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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cycling offers way for older Memphians to get into shape and to possibly feel younger

Cycling offers way for older Memphians to get into shape and to possibly feel younger
By:  Michael Lander
Old and young alike will find some very scenic places to ride such as Overton
Park that has a bicycle arch at its entrance where Sam Cooper Blvd and East
Parkway intersect.

It has often been said that we are only as old as we feel and, it would be safe to say, that none of us ever want to feel any older than we actually are.  Looking and feeling younger is what most of us want and what we typically strive for as we move into our 40's, 50's and beyond.

Without a fountain of youth to keep us all looking and feeling younger, however, we all have to rely on what we've always been told about the importance of eating right, getting plenty of rest, and making time in our busy lives for some exercise. 

Of these, it is especially important to keep moving and to remain active as we age even though the temptation might be to slow down and to start taking it easy, particularly when you feel the aches and pains that inevitably come with growing older.

Instead of spending our later years in sedentary pursuits like kicking back in recliners and rocking chairs, though, each and every one of us will find a lot more benefits in getting up, getting out and to start moving rather than sitting around and watching the world around us from the sidelines. 

There are any number of great ways to get moving and to get into and to stay in shape.  These include walking, hiking running, and swimming, just to name a few, but in Memphis, one of the best and fastest growing ways to get exercise may come on a bicycle.  With a ever-growing network of bike lanes, paths and trails, Memphis has become a Mecca for cycling in less than a decade.

A slow and leisurely ride on one of the many bike and pedestrian trails
in Memphis is something that cyclists of any age can appreciate.

While no one would argue that any form of exercise is better than doing nothing at all, cycling may be one of the better options for those who are older and who enjoy being outdoors.  Many who suffer from joint and knee pain may also find cycling to be considerably easier on them, for instance, than running and hiking might be.

Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes and of all ages and, contrary to what some people might think, it is never too late and you are never too old to start cycling.  Bikes don't come with recommended age labels and, as long as you can peddle, there is no reason that you can't ride a bike.  

If you are out-of-shape, or returning to cycling after a long absence away from it, it is advisable that you first take it slow and easy.  Trying to do too much too fast will not only make it a painful experience for you, but it will make you less inclined to go back again for seconds. 

For tips on how to get started in cycling, you might want to visit the Memphis Cyclist website.

As with any exercise or work-out regimen, it is important to listen to your body and to make adjustments along the way.  You should also decide, early on, why you want to ride.  Whether your want to do it just for fun, to get into or to stay in shape, or to even possibly compete in your age group, this will help you to set goals and to determine the amount of time, effort and training that you will need to put into it.

Cycling is an activity that can be enjoyed throughout each season of the year and
it can be a great way for older Memphians to get into shape and stay healthy.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting to do leisurely or recreational riding, but for those who want to do something more than that, everything really comes down to getting adequate training.  In Jesper Bondo Medhus' article, "Age is No Barrier to Cycling," Medhus emphasized this point and how important training is for both young and old alike and that each is capable of achieving the same results.  Also, for the most benefit in training, it is highly recommended that it is done with as much frequency and intensity as possible.

For those who want to ride for a purpose other than just the pure pleasure of it, you should expect a little pain and discomfort through long and strenuous training rides, but it should not exceed more than you can tolerate.  If there is too much pain and not enough enjoyment in it, you are not likely to stick with it over the long term.

As anyone with a little age on them will tell you, some pain and discomfort is sometimes just a part of life as you come to and pass middle age, but you also should know your body and what you can't and should not do.  Everything seems harder when you are older, but with a little time and effort, there is no reason whatsoever that you can't keep up or even ride past some of those who are half your age.

Whenever you do not perform or ride as well as you hope, try not to be too hard on yourself.  Just think, you probably don't have any appliances or electronic devices around your house that have lasted as long as you have and you shouldn't expect that any will ever be made that will be as durable and long-lasting either. 

As with anything else in life, you should expect some occasional setbacks and disappointments along the way with your cycling, but you should never let this hold you back from staying at it and continuing to set new and greater goals for yourself.  When you reach a time in life when it seems like just being able to wake up in the morning is an accomplishment, each and every other challenge that you overcome should be savored for all it's worth. 

Over the decades, you experience a lot, endure through a lot and yet you often persevere, but you do usually pay for the years of wear and tear and abuse that you inflicted on yourself over the decades.  The American composer, lyricist and pianist, Eubie Blake, had the classic line about this when he said, "if I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."  But in spite of all this, the human body is often quite resilient and it can overcome a lot if the mind and spirit are willing to put forth that effort.

Whatever people might want to say about cyclists, the one thing that they are not is wimps.  For that matter, when it comes down to it, the same could also be said for just about anyone who survives into old age.  Life isn't always easy, but nothing worth having usually is and we often don't learn to appreciate anything until we've worked hard for it.
The bike and pedestrian trails in Memphis and surrounding areas offer older
cyclists, and others, an opportunity to ride at a more leisurely pace while
taking in some of the beautiful scenery along the route.

Even though older cyclists are at a disadvantage to the younger counterparts, they do have one distinctive advantage in that they have endured many difficult life lessons, but then have overcome them and, with some training, they can do the same with any that they might encounter while cycling.  With that, the older cyclist need only know their own personal limits and then they must be willing to try to move past them in order to make progress and to improve. 

Should you be older, and are interested in cycling, you are likely to find that you are not alone.  In the years ahead, Memphians should begin to see even more seniors out riding their bikes around our city.  It has been identified as one of the best places to retire and was voted as a top retirement destination in the Huffington Post, Kiplinger, and on the nerdwallet & areavibes websites.

If you would like to know more about older folks and cycling, you may want to read the article, "Cycling in Older Age," on the Bike Culture website, "Aging and Physical Performance," on, or you might want to check out the website:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Options and advice for cyclists to consider on bicycle maintenance and repair

Options and advice for cyclists to consider on bicycle maintenance and repair
By:  Michael G. Lander
Cyclists have the option of taking their bikes to one of a dozen different bike
shops around Memphis or they try to do the maintenance and repair themselves.
In choosing to do it themselves, they not only can save on labor costs, but they
can become more familiar with their bikes and how they work.
Bicycle maintenance and repair is not usually the first thing that most people think about when they first become interested in cycling.  For me, it never even entered my mind when I bought my first bike.  Like most people, I only saw my bicycle as a way of providing me with many hours of fun, recreation, and exercise and maybe even, later on, as a viable and economical means of transportation in and around Memphis. 

The thought of having to maintain and repair a bike was the furthest thing from my mind because my bike was brand spanking new and, at the time, I was far more interested in the features that my bike had and how cool it looked in its University of Memphis colors.  With an astounding 27 gears, it had a much greater range than the 10-speed bike that I had ridden over 20 years before. 

It wasn't until many months after I got my new bike, when it didn't look quite so new anymore, covered with a layer of grit and grime, that I began to realize that I needed to do something to prevent things from wearing out and breaking down prematurely.  As anyone with a bike knows, it doesn't seem to take long before parts need to repaired, adjusted and replaced and waiting too long to do things will often cost you a whole lot more money in the long run.

Other than the initial purchase of a bike, the next greatest set of expenses for many cyclists will come over time when you either need to fix or to keep your bike in good working order.  In the long-term, these costs will often eclipse and exceed whatever amount that you might have spent in your initial investment in a bike.

The Revolutions Community Bike Shop in Cooper-Young offers Memphis
residents with the opportunity to give back to their community while
they learn more about bicycle maintenance and repairs.
When it comes time to do maintenance or repairs on a bike, it really comes down to two simple choices.  You always have the option of simply taking it to a bike shop and letting someone else take care of it for you or, for the budget-conscious person, you can always consider trying to do it yourself. 

There are advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of either taking your bike to a shop or trying to do it yourself (DIY).  Bike Shops can save you time and lessen the amount of hassle and frustration that you might encounter by trying to do it yourself and you can always take your bike back to the shop if you are not satisfied with something.  The downside to them, however, is the cost and the time (sometimes a week or more) spent waiting for your bike to be worked on. 

Being able to work on a bike yourself can be a much more wallet-friendly option that will not only save you some money, but you won't have to wait until a bike shop gets around to working on your bike.  On top of that, by doing it yourself, you also acquire some practical hands-on experience with your bike.  Becoming familiar with it can be especially helpful  if something goes wrong with it in the middle of nowhere.  After making repairs yourself, you will also have a sense of pride that only comes from doing something yourself and not having to always rely on the work of others. 

The only issues that may be a problem in doing your own maintenance and repairs is that you will need to have sufficient space for this.  It may not be worth it if you don't actually enjoy this kind of thing or like getting your hands greasy and dirty.  There may also be a learning curve that comes along with trying to do things yourself that can sometimes be accompanied by a little confusion and frustration in the trial and error process that you may sometimes run into before you get it right.  

Having the proper tools and the know-how can be indispensable
to cyclists no matter where they are.
 You can learn basic to more detailed bicycle maintenance and repairs from videos posted on YouTube and, with your tablet or iPad beside you, you can watch how to do it as you attempt it yourself.  There are videos that demonstrate general maintenance and repairs and step-by-step instructions on how to change a tire and a bicycle chain, clean and lubricate a bicycle chain, adjust a rear derailleur, gears and brakes, clean and repack a hub, truing a wheel, replace a cogset, and how to change a cassette and how to do a tune-up.  If you don't have a repair stand, you can even watch videos on how to make a repair stand yourself. 

In addition to going online, several Memphis area bike shops also offer some very helpful free maintenance and repair classes.   Bikes Plus, Inc has a free monthly tire changing clinic every third Saturday at 2:00 pm, Bike the Planet provides a free maintenance clinic on the first Saturday of every month, Bike World gives an occasional free Bicycle Repair 101 Course, and Victory Bicycle Studio has a free bike maintenance class every Wednesday at 6 pm.  For contact information on these bike shops and a complete listing of all the other ones in the Memphis area, click on this link to the Memphis Cyclist website.

You can also learn about bicycles and how to do some bicycle maintenance and repairs at Revolutions Community Bike Shop.  It is located at the First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood  at 1000 S. Cooper Ave, Memphis, TN.   Each volunteer is expected to give a total of 10 hours of their time to the charitable work to the community bike shop and, in return, you get a free bike for your efforts, which you will eventually put together yourself.  After that, you will have a place where you can then take the bike and do your own repairs on it from that point forward.

In order to avoid unnecessary and costly repairs to your bike in the first place, it is important to do some periodic and preventive maintenance, including a tune-up. 

As a kid, I remember my parents telling me that if I took care of something that it would last longer and, as far as bicycles are concerned, it was advice I have found to be true. 

You may be able to ride hundreds or thousands of miles on a bike, but there is lots of wear and tear on it throughout the time that it takes to rack up that many miles on a bike.  Unless you have the intentions of riding it until the wheels fall of, you will be a lot better off doing some periodic checks, lubricating the chain, and cleaning off dirt and debris, especially if you are riding a mountain bike.  The last thing that you want to ever run into is to have your bike break down during a long-distance bike ride or to have an accident when it could have easily been avoided by a simple check and repair beforehand.

To learn more about bicycle maintenance and repairs, you might want to check out MadeGood.Bikes at  For those with road and mountain bikes, Todd Downs has written a book, entitled "The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair" that might be a great resource for the do-it-yourselfer. 

Also, if you have some time to spare, there is a very informative and helpful, (1 hour and 24 minute), Youtube video, Bike Garage - The Ultimate Bike Repair Movie Bicycle Maintenance, that may provide you with an overview of bicycle maintenance and repair worth watching before you think about delving into the do-it-yourself arena yourself.