A relationship with cycling: Alf

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A relationship with cycling: Alf
By Lawrence Bywater 26 November 2018

A relationship with cycling. It’s no fling, its long term. Us, you - we’re both in it for the long haul.

There are ups and downs, like any relationship, of course.

An ill-timed puncture, a painful get-down, one hill too many. These are feelings that are easily forgotten. Replaced with thoughts of riding camaraderie, a new cake at your favourite café stop, a Strava PR.

Alf is the first story in an occasional series which tells the story of one person’s relationship with cycling.

A quick conflab amongst the pines of Cannock Chase. It's January 2017, our first encounter with Alf and his mountain bike.

There's a chill in the air. Don't stop for long.

We shoot the breeze. How are the trails are riding? Hasn't it been cold recently? 

We snap a picture and part. Seed sown.   

Nearly two years later and we’re back at Cannock.

“I started mountain biking when I was 70 years old. I had just had cancer and I decided I needed some exercise to keep me well or try and get me fit again.”

“My youngest son, one day he turned up with this second hand bike and said, ‘here you are Dad, have a ride on this, see how you feel just riding the canals.’”

“While I was riding the canals, I met one or two other riders on what seemed like different bikes to mine. Mine was very old fashioned. I got talking to them and they said, ‘have you been to Cannock and tried the mountain bike courses?’ They asked me to go over with them one day, and I did, I fell off, they picked me up and that was it, I was hooked.”

Three times a week, four in summer.

“You only have to look around you. Fresh air, exercise and good friends. It’s good on your body, it’s not harmful on your knees, everybody should try it.”

“When I’m riding around here and I see families riding around with their little ones and see them achieve something for the first time, a jump or a drop or getting over a hill. The look on their face is what makes it.”

Age, it’s just a number.

“The general reaction when people see me riding is: ‘oh he’s been riding sometime.’ And when we get talking and I say I’m 82, most of them want to shake my hand or have a selfie taken with me.”

“I know lots of 70 year old riders, who are really, really good and obviously much better than me, but it’s not too late to start at 80, you don’t have to go mad, just enjoy it.”

Starting out.

“My advice really if you do start taking a real interest in biking, you don’t have to do anything difficult, just ride around, with the children if you like, and soon after you’ve done it a few times, you’ll think, well, I’d like to do this a little bit more."

"Get some experience from more experienced riders. Once you get a buzz for it you’ll want to do more. It’s just tremendous.”

A final word.

“All I say is, I enjoy it and I’m OK for my age.”

Alf rides at Cannock