Cycling into and beyond your 40s presents its own set of little challenges. You're not alone

Is 40 really the age at which the human body suddenly starts to feel like it is crumbling? The point at which you resign yourself to your fate and take up residence on the sofa, awaiting The End? Of course not. There are still 30, 40 or more good cycling years ahead of you, and riding is a great way to keep in shape and stay feeling young.

However, there’s no denying that things do change a little once the first flush of youth starts to fade – and that may be tough to come to terms with. It helps to know that you’re not alone…

1. You appreciate saddle time so much more

As you get older, the pressure on your time seems to increase and it can sometimes be hard to find time for a decent ride: which just makes you appreciate the time you have on the bike that much more. A full working week can leave you with little saddle time, particularly in winter, and the time you do have in the week is often filled with weariness.

If you have a family, you’ll also have to fit in your riding around everything else going on, and that can be hard work. Those minutes and hours spent on the bike feel like freedom, and you come back from a ride feeling mentally refreshed and ready to take on the world.

>>> Getting into cycling: Training (video)

2. You’ve got the bike you wish you had when you were 20

Remember when you were younger and you used to stare through the bike shop window or browse through magazines looking at those expensive bikes that you couldn’t afford? Chances are, in the intervening 20 years or so, your earning power increased and you scraped together the cash to buy one. Imagine how good you could have been if you had the bike you have now, back then?

Team Sky Pinarello Dogma F8 2016

Go on, you deserve it

3. You’re never going to win the Tour de France

The oldest Tour de France winner in history was Firmin Lambot. And he was 36. And that was back in 1922. When you’re pounding the pedals up the local climb (possibly with a tailwind), you may think to yourself “I’ve still got what it takes to be a top pro, if only Team Sky could see me now” but the harsh reality is… it’s not now going to happen.

However, don’t let that stop you chasing down any youngster that dares to ride past you – as if you’re Cavendish chasing Kittel down the Champs Élysées. You’ve still got it.

The peloton on the Champs Elysees in Paris on stage twenty of the 2012 Tour de France

It’s never going to happen…

4. Tea stops suddenly become more attractive

Every good ride deserves a café stop. In your youth (mid-30s), the thought of stopping off and ruining your average speed would have seemed ludicrous. But now, you find yourself planning rides to and from the best watering holes. And the older you get, the longer those café stops seem to take. Mostly to avoid putting back on cold and clammy gloves and helmet.

Maison du Velo, Britain's best cycling cafés pt 2

A good café is an essential part of every good ride: you appreciate that more as you get older

5. …and you may have to stop a bit more

What goes in, must come out. Your bladder may no longer have the capacity of a football, but is more like a ping-pong ball. What’s the betting you have a mental map pinpointing conveniently discreet gateways and hedgerows on your local routes? If you don’t, then it’s a good idea.

Cyclists stop for a call of nature on stage twelve of the 2015 Tour of Italy

Answering the call of nature. Probably best to do it a bit more discreetly, though

6. You spend a bit more time thinking about what you are wearing

Clothing becomes a major issue as you hit the Best Years Of Your Life. You don’t want to get too cold, or too hot, or too wet.

>>> How to dress like a cyclist (video)

How do you decide what to put on? Check the outside temperature six times in a row, then rummage through your cycle clothing drawer only to find the exact right bit of clothing is still at the bottom of the dirty laundry basket from last week. By the time you’re sorted, the weather has probably changed.

NB: I’m not going to use this article to point out that some tight-fitting clothing may not suit the more mature figure. And I refuse to use, or acknowledge, the term MAMIL.

CA Winter bike test by Chris Catchpole (42)

If only I could remember where I put those overshoes?

7. You take longer to warm up

That first turn of the pedals as you head out from home can be accompanied by a chorus of pops, creaks and groans as your joints and muscles settle down. The older you get, the longer it takes to feel like you’ve properly warmed up and got into your stride. Don’t rush it. But maybe trim that bit of your ride off in Strava.

>>> How to get faster as you get older

8. It takes longer to recover

The flipside to taking longer to warm up, is that it also takes you longer to recover from lengthy rides and hard efforts. This can lead directly to Monday Morning Cyclist Syndrome, where you are in a slightly foul mood due to a combination of tiredness, hunger, leg ache and having to be at work.

9. Stuff you think is new… probably isn’t any more

Time starts shrinking as you get older. While this has some benefits – summer comes around quicker every year – it also has drawbacks. One of them is that you completely lose touch with exactly how old your stuff is.

That chain you ‘only replaced a month or two ago’ was actually changed in 2003. And your favourite 1997 team kit is looking a little ragged and saggy around the edges. Be ruthless when it comes to keeping an eye on tired old clothes, tools, water bottles, kit and most importantly, shorts.

>>> Eight reasons why we started cycling, and why we should never forget them

Sunny cycling

Great scenery, the open road, you and a bike – it can’t be beaten

One thing doesn’t change… your love of cycling

It doesn’t matter how old you are, cycling is still the best thing in the world. In fact, it’s possible that your love of pedalling has only increased as your years have advanced. Long may that continue.

Photos by Jesse Wild, Chris Catchpole, Graham Watson

  • Naruhodo

    Why is anything on a ride right or wrong? Riding is enjoyment and fulfillment. Do what gives you those.

  • J1

    Real cycling fans then…..

  • I’ve just realized that was born on the same day as Eddie Merckx. To me age 40 is still childishly immature- just a time to start laying the foundations for a long cycling life!

  • Cullipool

    Going up the Ventoux last June, I was chatting to two Americans about Eddy Merckx. “Is he still alive?” one of them asked. My reply? — “He’s six months younger than I am.”

  • Kara Thrace

    I seem to want to spend more time relaxing between rides. You know, when you get to the point that your body says you’ve had quite enough for a while and you need to chill out? Yeah, those.

  • Kara Thrace

    Yeah me too… What just happened there? DOH!

  • Martin Archer

    I would be even more annoyed at replying to said article.

  • Edward smith

    When you hit 40? HA I started riding when I was 50, 59 now and stronger than ever, I always wish I started when I was 40. ride on!

  • David Roberts

    The last point is absolutely spot on, however point number 4 is not, regardless of your age ( I’m pushing 69 :-)) stopping during a ride is just not right, stuff the coffee, power on and get a beer when you’ve finished, over which you can sit and read your better than average speed for the old gits on Strava!

  • Patricio Nardo Jr

    Those hitech and latest bikes, it’s a dream came true now…

  • Chuck6421

    I resemble that!

  • BobB59

    I find that bike computers and gps allow me to give much more accurate estimates of time of arrival. Also, I agree big time on the comfort issue. I’m a big fan of 25mm and even 28mm tires now.

  • dourscot

    It all depends where you start from.

    Some of the guys who started young and went hard at it seem to fade faster than the ones who pushed themselves at a later age.

  • Norfolk_n_Chance

    Oi Nigel Wynn NO!!

    Not only do I hate you this much [holds hands really far apart] I also am bored of this kind of guff cycling journalism… meant for the mid-aged, fat, Bumbag (Sportive) riding (i.e. not racing) kind of person. STOP! STOP! STOP!

  • Jay

    Absolutely hit the nail on the head. For me I have also lost some of the competitive edge and eagerness to chase down that cyclist in front. Perhaps the pride and ego has shrunk and realised there are more meaningful things in life than to prove you are faster than that cyclist you don’t even know.

  • louis

    Great article…now figure out how old I am, and still riding almost every day…

  • Crydda

    i certainly can’t go as quickly as I used to and the biggest issue is that, whether surfing, windsurfing or cycling, injuries take far longer to heal than they used to.
    However, last spring I did my first ever 200 km ride, at the age of 60, with only a couple of ‘rest’ stops and a ten minute shopping detour for more food; so my endurance and pain threshold has improved with age – I can’t climb mountains as fast as in my thirties, but nothing now stops me getting to the top, whereas before it might have.

  • Crydda

    I’m at the age where I get rather annoyed at wasting five minutes precious time, reading a tedious (forgivable) and patronizing (unforgivable) article.

  • Chuck6421

    Now at 56 I’m proud to be able to crank out 30-40 miles riding in the same position I raced Cat. 2 back in the 1980s. Less proud that I’m carrying around the same weight I might have then on a long tour… but hey, look at Lemond.
    Noted also that warm-up takes easily ten miles before I feel like I’m riding “in” the bike, rather than “on” it. And clothing, oy!

  • Paul Benjamin R. Hilario

    I agree except with no.4. I still enjoy a long ride with minimal stops along the way. Need to get back home quickly else the missus might get too worried…rather won’t let me go out on a long ride again! I can add that at 40+ you tend to like bikes that are more forgiving to your body. You no longer want that aggressive body position on your bike but would opt for being less aero but more comfortable with higher handle bar height and with thicker tires to ease out those road bumps. The aches come faster at this age too. I can still churn out the watts but not as long as I would like.

  • GregCantori

    And some of us went recumbent to save our backs, shoulders, feet and hands. Some even went to three wheels so we don’t fall down any more, and a very few, like myself got that dream velomobile that’s close to the Vector that set a world record over 56mph in the 80’s.

  • Vertigo

    I’ve forgotten why I started reading this….memory going too