Riding isn’t just for the young, it’s also for the young-at-heart. James McClain and Lew Cox, two friends in their 80s who live in South Denver, are proof of this theory. Lew started riding bikes about a decade ago after he retired. “I was messing around in the garage and saw my son’s bike,” he says. “I grabbed it and started riding.” James was introduced to bike riding by an indoor cycling instructor at his local YMCA. “He was telling everybody about riding Sunday morning,” he says. “I said, ‘shoot I would like that’.”
James and Lew are now part of the Sticky Buns Riders, a group that rides every Sunday. The name derives from a bakery in Morrison, Colorado that sold delicious pastries—while it has since gone out of business, the name stuck. These Sunday rides aren’t the only adventures Jim and Lew take in a typical week. “If everything goes smoothly, I like to do spinning three times a week and ride my bike there and back with a detour up to 12-15 miles on each trip,” Lew says. “There’s a Thursday bike group from the YMCA I also like to do. We do 35 miles and a different ride every time.” James teaches three or more indoor cycling classes a week. “I’m also part of a Thursday morning group that does 25-30 miles,” he says.
The friends say that there are two main benefits to all the riding—health and community. “I feel as good as when I did when I was in my mid-50s,” Lew says. “Riding seems to improve my attitude and the people are real nice and fun to be around.” James agrees. “I have a new doctor who wanted me to get a cardiologist examination. I’m 80 but the doctor said my heart rate would indicate that I’m about 60 years old.”
When it comes to encouraging other people their age to get back out on the bike, James and Lew take a slow and supportive approach. “I take them to a park, an area close to where people live, and we will ride the trails around the park and go over instructions on how to ride safely and pace yourself,” James says. “The idea is that you’ve got to work up to it, there’s safety in numbers and we have leaders that can fix flat tires.” Lew says that there’s a benefit to riding with people who want you to succeed and have fun. “Our groups encourage safety and we look out for each other,” he says.
Lew has been known to top 40 miles-per-hour going downhill, but for both men, it’s less about going fast and more about enjoying the ride. “It is a very worthwhile activity for anyone who wants to stay healthy instead of staying home and watching TV,” James says. “Even for people who stop and smell the roses.”