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  1. #1
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    Age vs. Cycling Ability

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    Occassionally, I see posts that are a bit self-deprecating by folks regarding their age imposed cycling limitations.

    So, I started thinkin' Is there a limitation on ability based solely on age?

    So, the final Rain (Ride Across INdiana) Results were recently posted. There were 900+ finishers. This was a 160 mile RIDE, not a RACE, but many race against the clock and order of finish is tracked by the organizers although the finish line is closed at sunset (14 hours after the start).

    So, I ran this scatter graph plotting finish time vs. age:



    Interestingly, the average age of the first 10 finishers is 42 yrs AND the last 10 finishers is 42 yrs! The overall median is 46 yrs old (a surprise to me)!

    So, based on this, while I acknowledge that many other factors can influence riding speed and ability (equipment, fitness level, road conditions, drafting, start time, sag time, etc), it would appear to me that age does not limit cycling speed and ability...and those of us beyond middle age need to stop beating ourselves up as we grow wiser...

    Fine Print:
    The data is as presented except I removed:
    - a few finishers with blank ages
    - a person with an age of 1
    - a person with an age of 108 (I believe a typo since if someone did this at 108, I'm confident that the national news would have been there...)
    If you don't grow where you're planted, you'll never BLOOM - Will Rogers

  2. #2
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    Interesting graph, Mr Silver. I appreciate the use of visual aids.

    When I was an undergraduate, I heard a lecture presented by visiting artist Steve "Thunder" McGuire, an art professor at the University of Iowa. He cycles within and outside the US and presents a captivating monologue of his epic adventures. He travels with a 2 seater recumbent built to invite people to join him in his journeys. In the latest issue of Outside magazine, he competed in the Great Divide Race, a grueling journey that starts in Montana and ends in Mexico. His age? 49. His journeys become longer as he ages, which is a testament of his cycling longevity.

  3. #3
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    I think a ride like that tends to attract 40 somethings. I see the same thing at brevets and double centuries. There seem to be very few riders in their 20s at those rides. Just personal observation.

    The top female at my HIM on Saturday is 42. She finished in 5:05. There were two others over 40 in the top ten.

    I think people may use age as a euphemism for not having maintained themselves as well as they might have liked to.

    V.
    Discipline is remembering what you want.


    TandemHearts.com

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Veronica View Post
    I think people may use age as a euphemism for not having maintained themselves as well as they might have liked to.

    V.
    Well, it's time for us to change that

    Quote Originally Posted by Veronica View Post
    I think a ride like that tends to attract 40 somethings. I see the same thing at brevets and double centuries.
    Why do you think that is?
    If you don't grow where you're planted, you'll never BLOOM - Will Rogers

  5. #5
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    I agree with Veronica - rides of those type do tend to attract a more mature crowd, but I can also tell you in the racing community it is not necessarily the young pups that are the fastest - at least among the women. Most of our fastest women also qualify for masters racing and some are even 50+

    Also if you look at longer events, more geared towards endurance than raw power I think that the differences between younger people and older folks even out quite a bit. More experience and more base mean riders who have been at it longer do just as good if not better.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  6. #6
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    re: Age vs. Cycling ability

    I have to agree with you wholeheartedly that it makes no difference.
    I am 43 years old (as of this Oct.) and I started road and Cross racing competitively 1 year ago. The only thing that I have found is a concern for me is recovery time compared to when I was younger - my body requires more pampering (if you will) than it did before. As for speed, fitness and general performance, well, given I regularly beat gals 20 years younger than me and have upgraded from Cat 5 to Cat 3 in one season, i would have to say that age makes no difference.
    If you think I am exaggerating, then consider that I get beaten regularly by a 52 year old who races masters and often is pitted against Cat 4's when there aren't enough to make a full women's race...
    All of my racing success has all been while parenting a 2 and half year old i gave birth to when I turned 40.
    So, whomever out there uses their age as an excuse, i would then have to confront you about your fitness and health instead.. Age is NOT a limitation, your attitude and general health are.

    Happy cycling!
    Stania
    Last edited by Stania; 08-05-2008 at 03:31 PM. Reason: spelling mistake

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Silver View Post

    Why do you think that is?
    In my experience - because two things happen when people get to be about 40. 1) if they were runners, their knees start to give out and they move into cycling. 2) their kids are finally old enough to be left alone or with sitters.

    I think this is why in the world of recreational cycling - you see a disproportionate number of people late 30's and up. And if you are a competitive type, but not quite of 'racing' caliber - what better way to challenge yourself than with endurance events?!

    This is totally anecdotal - I don't have any real statistics or anything!
    My new non-farm blog: Finding Freedom

  8. #8
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    I think there are several factors.

    One is that true endurance is built over time. There are certainly genetic factors involved too.

    2ndly is patience.

    3rdly may be that as we get older some of us don't give a damn what others think. So we may be willing to spend hours on the road in our crazy endeavor.

    4thly. It's not a cheap sport.

    Some thoughts anywho.

  9. #9
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    I think GLC is right with the "kids old enough" point as one major contributing factor here.

    On the Grand Tour (a week-long tour in Quebec, with days of 100+ km, lots of hills in general, similar to Cycle Oregon) there are 2200 participants, and the average age this year is 47 years old.

    Who can go on 160-mile rides if they have young children at home?

    (Edited to add: But this does not change the fact that not many people in their early 20s would be clocking those sort of times. It does take many years to create an endurance athlete. And those who would would be bored out of their mind before reaching the finish line!! )

  10. #10
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    If this is true, why aren't we seeing 50+ year old riders in the TdF? Or competing at world cup downhill and winning? I believe Jeanie Longo is a unique individual.

    I think that age does matter with the type of event and the level of competition.
    Frends know gud humors when dey is hear it. ~ Da Crockydiles of ZZE.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by SadieKate View Post
    If this is true, why aren't we seeing 50+ year old riders in the TdF? Or competing at world cup downhill and winning? I believe Jeanie Longo is a unique individual.

    I think that age does matter with the type of event and the level of competition.
    Most certainly. When you get to a certain level of competition there is a point where only the very exceptional person can compete against the young crowd when they are significantly older. Jeannie Longo and Ned Overend come to mind.

    Some of it does have to do with recovery - it becomes much harder to recover as we age, so an event like the TDF is unlikely to be won by a 50 something - but if you do take a close look its often men in their 30's not the early 20 somethings who win the overall.

    Some of it has to do with the razor thin margins that you are talking about when you are looking at pro level racing. An older guy might not that much slower than a younger one, but when a few seconds can be the difference between 1st and 50th the little edge being young can give you becomes very important.

    I do think that women do actually peak at an older age than men though. Many if not most of the top women are in their middle to late 30's and even 40's - Kristin Armstrong is 35, Judith Arndt 32, Tina Pic 42, Laura Van Gilder 44, Amber Neben 33
    Last edited by Eden; 08-05-2008 at 08:25 PM.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Silver View Post
    Well, it's time for us to change that



    Why do you think that is?
    I think more people over a certain age have mental capacity to experience long distances and long time periods with a better sense of perspective.

    I did Boot Camp with a 16 yo girl. We would do things like jump rope for 6 minutes, or attempt to run a mile in under 12 minutes. Almost every time the instructor mentioned a longish time, she had a bad reaction, like it was an eternity. With respect to the whole of her life, in contrast to the whole of mine, it could seem like a long time! Once she started doing it, it was over in a flash and she completed the tasks no problem. But it seemed like an eternity to her!

    I remember being that way as a kid/teenager. I had to run 2 miles in the army, and I really thought that was brutal when I was 18! I have perspective on that distance, now. It's NOTHING.

    Have some children, eh? then you really get a perspective on time. Become a grandma! That'll do it. All that to say, I think the 40s enter long things like that because the mental block about the length of time is not as strong.


    Karen

  13. #13
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    Passing the mirror

    I have to agree with SadieKate. Age can't be ignored. I'm not saying bow to it and take up knitting and complaining but no one can define what "age" really means and what are the rules for doing it "right." It's the elephant in the room as long as we see it as an elephant rather than a fascinating journey.

    On most levels age classifications are an external thing that is molded by society and culture. Yet on an interior level it's something altogether different and completely individual to each person. On the inside no one feels 62 or 92. Instead we feel exactly the same as we did when consciousness first bloomed as an infant. The physical body may get rusty and crusty and that never ceases to amaze us when we pass a mirror.

    Perhaps if we stop applauding "oldsters" doing things that aren't typical, we will stop creating our own image of others. Sexism and Ageism cut people off at the knees and squash them into a pigeonhole. Unfortunatenly it's often the aged who reinforce all the boundaries given to them by others because it's just too scary to step out and be unique in whatever way that pleases them from beng restful and reflective to swimming the English channel.

    Out of shap is out of shape whatever the age. Alleged recovery time differences are a mental construct of expectations.

    I often wonder if the care seniors take to protect themselves isn't just the fear of impending death, a death for which they aren't ready to accept. Unfortunately the medical profession is the first bugler to shout the alarm to be careful, take precautions, know your limits, work up very very gradually to change.

    Some seniors blossom into type A personalities and push the envelope while others become quiet navel contemplators, while still others fill the bell curve in between. Bravo to them all!

  14. #14
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    I think age is a factor, but it's very individual. All of a sudden, I need lots of recovery time and my average is going down.... some of it is my particular situation, but there is nothing unusual going on with me compared to a couple of years ago. I didn't start cycling until I was 48, but I was very active in other fitness things. I improved steadily until last year, when health issues interfered. Now, I am frustrated. I am only competitive with myself and myself is not happy thinking that this is age!
    I feel like I have to make a decision between whether I will concentrate on distance or speed, because i don't seem to be able to do both well.

  15. #15
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    I think we're talking about two different things here: the specific demands of cycling, vs. age-related changes in our bodies. (We're also talking about competitive sport, when the OP had to do with participation in mass fun events.)

    The top competitors in most sports are much, much younger than the top competitors in cycling. That doesn't mean that cyclists' bodies age more slowly than other athletes', it just means that endurance and strategy are so important in cycling that, to a point, they outweigh incremental declines in reflexes, recovery and strength.

    Obviously statistics don't define individual situations. Just as it would be perfectly accurate to say generally that men are stronger than women (by about 20% based on weight-class weight-lifting records), nevertheless probably many of the women on this forum are stronger than most men in our demographic.

    Bottom line: we still age. Oh, well! I'm at the point where I'm realizing I just have to deal with it.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

 

 

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