A Book-Related Note from Fatty: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the first third of the pre-ordered books arrived from the printer; those are now on their way to people who pre-ordered. Over the next few week, the balance of the pre-orders will be shipped out. After that, I’ll see how many I have left over and –if I have enough books–will open up ordering again. Thanks!
I have had a serious concern on my mind lately, and it came to a head shortly before — as well as during — this year’s Fall Moab.
Let’s start with the “shortly before” part. My friend and core team member Ricky M sent out an email, announcing his regret that he would not be attending this year’s riding trip, since he was in the hospital with a mysterious and undiagnosed condition leading to a dangerously low blood platelet count. And by “dangerously low,” I mean “any time he even walked near a sharp object, he began to bleed profusely and pretty much endlessly.”
Of course, as any concerned friend with a blog would do, I hurried on over and got a photo of me with Ricky. Here it is:
What is disturbing about this image is not that Ricky is using oxygen. Or that he clearly doesn’t look like he feels good.
What’s disturbing is that Ricky’s hair has gone almost entirely gray.
That freaked me out.
But you know what freaked me out even more? It was that — as I rode with my friends during Fall Moab that weekend, I discovered everyone’s respective ages:
It’s possible that, due to some unavoidable constraints on my research process (i.e., I didn’t bother contacting the the guys in the riding group to verify my memory was correct), some of these ages are not precisely accurate, but you get the picture.
Specifically, it’s become clear that I am riding with a bunch of old farts and clearly need to find a younger, hipper riding group — one that more closely matches my own personal youthful vibrance.
In any case, during a quiet moment during the weekend, I turned to my good friend bob (age 48), and asked: “How many more years have we got before we’re too old to do this?”
Bob laughed dismissively, then adjusted his goiter so that it didn’t loll so far to one side.
I then asked Kenny a similar question. Kenny replied, “I am still at the riding prime of my life. I feel young.” And then he went back to rubbing liniment into his bad hip.
I–unlike my friends–choose not to take the issue of being an aging cyclist so frivolously. Hence, I have compiled the following list of common cycling activities and traits, along with guidance on how to detect that you are perhaps too old for them.
Shaving Your Legs
I start with issue of shaving one’s legs because — I confess — it is an issue of real concern for me. Over the past several years, I have become so accustomed to shaving my legs that I can no longer easily remember what they looked like when they were hairy (but here’s a hint).
The thing is, though, I have a hard time imagining myself being eighty years old and still shaving my legs. It just doesn’t seem to fit the image I have of myself as an older gentleman (i.e., a full, silver head of hair with a matching goatee, a white suit, and twinkling eyes. More or less, I somehow imagine myself evolving into Colonel Sanders sometime during the next 35 years.).
Distinguished, wise old men (for I intend to gain wisdom sometime during the next 35 years, not to mention a modicum of distinguishment) shouldn’t be lathering up and shaving their legs. They should be sitting in rocking chairs, discussing the finer points of government under Teddy Roosevelt and exhorting all around them to shape up and respect their elders.
So, anyway, the question arises: between now and when I buy my first white suit (and when my hair starts coming in thick and silver), when should I stop shaving my legs?
I think there are three threshold events:
- When it becomes impossible for me to shave below my knees. As I get older and stiffer, I expect it’s going to get more and more difficult to do the bending, lifting, and twisting combinations required to shave my legs. At some point, I will no longer be able to reach behind my knees without throwing out my back, nor will I be able to bend over far enough to shave my (admittedly) hairy toes.
- When I can no longer tell what I’ve shaved and what I have not. As my eyesight becomes poorer, my leg shaving will become less and less even. I will miss patches of leg hair, which will then grow out thick and silver, much like the hair on my head. I hope that some younger rider will take me aside and say, “Old Timer, it’s time to stop shaving your legs.”
- When I have to pull my skin taut in order to shave it. I already have to pull my facial skin taut in a couple of places in order to shave. As gravity has its way with me, I expect my legs — while still exquisitely muscular and powerful — to become wrinkly. Frankly, it seems dangerous and frightening to try to shave legs with complicated topography like that.
My projected age for reaching any (or all) of these events is 68, partially because I have a hard time imagining any 70 year old shaving his legs. Although, if you’re 70+ and shave your legs (and you’re a guy), please let me know.
Camping as a Group
The next “when are you too old” bike-related question is, “When are you too old to camp as a group on your mountain biking trips?
I propose that the age is 45.
I’m glad that question could be answered so simply. Let’s move on to the next.
Renegade Facial Hair and Music
If you look at the pictures earlier in this post, you will note that Ricky (in the hospital bed), Cori, Kenny, and Jud all have somewhat similar facial hair, which — with the exception of Jud’s — I would categorize as “the type of facial hair that was popular eleven years ago.”
When are you too old to have a flavor-saver lip scruff? Well, I’d say if you’re old enough to grow one, you’re too old to have one.
Which is a rich irony, I agree. But still: new beards or no beards, guys.
I do, however, have a related question. One that applies to me: at what age am I too old to listen to Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk?” I ask this question because I have the following concerns:
- I like machines in general
- I don’t rage against much of anything. I’m pretty much rage-free.
- The last time I could legitimately consider myself a “renegade” would have been when I was in high school. And that was mostly because I sometimes wore a Devo “energy dome” to school. Yeah, I was that kid.
So, should I start filling my riding playlist with Oak Ridge Boys? Merle Haggard? Muzak?
After a year of mountain biking with gears, I am back to single speeding. I can’t help it. But I’ve noticed something: when I ride SS now, I find my elbows (yes, elbows!) hurt for days afterward, maybe from the intense rowing action required from climbing.
And people do say that at some point my knees will pay the price for my single speeding ways.
So, when will I be too old to ride SS? Well, I’d say not until at least one (and more probably, two) out of the three following items are true:
- I have replaced my knees
- I have replaced my elbows
- I have found a more awesome way to ride
Of course, that could be next year. Or this one for that matter.
Technical Moves in Mountain Biking
During Fall Moab, I was astonished at how good everyone was at the technical moves we were doing — and I say that without the obvious qualification, “for our age.”
Also, by “we,” I pretty much mean “they.”
But I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to Kenny if he fell — his bones are not quite as dense as balsa wood. And then there was Paul, who’s a judge. How much respect would he command in his courtroom if he showed up with a scraped-up face?
And of course there’s the general decline in testosterone levels, which could easily cause one of us to chicken out at an inopportune moment.
The simple fact is, as riders get older, it becomes less and less advisable to do big mountain bike moves.
And, at some point, it’s probably going to stop being a great idea to go mountain biking at all. That said, that time could be pretty far away, considering every year at the Leadville 100 there are at least a few guys in their 70’s finishing the race.
I take comfort in that, figuring I have a chance of being one of those guys. I don’t know, maybe I already am.
Still, at some point, I’ve got to assume that I won’t be able to mountain bike anymore. Though I think that might have more to do with the way the body heals slower when you’re older. Suppose, for example, you’re 21 and break your collarbone. You’re back on the bike in a few weeks, at least if you’re not a sissy.
If you break your collarbone when you’re eighty, though, it’s going to take longer to heal. Long enough, in fact, that by the time your bone’s better it’s going to be hard to get back on the bike for other reasons.
So my intention is to never fall. I think you’ll agree this is an excellent plan, and I am happy to report that since coming up with this plan (ten minutes ago) I have a perfect record of not falling.
And the good thing is, not being able to mountain bike isn’t exactly the end of the world for the cyclist. Because, as near as I can tell, there is no age limit to road biking.
And even if, at some point, regular road biking becomes a problem, there’s always recumbent riding. Although I’ll have to evaluate, if and when the time comes, whether I’d rather ride a recumbent than not ride at all.