Am I Too Old To Cycle The World With TDA Global Cycling?
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”– George Bernard Shaw
How old is too old to go on an extended bike tour? A few months ago, our newsletter and blog editor Michael asked me to write a piece on the subject, ‘Am I Too Old To Cycle The World With TDA Global Cycling?’ Being of a certain age myself and having just come back from a tour of Japan where I spent quite a bit of time huffing and puffing on hilly, or should I say mountainous roads, I can safely say I certainly didn’t feel like writing about this topic.
But today, as I was going through the TDA inbox, I read the following comment on a blog I wrote years ago: “Hi Loris., just seen your reply to my blog of 2020. Did you get round to crossing the Nullarbor? Now in 2023 and at the age of 85 I am thinking of doing it again after reading about a New Zealand couple, in their 80s, who did it recently plus other mammoth rides elsewhere in Australia. If I do go, I will be much better prepared this time, first time around my preparation was unbelievably naive.” I do not personally know the author of the comment to my blog as he wasn’t a participant on any of the Trans-Oceania tours which we have organized since 2014 but writing that he will be 85 and plans to do the Nullarbor again certainly got my attention.
Michael, who also responds to inquiries regarding our tours, tells me that one of the most common questions he gets from interested participants is, ‘Am I too old’? So how old is too old? Is 70 too old? 75? 80? How can we answer this question when modernity is allowing older and older people to do things that a generation ago would not even have been considered possible?
In the olden days, particularly in rural communities, there was always an individual or two who, in spite of being ‘old’, were still working hard and were able to do physical things that were often given up by people a couple of decades younger. But these individuals were doing it in the area where they lived and were very familiar with their surroundings and the challenges facing them. They were certainly not cycling across continents in foreign countries. Perhaps the best way to answer this is to look at the question from the perspective of a subject of many articles – that is, what is one’s real age vs biological age, also called physiological age.
We all know our chronological age but what exactly is our biological age? Looking around, we all realize that aging varies from individual to individual. Many factors such as genetics, diet, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, the environment in which you live, and other aspects of life all influence the aging process. If you are one of those lucky ones that has won the lottery of life and inherited the right DNA, or as friend of mine likes to say, you picked the right parents, if you followed a healthy diet, didn’t like smoking and alcohol, lived a non stressful life or were not a worrier, then your biological age at 75 could certainly be like that of a 62 year old. You may even be able to do tours like the Trans-Oceania, Trans-Caucasus or the North American Epic.
If you have doubts about your biological age, you can even have yourself tested. There are now a myriad of such tests, though the quality or accuracy probably varies from one to another. Interestingly enough, one research study I discovered on the internet even found that your biological age can also predict age related diseases including dementia though I guess that none of them actually test for cognitive deterioration. The study caught my eye as our company encourages people of all ages, including older individuals, to take on new challenges – with all the benefits that such activities accrue.
However, what if the potential rider has cognitive issues and they are either not recognizing them, ignoring them or think they are not severe enough to stop them doing what they like. Even Dr Steve Horvath, a UCLA professor who pioneered the first ‘epigenic clock’ to indicate human aging by examining chemical changes to DNA and created what is considered the gold standard test for biological age, is quoted in an article in the Guardian on June 13, 2022, saying that consumers (i.e. people who take the test) should, “think of it [the test] more as entertainment.”
So how old is too old to cross a continent on a bike or to cycle the Trans-Caucasus, the Bamboo Road or the Ruta Maya? At the end of the day, it comes down to the difficulty of the tour you wish to cycle on, your discussion regarding the tour with TDA, what your doctor and family say and perhaps most importantly, how honest you are with yourself.