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Freedom machines

Age is no barrier to riding a bike, according to Cycling Safe instructor Steve Taylor.

Barb and Adam are ready to go on their bicycle ride. They have their matching black helmets as well as matching black touring bikes.

Age is no barrier to riding a bike, according to Cycling Safe instructor Steve Taylor.

Steve is passionate about the benefits of bike riding for all ages and loves teaching adults to ride or to scrub up their skills in the saddle.

‘Being able to ride and have the wind in your hair and all of that kind of stuff, that's the ticket; that's why bikes are called freedom machines,’ Steve says.

He says the benefits of riding, particularly for seniors, can outweigh the risks, which can be managed.

‘It's only dangerous when people are riding in places that are not on the same level as their knowledge, their understanding and their ability,’ he says.

‘Bike riding is low impact on joints and ligaments and the fitness is incremental. So, you don't have to go like a bat out of hell, especially with these ebikes. You’re developing joints and ligaments and putting new life back into muscles, so no one can argue that that's not beneficial.’

Whilst it’s not compulsory to wear bike gear and join a bike club, that is another great option.

‘You often see big groups of seniors riding together. Because it's fun.’

Learning to ride as an adult involves mastering the same skills as when you are a child. It’s about balance, steering, stopping, learning how to use gears properly, cornering, and scanning. Most importantly, it’s about learning to manage the risks.

'It worries me when I see people riding down Nepean Highway at 6 pm on a winter's night. What the hell are you doing? Because there are certain places and environments where you ultimately have no control.

‘Riding on a congested road with a speed limit of 60 kilometres an hour or greater with little or no hard shoulder or space to separate the cyclist from the faster-moving traffic is extremely dangerous.

‘Relying on other people obeying the road rules is a very ineffective in terms of safety for a cyclist.’

Instead, Steve says people should only ride where it is safe and consider various factors including bike control, visibility, separation from traffic if necessary, and speed.

If the route is not ticking all those boxes, your options are to go a different way, to slow down, or get off your bike and walk.

‘We just have to manage the risk. For example, the law says that you can ride on the footpath if you have special dispensation. (You will have to produce a formal certificate if required.) I'm sure there's a good argument that an inexperienced bike rider in her 80s has special dispensation to ride on the footpath!’

Length of time in the saddle, or whether someone has an expensive bike, wears lycra and shaves their legs is no indication of how safe they are on the road. Or how experienced for that matter.

‘You can get someone who's been riding for 30 years but still makes dumb decisions or becomes complacent. “Oh, and I'll be okay, I've got this little light on my bike that will completely mitigate that risk”. Then you've got someone who has just learnt to ride, but makes really safe decisions about where they ride and how they do it.

‘If the extent of your bike riding is just getting the train to Lilydale, walking to the rail trail and then riding from Lilydale to Warburton and back again, that’s brilliant,’ he says.

Steve says he loves getting feedback from adults he has taught to ride.

‘They are just elated because now it's something that they can now tick off the list. They never thought they'd be able to do it.’

Steve Taylor on his bike, helmet on and ready to ride.
Steve Taylor

Reviewed 14 November 2023