Cycling: To be Frank, it's good for you.

Cycling, we keep getting told it’s the new golf, right? I’ve shanked my way around the par 3 at Wike Ridge (North Leeds) on a few occasions and returned with a few well-grounded opinions.

  1. Some days inexplicably things go your way and you might feel like a pro. This is usually something to do with the wind.
  2. If you fully embrace the clothing, you look like a tit.
  3. The post round lunch is often the sole reason for venturing out on a winters day.
  4. There is no hiding from poor form. Your friends and teammates can see you searching in the bushes.
  5. Losing control of your balls can be a worrying occurrence.
  6. Donald Trump has a presence in the sport.

So there is the proof, cycling is the new golf. We might not like to remember the Tour de Trump, but it happened, Wikipedia says so.

However in the mists of time, I seem to remember the old folk of golf being a doddery lot. It’s an inclusive sport. It doesn’t matter how big your beer belly gets, Pringle will always add another X before the L and there’s no shame in hiring a buggy.

That’s the same in cycling, isn’t it? We’re an inclusive lot. I’m a Wetherby Wheeler, a great cycling club with a tradition of huge Sunday club runs powered on tea and brown toast dating back to 1985. I remember my first run out with them. I was a runner who couldn’t bear another spring of getting rid of the suit of sand that collected on me over the winter. I was a little chubby and a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace. I turned up at the Market Square in Wetherby at the allotted time and was mightily relieved that people talked to me. I had a conversation about cars being ‘up’ or ‘back’ that lasted the whole ride.

There was also an old distinguished looking chap in cords and a permanent smile waiting. I thought at least I’d be able to keep up with him. As we climbed the hill over the East Coast Mainline I started to believe that maybe this chap had had a hard paper round and was actually much younger than he looked. I was struggling to hold the wheels. As he rode back down a hill in cords to ride with the new fat kid who was lagging behind I realised that us cyclists age well.

Back to this year, Trump has moved on and instead of touring the streets of New Jersey he’s about to embark on his own tour of oil rich countries in the Middle East. Our smiling cyclist, still in trademark cords had his 80th birthday this year. He’s still out and not on an e-bike.

We really do age well us cyclists. We stay lean, healthy and mostly smiley. So why is this? Why do we not go all squidgy like our golfing equivalents? I talk as a Yorkshire cyclist when I say I refuse to spend money on light cycling kit when I have excess chub around my middle. So maybe we’re just tight? We don’t like spending money on food? But that doesn’t work either, those flash folk from that there London riding up and down Box Hill all day, they’ve got money to burn and they can be just as lithe as us Yorkshire folk (but not as hard).

Science is close at hand to help us with this question. The greatest minds have stopped with the studies into why woodpeckers don’t get headaches or how far a chinstrap penguin can squirt its poo and have produced the pictures below. 

MRI showing thigh muscle mass Wroblewski et al (2011).

MRI showing thigh muscle mass Wroblewski et al (2011).

It would appear that a significant proportion of the physical decline we associate with aging is in fact partly due to chronic under activity.  If you stay active undertaking prolonged resistance training you get the lovely lean quadriceps and hamstrings as shown at the bottom of the picture, rather than the contents of a petrol station pasty in the middle.

So there we have it, cycling may be the new golf, but when it comes to aging we can stay disgraceful for much longer. 

Picture curtesy of  @CafeCoureur . 

Picture curtesy of @CafeCoureur

Simon SmithComment