17 or 18 mph.

During the week I mostly ride on a local bike path; I am glad that it is available to me, but at barely 7miles long, 14 miles out and back, by the time I have done this three times, (About 42 miles.) I am bored out of my skull, and that is about as far as I can manage.

Plus there is the added hassle of dealing with runners and walkers wearing I-pods, and assorted other slow bike riders, dog walkers, etc.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, sunny, 70F (21C.) with a 10mph breeze; I decided to take to the open road and actually go somewhere. I rode from Summerville to John’s Island, a round trip of 75 miles.

The map above shows the route I took marked in red dots. I left Summerville on Route 165, a favorite way out of town with local cyclists, traffic not too heavy. Turned off on County Line Road which is a rural road where I saw on average about one car per mile traveled.

Hwy. 17 is the main road from Charleston to Savannah and has heavy traffic; it is a divided highway with two lanes either side. However, it has a decent shoulder, and I was only on it for two miles before turning off on Main Road that took me over the Stono River to John's Island.

The Stono River Bridge is a tall bridge built to accommodate boats with tall masts that pass under. This makes it a steep little climb, and a good gauge of one’s level if fitness. Once over the bridge, I made a right onto Chisholm Road.

Another favorite with local riders, Chisholm is a quiet road that services farms and private homes; most of the road is shaded by old growth trees on either side. My turn around point was at John’s Island High School where Chisholm meets back up with Main Road again.   

The ride took me just five hours, an average of 15mph; not bad for an old guy riding solo. I had a headwind on the homeward leg, and I took three separate 10 minute breaks, to eat and rest up a little.

I’m not sure why I like riding distances; I guess I just enjoy riding my bike, and a long ride gives me more time doing just that. There is a great sense of achievement, and satisfaction on completion of the ride, and the thought that I actually went somewhere, as opposed to riding up and down a bike path going nowhere.

I turned 75 on my last birthday earlier this year, and I realize I will not be able to keep up these long rides indefinitely. I am sure I will be riding for many years to come, but the question I ask myself is, can I maintain the fitness level required to ride the distances?

Just so you know I do practice what I preach, above is my bike. Note the handlebars are 2 ½ inches (63mm.) below my saddle. My reach is 1.5cm. shorter than when I used to race. I mostly ride on the hoods; I suffer no back or neck pain on these longer rides. 



Reader Comments (26)

Dave, It's sad to say that your bike is now considered old school. Most would have only dreamed to have a Campy Super Record grupo. (I don't miss the friction shifters that were either too tight to shift or would add a gear when you got out of the saddle, such a fine line of adjustment.) The Brookes saddle doesn't surprise me either. It does appear that you have strayed away from the thin racing tyres instead opting for comfort. (I remember too well the pounding I would take, time trialing with 175 PSI in ultra thin tires, no fun.) Enjoy riding for as long as you can and the bike is still to be envied, even if it is old school!

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim

So, 'can you maintain the fitness level required'? Where there's a will there's a way and all that. Twenty minutes of stretches, three times a week and maybe a monthly trip (sitting out of the wind) with the elite group on one of their flatter routes and I'd say, 'yes, hopefully'. And of course, it ain't about the bike.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobM

Dave Great that you are still riding and in good shape! Keep on twiddling mate. I will be 78 on 7 June, have ridden every year the milage of my birthday. I am now recovering from a right hip replacement and NOW due to the op. Prostate problems, So maybe this year I will not be in shape to do the 78 mile ride. BUT I will damm well give it a try! I will be riding my 1952 Rotrax with downtube shifters and Campag 10speed Dunlop 27s Airlite 40x32 hubs,GBs etc, Brooks swallow saddle that I brought over with me from England in 1957 I also ride the bike paths in Denver area, but the Elephant Rock ride Sunday 5 June starts in Castle Rock Co and is quite hilly look for me I WILL be there. John Crump

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Dave. I think I have mentioned this before BUT you should write a page for Peter Underwood for his first class web site, http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk PLUS add a link to this site on your blog. I think it is important at OUR age to be sure our kids and grandkids have knowledge of our background, This is part of the history of GREAT BRITIAN (OR the UK!) I know that I am very proud of my cycling riding and racing days. How about a reply Dave?

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I often use stuff from ClassicLightweightsUK in my articles and link to their excellent site. But as for writing a piece for the site I don't feel that is proper unless I were invited to do so. To ask is to put people on the spot when that may be not what they wish.

April 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I'm 79 and continue to ride hard, including events sponsored by PAC Tour. My bikes are a 40-year-old Mercian (modified to accommodate a Campy triple with eight-speed rear end) and a 10-year-old Co-Motion with Shimano triple. Paying attention to my doctor's advice, my Shimano low gear is now 30 x 34. When I'm in my summer condition, I can still do 90 to 120 miles in a day and still ride the next. But I'm a lot slower than I used to be and my ability to climb has dwindled to an unnerving degree. I am overjoyed to hear that you still ride hard and remain faithful to basic principles. My hope is that there are a lot of us still on the road.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Watkins

Dave, another lovely article. Quick question, have you always ridden large flange hubs on the front wheel? Does it give a stiffer wheel? In England, the roads are so poor at the moment that you want as soft a ride as possible. A recent sign in Hemel Hempstead read 'Warning, these pot holes may contain road!'

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff

Dave, Re Peter Underwoods site, He would be real chuf If you wrote a page for his web site. Read all the ones that he has. I know from talking with him, this is what he wants. You do not need an invitation. He is thirsting for info about bikes and the riders. Email him at peter.underwood@tesco.net You are a valuable part of the British cycling history. DONT BE SHY! share your wonderful memorys. Regards John Crump

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I have been in love with the look of large flange hubs since I started cycling in the 1950s, but have never owned a pair until recently when I switched from tubulars to clinchers. I found these on eBay.
Yes they make a stiffer wheel, not that I need that, but I still like the look.

April 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I lived in Charleston for a year although I was traveling much of the time. I didn't find it a great place to ride. I live on Ashley River Road.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFuso1986


I concur with all - wonderful! Ride well and enjoy. 75 in this day and age is young and your writing expresses that youthful energy. God bless and be well!


April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChucker

I love reading stuff like this (comments included), it gives me something to aim for should I be so fortunate to make it to that age bracket in good health!

We have a rider in our club who is 85 (86 this year) and still occasionally shows up for a race. OK, he's not competing, but at least he's still turning the legs over.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

You utterly shame me, Dave. A 7 mile bike path that your ride 3 times to get 42 miles, and then you're bored? I'm done complaining of boredom on the 20-and-a-bit mile bike path I have access to, and to which I can ride the 6 miles I live from it, and back home.

Sincerely. My whinging days are done! Thanks.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Gosh I feel so young but pleased to hear that after 70+ years Dave and others are still outspokin'. Have Brooks on a number of bikes but now experimenting with different saddles. But honestly it is getting harder with each year to average 20+ mph for hours at a time.

A book I gave to a friend who just began to cycle after I constructed a bike for him is Cycling Past 50. Haven't found one yet on Cycling Past 70 though - so keep us informed on what it means and how to do it. It's hard to imagine life without cycling.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I recently discovered this blog & I just wanted to say that I'm really enjoying going through all the old posts to catchup. I have a huge amount of respect for those who helped shape the sport & the industry. I also hope I'm still able to pedal as far when I hit your sort of figures.

I'm 31 and my daily ride is a early '80s Japanese roadie almost as old. It has down tube friction shifters, non-aero hoods, 27" rims, you know the type. A solid bike but nothing exotic, my pocketbook doesn't stretch that far. I bought it as I planned to convert it to a cheap/generic 'fixie' but once I cleaned it up & realised how nice it was I fell in love. This sparked my appreciation for these older rides & I've been busy eating up the vast amounts of knowledge available on blogs like yours. Please keep posting, loving it all & the comments from others.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael B

These discussions always make me feel good about the future. I am 64 and while I have ridden since childhood, Ididn't become a serious rider until 1980. However, my riding time was always llimited by family, career, and climate. 1500 miles in a year was alot, most rides were 20 miles or less. Occaisionally I would get in a 30 or 40 miler. I live in the midwest which can cut 3-4 months of riding out of the calendar. I am now retired, just started group rides last year, did my first century last week. While I can't keep up with the A riders I found that in a reasonably short time I was able to hang with the B riders (most of the time). It's nice to know that there are many years of of riding and improvement ahead.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Since I'm 60, just now, I'm glad to see pelple still going strong in their 70's. A few years ago at El Tour De Tucson I finished behind 11 70 plus riders. Bad for me. Good for them.

I checked my bar/saddle height on my three bikes. All sadles properlly higher than the bars. 73 Raliegh Grand Prix, 77 Raliegh Super corse (fixie) and 2006 Bianchi Pinela. Co-motion tandem also is hiegher.

What is surprising, to me at least, the 3 are set up for the same amount of drop from saddle to bar, just by fiddling with the fit. Seat hieght first then the bar height.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

I think Dave and I came from a time when a bike was pretty much the only way to get from point A to B. We both have ridden most of our lives, who knows how many miles we have ridden. I was doing up to last year 8-9k including several of the bike tours in the Colorado mountains, I was nearly always the YOUNGEST of the Old ems! amazing how many where in there late 80s! I have mates in Brum UK with my club Midland C&AC now at 80+ years YOUNG (John Pottier, Les Willmott John Bourne etc.) still RACING! So keep it up chaps! One tip stay out of the BIG gears, SPIN. TWIDDLE as we called it. John Crump

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Very impressive guys! I'm only 55 and I feel as though cycling has reversed the aging process for me, both physically and spiritually. I am convinced old steel is the only way to go. I call it "disappearing bike," that moment when I am just floating down the road, not conscious of cadence or speed or even where I am, lost in some kind of magical reverie. I ride long and solo and as often as possible. I have done 200-250 mile weeks several times and appreciate what that means. Cycling becomes your life at that mileage, wouldn't you agree?
I think down tube friction shifters and slightly large tires (32c for me) and a big ol' steel frame with no gizmos is part of the formula.

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Joe Comstock

Have you tried Randonneuring? The only thing that bothered me quite a bit when I took up the sport was sometimes having to drive 2 or 3 hours to get to the ride start. That shouldn't be much of an issue when you're riding 1200 km, but certainly it is when the ride is 200 km long. The rides are great, with a lot of camaraderie and fun!

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuan PLC Salazar

NIce. I love the old school bikes but have given in to technology at age 56. Titanium Lynskey with new Super Record 11 speed. I would rather look at my old Paramount with the old school Super Record though. I love long rides with as few out and backs as possible. The Rocky Mountains make that possible mostly.

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

I spent a long time in the bike industry during the 80's and 90's, then I got burned out on the business, unfortunately to the extent that I stopped cycling. I picked it back up seriously about 3 years ago due to a doctor reminding me that I was closing in on 50 and needed to use some of my parts so I didn't lose them forever. Now I am finally up to the point where longer rides like you mention are possible. Took a while. I've realized the only way I am going to be able to do this is if I don't stop again. So I have been riding in the winter (NY) and investing as much in good clothing as cycling parts. All my bikes are over 20 years old, but the parts are newer. And I ride in the mixed company of others. But the ones I look to with the most admiration are the guys who are 70 and still going. That's what I want to be when I grow up. 70 and riding. Good on you then. Keep going.

April 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjake

i am 53 year young. I am in a better shape than i was in 20's... guess i have discovered the young fountain... weird...

April 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhh

Hi Dave,
I see that you live or ride close to where I will be vacationing this summer (kiawah island) I know that there is no cycling allowed on the roads there but was wondering if you have any suggestions for some good rides close by.

April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

I read your blog often, but never really thought about your age. Didn't realize you were 75 years old. Fantastic to hear you're still riding well.

I turn 50 this summer. With any luck, I'll continue riding well for many more years - using you and other older riders as examples.

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

I am another frequent reader who had no idea you were in your mid-seventies. Congratulations Dave for maintaining your fitness, you are inspiring.

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermander

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