With gas prices continuing to fluctuate, the once popular and affordable driving vacation has become out of reach for many. Not only has it become expensive to cruise down route 66 in your Chevy V8 burning gas every minute while the family watches the world pass by, the driving vacation has also become something of an environmental issue, and a new generation of greener people is beginning to question such a vacation on a whole new level.
So what is left to do? What is an acceptable mode of transportation for a vacation other than a car, train or plane if you wish to explore?
The answer lies in 2 wheels, or 3 for those a little less steady and is becoming more and more popular with baby boomers. Cycling tours are growing worldwide. In the U.S. alone there has been a considerable increase in the number of cyclists in a thriving 6 billion dollar market. Nearly 60 million of the 309 million people in the U.S. say they have cycled during the last 12-month period with over 13 million cycling at least once a week. As the numbers continue to increase, is it any wonder that there is also a growth rate in the 50+ age group?
Wouldn’t a cycle tour be something to add to your bucket list not only because it is something different but also because it is a way to slow down and explore places at a more relaxed pace? Many specialized tour companies have sprung up catering to the more mature customer. Routes are planned to meet a variety of needs, abilities, wants and interests. Cycling in cities, along coastlines, through the countryside or over more challenging mountain ranges are readily available.
Having spent most of her life teaching and encouraging others to embrace sports and enjoy the outdoors, Pat Blackmon started Senior Cycling 16 years ago. Happily supported by the tagline of “old folks on spokes” Pat and her team run a specialized cycle tour company for the baby boomer generation. Taking time out of her busy schedule Pat said, “We do about 15 major tours a year with at least 12 people on each tour and it is continuing to increase yearly.” Word of mouth is perhaps one reason for the growth but the underlying fact is that there is a growing and very active boomer generation that wants more activities such as this.
Senior Cycling is currently busy conducting their Florida tours but also organize tours around North America to include Ohio, the Erie Canal, N.Y., and Le P’tit Train du Nord in Quebec. They will even tailor-make your tour. “Riders need to be able to ride up to 30 miles/day for a number of days.” Her suggested strategy is to start out slowly and continue to increase daily mileage while getting comfortable on their bicycle seat.
While cycling is for all ages, the average age on a tour with Senior Cycling is mid 60’s with the oldest rider to-date being a spritely 86. In the U.S. there are thousands of miles of dedicated bike lanes keeping people safe and away from those still insisting on driving vehicles.
It’s not about racing for everyone. Yes, it requires energy but there doesn’t have to be a rush to reach the finish line first. If something should catch your eye you can stop, look, absorb and make a memory. It’s about sharing the experience with your peers, making new friends and enjoying what is around you while being a part of it.
Pat Blackmon ends by saying, “It is not how fast you ride or how far you ride everyday (as it seems to be with younger riders) but the enjoyment of the ride.”
Are you ready for the challenge? Spring is approaching and summer is just around the corner. Take a cycle tour this year, check that off your bucket list and get out there – pedal and explore!