Cycling with the Old Spokes
It’s a fact one of the most important parts of continued wellness at any age is a level of physical activity.
But not only does Calgary’s cold winters make that more difficult, the barrier to entry for anyone starting out feels high.
How do you manage to start a new type of physical activity — or return to one you’ve not done in years — when the very prospect can seem intimidating at best and frightening at worst?
That’s what the Old Spokes Cycling Club aims to do. President Brenda Ballantyne cites the ease of entry as one of the most important parts of the club.
“I like how there’s different levels for everyone’s capabilities,” Ballantyne said. “We get people who used to cycle as children and are now older and want to get back into it … and we have hardcore cyclists, folks in their 80s who have been cycling their whole lives.”
There are three levels for the Calgary-based cycling club, which is part of the FLC Seniors Club — a non-profit organization operating out of the Trico Centre in Southeast Calgary — one each for different levels of ability.
They range from the Easy to the Intermediate, with rides that range less than 20 kilometers to one’s that go further than 40 or 50 kilometers. The speed of each level, however, aims to fit the capabilities of the group as a whole: no one gets left behind.
“We’re a club, not a team,” Ballantyne said. “We only go as fast as the slowest people.”
“No one gets left behind.”
There are almost 200 members of the Old Spokes Cycling Club. Although they lost some members due to the COVID-19 crisis, Ballantyne said they were able to get out and about even during COVID by taking proper measures.
“We had to make a few accommodations,” she said. “But it’s so easy to stay six feet apart.”
Ballantyne joined more recently, as the club has been operating for two decades in Calgary. Her husband retired 10 years ago, but thanks to the flexible age requirements, it’s easy for older adults in their 50s to join.
Folks aged 55 or older can join the club, and if they have a spouse who is aged 50 to 55, they are allowed to participate as well.
In addition to the physical fitness that contributes to the wellness of older adults who participate, Ballantyne said the social aspect of the club is equally as important.
“I realized it’s super active people, out to socialize and it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Often, depending on the ride leader, we stop to admire the few, go back and admire [sculptures], stop and smell the roses, it’s not a race, it’s a social bike ride.”
Participants end up getting to experience whole new parts of the city and the surrounding areas they may never have seen before, as routes are always changing.
“I’ve lived in the city for 30 years, but I’m starting to discover things in the social biking club that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.”
Ballantyne also said that the fact folks are participating together helps ease worries related to the logistics of going for a longer ride.
“Everybody is so helpful, so many people on your ride that can help you, you don’t have to worry about [a flat] someone will help you no matter what the problem is.”
With spring fast approaching, it’s never been a better time to make a commitment to a new physical activity to contribute to your wellness, and the Old Spokes Cycling Club might be exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’ve an interest, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or head to https://www.flcseniors.ca/activities/cycling for more information.