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PD staff writer Bob Norberg on the road

By BOB NORBERG | THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

If you’re over 50 and a cyclist, you are part of a growing demographic and a graying of the sport, an up-there-in-age bicycle club that you inadvertently join and are enrolled in for life.

For a noticeable number of cyclists, the mustaches and beards and the hair poking out from under helmets are likely to be gray, along with other, subtler signs of age.

For those of us who are AARP-eligible, it makes perfect sense.

Cycling is a way to stay fit that is less punishing than running, basketball or tennis. Bad backs and achy knees may be the sport’s best recruiter, along with the camaraderie, challenge, overall fun and stirring of athletic glories both remembered and imagined.

Bill Oetinger, Santa Rosa Bike Club’s ride director, who is in his 60s and still a credible distance rider, calls it “a peloton of Peter Pans.”

Phil Scheidler at The Trek Bicycle Store in Santa Rosa calls them his average customer.

It could be that older people are more organized and have more time for bike riding, said Carlos Perez, Bike Monkey magazine publisher and organizer of local bike events, including the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo.

There are some definite numbers showing the trend.

Sixty-five percent of the members of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club are over 50, half the entrants in the club’s Wine Country Century were over 50, and 61 percent of the entrants in the recent Harvest Century Bike Tour in Healdsburg are over 50.

The King Ridge GranFondo in October is more challenging than either of the Santa Rosa or Healdsburg events, but it is also attracting a large number of older riders: half are over 45 and a third over 50.

For those who preach fitness, it is a baby-boomer boom worth noting and applauding.

“Cycling has gotten a great push of publicity in Northern California with all the different events, the Amgen Tour of California going through … it has momentum behind it,” said Leslie Graves, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s events coordinator and a fitness trainer. “You can be identified with it, you can go out with friends, you can ride with Levi. How fun is that?”

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com

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