By Julie Patterson, Contributing Writer
One of the things we Baby Boomers hear from our doctors each year is to “stay active.” Finding and incorporating a healthy exercise plan includes doing something that you actually like. I say try it all and see what sticks. For many Boomers, cycling seems to be a good fit.
Whether indoor or outdoor, you simply hop on and go. How many fitness routines do you get to sit down and do? I have a road bike, but that’s where I like to ride. I also compete in triathlons, so it’s a bike that makes sense for me. Getting a bike is an investment, so choose wisely. Before you buy any bike, take it for a test drive. Try a few so you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like. I recommend a specialty bike shop where the salespeople are knowledgeable and can help you get the best fit. The size of the tire matters, the height of the seat matters. There are so many things to consider. Ask an expert.
What are the best bicycles for aging Baby Boomers? Comfort Bikes, or Cruisers, check off many of the must-haves on a bicycle shopping quest. They have handlebars placed so the rider is in an upright position instead of hunched over. High handlebars ease lower-back strain and reduce the pressure on wrists and hands. The wide tires on a comfort bike offer a smooth ride. A wider seat allows for — well — a wider seat, and it helps eliminate saddle soreness.
The electric bike – also known as an e-bike, power bike or booster bike – is a hot item and appealing to Boomers. It has an integrated electric motor that can be used for propulsion. You can pedal normally and just use the boost to go up a hill or you can have the motor running during your entire ride. It’s up to you.
There are many types of bicycles like Cyclocross, Eliptigo and Unicycles. I’ve seen a bike that folds up for easy storage. There are even tricycles for adults. Recumbent bikes provide a smooth ride. It’s a completely different set up than a regular bike, with the rider’s legs horizontal to the ground. If you just want to go for an occasional ride, try the bike-share program downtown. You pay by the hour and can ride around on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or the Central Canal.
There are several pick-up and drop-off locations. Visit this site for locations: pacersbikeshare.org. For the super-serious competitive biker, one of the latest trends is a “smart bike.” They have special sensors to help you find the best aerodynamic position, a GPS system, a media center, fingerprint sensors, among other features. Two examples are the Shimano’s DuraAce group set and the Trek Madone 9.9.
Some Boomers prefer the rugged ride of the trails. A mountain bike is best for these rides. Their fat tires hug the earthy terrain as the bounce jostles the rider in all directions. This type of workout is not for the meek.
A big fan of mountain biking is NBA Hall of Famer and former Pacers player Reggie Miller. On his Instagram feed, every other post is about riding. He even races and has a coach. Miller says, “What I love about mountain biking is that it doesn’t matter how old you are.” You’ve picked out a bike.
Learning to ride a bike safely is paramount. Before you go out for that first ride, or any ride, be sure to check the air in your tires. Make sure that they are fully inflated. There is a number on the tire that tells you what pressure it should be inflated to. Invest in a pump so that you can do it yourself before each ride. They are not expensive. Next, check your brakes. Make sure they don’t rub the tire and are positioned evenly around the wheel. Then, check the bike chain. It should be spinning freely.
Check the air, brakes and chain of your bike. It only takes a minute or two and it keeps you safe. Wear a bright or reflective shirt or vest. A light on your bike or helmet can give you additional visibility. Prices, brightness and quality vary. Bike helmets protect you from impact and can save your life. All helmets have to pass the same safety standards. Styles and prices vary a great deal. The latest technology for bike helmets was developed by neurosurgeons and is called MIPS or multi-directional Impact Protection System.
Spin classes are a popular way to tone the body through sweat, speed and climbs. A good instructor will make sure you have the proper bike set-up before class begins. If you are a newbie, be sure to ask for help. A vigorous spinning class on an indoor bike can burn upwards of 700 calories an hour, according to mapmyfitness.com. Simply follow the commands of your instructor. Comparatively, an hour-long bike ride at a leisurely 10 to 12 miles per hour burns only about 250 calories.
Don’t let discovering the great outdoors intimidate you. One of the best places to get a bike commuting route map is on the website of the Central Indiana Biking Association (CIBA), which promotes the benefits of safe cycling. The routes suggested are major thoroughfares that have bike lanes and get you from different parts of the Indianapolis suburbs to downtown. Commuter Connect from the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority has tools, information and resources particularly if you are crossing county lines during your ride.
As the great Freddy Mercury wrote and sang:
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it
where I like.