Study: Cycling Past 50: A Closer Look into the World of Older Cyclists


By Charles Pekow — Don’t fear that you may get too old to bike. You may simply need to make adjustments. It may mean a new vehicle, different expectations, finding companions to ride with and more user-friendly paths. Maybe also ebikes, tricycles and tandems.

Carol Kachadoorian of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University surveyed about 5,000 cyclists in 23 countries (mostly in the United States and Canada) aged 50 and up about their past and current cycling habits. Injury and illness didn’t seem to discourage people; once they recovered, they hopped right back on their cycle seats. And older Americans ride for the same reasons younger ones do: recreation, running errands, socialization, tourism, exercise and even competitively. They still ride off-road. Like younger ones, some cycle regularly; others occasionally.

Electric bikes help older people stay sharp. Photo by Dave Iltis

The study Cycling Past 50: A Closer Look into the World of Older Cyclists, Year 4 Survey had the following key findings:

  • Among those who don’t ride regularly, such as those running errands, distance is the main factor in deciding to take the bike. Respondents also preferred to bike to avoid hassles such as finding a place to park a car.
  • The most common reason seniors cited for cycling was to exercise, with nearly a third saying it was their main motivation. The next most common reason cited was a social activity, followed by running errands. Those doing errands generally didn’t travel more than 10 miles, shorter than the other reasons cited. Responses didn’t vary much by gender.
  • Once people got past their mid-60s, rates of overnight trips, mountain biking and gravel riding declined.
  • When people ride tandems, they most commonly shared the vehicle with their significant other; but others cited friends, children, or grandchildren. A few mentioned putting a blind person in the back seat to give them a chance to cycle. Tandems are good for exercise but seldom useful for getting to work or running (should we say cycling?) errands.
  • Respondents cited all sorts of reasons for buying an ebike, with no one answer standing out, though the most common one was that it enabled them to ride.
  • Only 3.6% of respondents said they owned a trike and nearly three-fourths of them said they used a recumbent. “The reasons for purchasing a trike range from mitigating medical issues, wanting more stability, getting on and off more easily, riding with someone else, carrying groceries and other items, and when they can afford it.”

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