I was fascinated by a recent report by Strava that looked back over users' cycling data in 2018.

What stood out the most was that “cyclists in their 40s and 50s ride further and faster.” I wanted to know a little more.

Did women of this age-group actually relate to that? And if so, why? How? (PS. It was me that decided to separate the genders here, as I am interested in women’s cycling specifically. That’s why I decided to focus on them).

I conducted a totally un-scientific study and asked a handful of female cyclists in their 40s and 50s to get in touch so I could pick their brains.

I’ve always known about the black-spot in the age-group of women cyclists: during their teeange years and into their twenties it’s a simple fact that far fewer females cycle.

This clearly explains why there could be such an increase in ability of fitness and distance covered by middle-aged women. If women aren’t cycling at all, how can they record their fitness and speed?!

Cycling has grown to become my raison d'être

It seems to me that the key here is that middle-aged women put more time into cycling and therefore get fitter and faster.

Often due to a sudden change of circumstance, cycling - with all its facets as a sport, challenge and social - is the perfect glue to fill a gap. Women with more time, confidence and focus on “me-time” are reaping the benefits.

Here’s our take on the chats we had. Go have a gander.

Do you relate?

Anna's Legs 2019 - by Anna Glowinski

Kersti O Malley, 46

STARTED CYCLING AGED: 43 

Kersti learnt to ride as a child and used it for transport in her formative years.

“When I went to university and then work as a teacher I had little time for cycling and it became 'something I did when I was young'.

"Then in my 40s I found myself feeling fat and frumpy.”

She wished she got into it younger but it's obvious why she didn´t...

It wasn´t borne from passion or inspiration, but the decision to get back on the bike was simply an aid to lose lost some weight. But as many of us know, once you get going things tend to only go in one direction: forward.

“To begin with ten miles was a challenge but slowly and surely I improved. I met up with a friend who had a road bike and we went on rides together, increasing the mileage gradually.”

It's obvious that Kersti fits firmly in the category of “fitter at forty”. She now rides 3 times per week, is part of a club and does 100KM sportives.

To her, although she wished she got into it younger, it's obvious why she didn´t:

“I think I was probably too busy then [in 20s and 30s] but now my children are more independent I can take some time for me.”

 

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You'll just need to tell us about how you caught the cycling bug later in life...

 

Emma Tilston, 52 (and a half)

STARTED CYCLING AGED: 40

Once again, Emma started cycling as a child and then just let it go at age 16...not to pick it up again until she was 40.

“I started back because a friend signed a group of us up to do an Ironman Tri for his 40th birthday. Amazing what you will agree to when you don't know what it means....”

Since taking on that challenge, it seems that challenge has become part of Emma´s repertoire; sportives, triathlons, time-trials and cycle touring...

She now has 7 bikes, one for each discipline. Although she doesn´t feel faster than when she was younger, à la Strava, she does reckon that her base fitness is better.

When asked what she´d like to say to her younger self, she came back with a typically challenge mindset type answer:

“Ride with a club as often as possible, stick with it when you get dropped and learn to hurt if you want to improve.”

 

Gwen Warren, 47

STARTED CYCLING AGED: 41

Cycling became a lifeline for Gwen when her marriage ended.

Where there was a huge gap left in her life, cycling pedalled in to fill it.

My strongest and fastest year on the bike at the age of 47

“Cycling has grown to become my connection with the outdoors and my social world, the centre of both my physical and mental goals and challenges, the foundation for enhancing my mental wellbeing, and my raison d'être.”

The new life that Gwen has created for herself included prioritising time for riding and time with her kids over work.

Working from home on her own business has allowed her to create this balance that she wanted. No stranger to fitness, she was actually a fitness instructor before she became a cyclist.

But she cannot believe that she has just had her “strongest and fastest year on the bike at the age of 47 and have achieved personal bests...

"So yes, I am definitely faster and fitter than I was when I was younger!”

 

Helen McCreadie, 45

STARTED CYCLING AGED: 38

Although Helen technically knew how to cycle as a child, she was definitively in the “non-sporty” camp, dreading P.E lessons and such like.

The bike got left gathering cobwebs in her early adulthood. Tragically, losing her sister to cancer was the main boost for her to digging it back out and committing full-heartedly to Women V Cancer Ride the Night cycling fundraiser.

She stuck religiously to the training schedule that she was sent and “what started off as a chore, started to become enjoyable and it got to the stage that I couldn’t wait to get out on long bike rides.”

Enjoy the rides, the friendship and the cakes

As with all the women interviewed, cycling just seemed to seep it’s way into Helen’s life, creating a whole new life for her of rides, fundraising, challenges and friendship groups. She even became a Breeze Ride Leader!

Interestingly, Helen still doesn’t see herself as sporty, or even cycling as a sport!

Riding is something fun to do with friends and she always enjoys it, even if she doesn’t feel like going far. And she rarely feels like going fast.

That said, she knows that she is definitely fitter than ever and faster than she was 5 years ago. 

Taking up the cycling when she did meant for a steep learning curve, about all sorts of things from chamois cream to group riding, but she stayed humble enough to listen, suggesting that:

“Appreciate everyone who gives you riding advice (even if you’ve heard it before), you will always be learning new stuff about cycling. Enjoy the rides, the friendship and the cakes.

"Especially the cakes!”

 

Jackie Jones, 57

STARTED CYCLING AGED: 55

Signing up to a Charity Ride is appearing to be an obvious theme in getting middle-aged people passionate about the bike.

Jackie followed this trend after taking early retirement to care for her elderly parents and was looking for a challenge to focus on, as her work had previously been very high-powered.

A google search later and 5-months on she was successfully taking part in Deloite’s Ride Across Britain.

Tackle the iconic rides and practice, practice, practice

From then on, as with so many others, she was hooked.

The loss of her parents and a new, self-employed career meant that Jackie had more time on her hands and cycling became an obsession.

She could not agree more with Strava’s claim, she is “I’m fitter than ever, I have lost weight, toned up and feel better about my body.”

Her list of challenges and events both accomplished and yet to do are as long as her arm, she just wishes she had started sooner.

“Start sooner, learn to ride properly before you’re older to help gain confidence and ability. Tackle the iconic rides and practice, practice, practice” is her advice to all younger people.

She encourages them towards a love for a sport that doesn’t impact your knees as you get older!!

 

Melissa Mills, 43

STARTED CYCLING AGED: ON-AND-OFF ALWAYS

Melissa’s story is a little different from the previous women: there was never a period in her life when she totally stopped cycling.

Nor was there a clear cut time when she suddenly became “a cyclist” - it just gradually became a bigger part of her life in time.

I've enjoyed cycling more as I've got older

It sounds a lot like trial and error was the answer. Her hubby is a keeno cyclist so it was never a forgotten sport, but the bike she had she hated and never enjoyed taking it out.

“I cycled as a child until early teens maybe, but nothing serious. Then I tried taking up cycling in my early 20s but didn't get on with my bike. I replaced the bike in my late twenties with a better mountain bike but still didn't love cycling.

"I enjoyed it more after having my daughter in my early 30s as it gave me a bit of freedom to get out and about with her in a seat on the back, without having to pay for parking or bus fare. I've enjoyed cycling more as I've got older, becoming a coach at 40.”

Instead of kids being a barrier to Melissa and cycling, it was in-part due to them that she discovered a connection.

Becoming a kids' coach, getting a new bike and then becoming a Breeze Ride leader... it all clicked into place for Melissa. She now enjoys taking part in sportives and cycling touring holidays.

By default, she reckons she must be faster than she was when she was younger (though doesn’t feel it!) and is definitely, certainly fitter.

Melissa believes that even strapped for cash younger budding riders should invest in a decent bike. It could be the make or break factor between having that fitness in your younger years!

 

Here's your chance to WIN a pair of 2019 Anna's Legs padded cycling leggings - the talk of the town amongst female cyclists right now!

You'll just need to tell us about how you caught the cycling bug later in life...

Classy kit for 'later blooming' cyclists!