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Planning Retirement Online

On your bike  

April 2010  


On your bike!

cyclingCycling is right back on the agenda. We have known for ages it is a healthy fun activity, and also a very useful mode of transport. Today though is makes more sense than ever. At a time when everyone is talking carbon footprints, cycling is right back in fashion.

Cycling is a surprisingly modern invention – it was only in 1817 that the first hobby horse was invented. Then, in 1840 a Scotsman, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, put pedals on a bike but the whole concept received a major setback when Kirkpatrick knocked a child over on a pavement when he was riding a bike. Riding a bike on pavements has been against the law ever since.

Really it was the invention of the pneumatic tyre by John Dunlop in 1888 that took cycling up to a new level, and the basic design of a modern bike, with a diamond frame and equal sized wheels and straight or drop handlebars, was first put together in the 1890s.

Since then new styles and new designs gradually improved the bike but a major step forward was in the 1980s, when new materials such as titanium and carbon fibre made a big difference. Bicycle aerodynamics became a science and today there is a host of different designs and different bikes for a wide range of purposes, from high performance light weight models for road competitions down to sturdy mountain bikes for family days out.

Many of us may not have put our feet on the pedals since childhood, and if not, this could be the moment to think about cycling.
Today there is so much support out there for every level of cyclist, and that includes older people who are looking to make new friends and enjoy some gentle exercise. Safety has always been an aspect, and certainly on many roads cycling is inappropriate. But today there is an increasing number of cycling tracks around the UK and many authorities and groups have also mapped out great cycling routes, often graded for different abilities, which offer lovely scenery in very safe surroundings.

Of course the very first thing is to get a bike! Buying a good bike can be expensive, but there is no need to start at the top. There are lots of second hand bikes around and most cycle shops have sales every so often where you can pick up a very good bargain.

A most important aspect is to ensure the bike you are going to use is the right size, and for this you need to know your heightto help determine the size of frame that will be best for you. The chart below will give you some idea but you also need to feel comfortable on the bike. Saddle heightcan be adjusted so that you can reach the ground when necessary, but there is only a limit to these adjustments and obtaining the right base frame size is very important.


height Suggested bike frame size
4'10" - 5'1" 46 - 48 cm
5'0" - 5'3" 48 - 50 cm
5'2" - 5'5" 50 - 52 cm
5'4" - 5'7" 52 - 54 cm
5'6" - 5'9" 54 - 56 cm
5'8" - 5'11" 56 - 58 cm
5'10" - 6'1" 58 - 60 cm
6'0" - 6'3" 60 - 62 cm
6'2" - 6'5" 62 - 64 cm

You do need to ensure the bike you are buying is safe and operating properly of course. Buying new shouldn’t present problems here. However, if you have dug out an old model from the garage or bought secondhand, you will need to check the bike is in good and safe working order. Today many cycle shops and garages are happy to give a bike a quick check and there are also many cycling clubs across Britain with enthusiastic members who will readily give you advice. Cycle Training UK can offer a lot of good help here; they also run bike maintenance courses. Cycling isn’t rocket science and keeping a bike in good condition shouldn’t break the bank.

Many people who have taken up cycling in later life say the big thing is to just get started. Don’t worry about whether you want narrow or wide wheels, or a special style of bike. Just get a bike and get going. If you feel you would like some support for those first shaky efforts, then there are a number of bike riding courses around Britain that cater for all ages. Again offers courses and a list of instructors is available from
Another useful website is which is very worthwhile looking at because it shows the scope of what is available once you really get going – cycling holidays, cycling charity rides, and even contacts for good bike insurance.

Today there is a wealth of information and support available to help people get back into cycling. So – on your bike!!


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