Classic Schwinn cruiser: At 92, Fred Mathes still rides 56-year-old three-speed Fred Mathes rides his bike to the post office (which in this neighborhood is inside the local video store), to the local diner, and out through the open fields.
He's 92. His bicycle--a black, still-shiny, three-speed Schwinn--is 56.
Mathes feels no need for a newer bicycle. "Did you hear about the centipede who fell in a ditch?" he asks. "He couldn't get up. He was too exhausted trying to figure out what foot to put first. Same thing with a bike. Who needs 18 gears?"
For his 80th birthday he rode to Oxnard, Calif.--some 380 miles. For his 90th birthday he went for a 40-mile bike ride to Friant Dam and back. He hasn't made plans yet for his next birthday bicycle ride in October, but Friant is in the running because he likes to have lunch at the Dam Diner...His typical out-and-about ride is 14 miles.
He does not favor Lycra or cycling shoes. His riding clothes are whatever he happens to be wearing, usually a pair of trousers (he rolls up one pant leg), a long-sleeved western shirt and a stylish cotton hat from Italy.
As for bicycling, he's loved it since he was a 10-year-old riding around the Maywood area of Los Angeles on a bike borrowed from his cousin. "It was fun, fun, just exhilarating," he says. "Still is."
He says bicycling is about "the breeze in your face, the exercise, and the constant change of scenery. It's the frosting on the cake. Plus it doesn't wear out your knees and hips." ( Read more.)
Talk about old school. How could I resist sharing this very entertaining article from last week? Truly an inspiration to aging Boomers like myself, as well as a strong endorsement of practical bicycling (no lycra, excessive gearing, etc.)
In his presentation, Cycling for Everyone, the bike academic John Pucher suggests the need to make streets friendly enough that everyone feels comfortable to bicycle, including seniors. He presents examples of bike riding trends among aging residents of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, where it's very common for older people to travel by bike. It will be a good day-- a tipping point?--when senior citizens on bicycles aren't exceptional individuals, but the norm.