A Tale of Two Silver Bunnies: Riding Into Your 50s

SOURCE: Vicki Grover

I still smile when I recall my first bicycle. It was blue and I got it for Christmas when I was 4. I can still recall the feeling of racing down the sidewalk on the north side of McGill street, swaying from side to side, but kept upright by my trainer wheels. I also remember the day I noticed I was no longer relying on the trainers and asked my dad to take them off.  He was somewhat reluctant, but I showed him I could do without and he eventually removed them. I rode up and down Trinity street, showing off to my playmates, then decided I would go blasting down McGill.  As I turned onto McGill however, I lost control and slammed into a telephone pole. I was lucky I was not seriously hurt and more importantly, no one I knew had seen me crash – especially my dad, as those trainers would have been back on in an instant. 

Years later, I would take up biking again, but in an entirely different context. It all started with Lisette and I having a much younger couple as friends.  Ryan (yes, she’s a girl) and Michelle were totally into tearing down a mountain trail on two wheels.  They would come for dinner and regale us with tales of hucking this, nailing that, falling off something else and all the while sporting substantial bruises.  They usually showed up with pictures of their various stunts and while we enjoyed seeing our friends having a great time, we considered the activity too rough for our old bodies.  One evening they came over all excited and announced they’d started a club for women mountain bikers called the Muddbunnies.  They urged us to join and try their sport.  We kept refusing for reasons having to do with terror, but they kept pecking away at us and finally, we agreed to go.  On the appointed day, we went out to our garage where we stabled our 2 Costco mountain bikes that I had converted for commuting back and forth to work.  They sneered at our skinny tires, fenders and saddle bags.  “OK” said Ryan,  “the tires have to be changed and the rest of the commuter stuff has to go.” 

When not shreddin' on her bike, Vicki enjoy hikes on the local North Shore mountains.

I told her this was a lot of trouble just for something I didn’t think we’d like anyway and couldn’t we go as is?  There was a chorus of “No!” from the 2 of them, so I gave in and started in removing wheels and putting knobby tires on rims.  It took us about an hour to get the bikes changed over, but soon our friends stood back and nodded their approval.

Bikes loaded in Michelle’s van, we headed out for Burnaby Mountain.  On the way they reassured us that the trails we were going to try were very much for beginners and not steep at all. They became very animated the closer we got to our destination. On arrival, Ryan gave us basic instructions on riding trails and off we went single file into the bush.  I’ve always liked Burnaby Mountain and often hiked there when I was a kid. Now, years later, I found the trails still beautiful as they wound through the bush and tall trees.  To my surprise there were a number of structures that were placed specifically for bikes.  They consisted of slightly elevated log halves and ladders placed on the ground.  Ryan and Michelle biked over these with ease.  Ryan told us that when riding structures it was important to look to the end of it and not off to the side or that’s where you would end up.  They waited expectantly, both sporting large grins.  Lisette went first and fell off the edge and into the bushes.  I noticed our friends looking very puzzled as they helped her out from under her bike. Based on their reaction, I decided this must have been a fluke thing. I started pedaling furiously and promptly rode off the side of the structure.  I didn’t fall, but my pedal came up and scraped the back of my calf which started to bleed in protest over the harsh treatment.  I showed Michelle who cooed “Oh…look, Vicki’s first carnage.”  Ryan came over to admire my wound, clapped me on the back and laughed.  Wincing, I started off again.  I noticed most structures had a ride around for the incompetent and that’s what Lisette and I did as we made our way up the trail. 

Once we reached the trail head, we turned around and started to come back down.  To our surprise, we actually managed to ride over a few of the structures.  Lisette proved especially daring while I remained wary, excusing myself by pointing out my ravaged calf.  Secretly I was just plain scared. 

Later, while comparing bruises and applying various unguents, I complained to Lisette that I was the athletic one and it wasn’t fair for her to catch onto something more quickly than me. My battered ego aside, we both agreed we actually had fun and decided we would go back the next day.  Well, we kept going back and it wasn’t long before we joined the Muddbunnies.  We shopped for arm and leg armour to fend off bruises and purchased new dual suspension, real mountain bikes. Lisette bought her bike first as I fully intended to use my Costco bike for the first season.  She let me try her new bike one day and as I sailed over the handlebars, experienced first hand the tremendous stopping power of hydraulic disk brakes.  As soon as I dragged myself out of the bushes, I announced that I too, would be upgrading to a better bike.

Armoured up and riding proper bikes, we kept challenging ourselves and one by one, learned to ride all the structures.  We both experienced a great sense of achievement for first time successes and also enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment when we realized we’d been successfully riding trails and structures that scared the bejeezus out of us just a few months earlier. 

Vicki riding an A-frame on Burnaby Mtn

We’ve been riding on Burnaby Mtn for about 4 years now and have grown to love it. We both find it a great way to get exercise for ourselves and the dogs, and so combine the two whenever possible.

Mountain biking has this undeserved reputation as being extreme and terribly dangerous.  Granted, there are pro riders that can do really wild stunts, but they’re an elite minority.  The lower, beginner trails on Burnaby Mtn are not steep and are perfect for learning to ride. A good workout is a bonus. I’ve also found wearing protection on the arms and legs wards off most bumps and bruises, as does spotting, when beginners want to try structures.  I’m 58 years old (the oldest member) and I end up riding with women who are at least half my age. Don’t get me wrong, all the young women I’ve met are terrific, but it would be great to have some companions that are closer to my age.  Consider this an appeal to the adventurous older women who enjoy taking on new challenges, to come out with me and ride bikes.

Vicki is now a well-seasoned rider...who happens to throw the horns at any opportunity.

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