Age is just a number

When it comes to mountain biking there is no such thing as starting to early or too late – the important thing is to start. NIKKI HAYWOOD shares her experience.
WORDS AND IMAGE: NIKKI HAYWOOD

SIXTY-SOMETHING DI HAS BEEN RIDING WITH THE TRAIL ANGELS FOR JUST UNDER A YEAR. THIS IS HER STORY:

Frustration with a knee injury and cycling recommended as an alternative sport, prompted me to call Nikki Haywood at Trail Angels. I liked the fact TA’s was a women only club that caters for beginners right through to advanced riders, off-road for safety and not being pushed or challenged constantly from the back by our testosterone fuelled husbands! Having never been on a mountain bike or having any cycling experience for that matter, my first ride was nerve-wracking. I was met by a smiling, kind, patient, we call her our Angel coach, Lisa Goode. I crashed three times, the first one before I even got out of the bike park! But Lisa patiently made me do things over and over until I got it right. I honestly thought they would look at this 60 plus year old and say please don’t come back. But both Lisa and Nikki said see you on Friday.

I was in and that’s all history now. I know many of the ladies in my group have similar stories to tell so when a new lady joins we share our stories and immediately she is put at ease. We ride on a Tuesday and Friday with the TA’s and have also formed our own sub group – Senior Angels – most of us being close in age give or take five years. With a few exceptions of course. Lisa recommended that we ride more to get our fitness levels up so the Senior Angels group rides on a Wednesday and Saturday as well. We have learnt so much riding with the Trail Angels that we are now confident to go out cycling on our own.

“Changing Lives” is an expression bandied about in many situations, however, joining the Trail Angels could not be a truer interpretation of the environment Nikki has created for us. Our group celebrates achievements, for example the first time going over a high drop-off, or the first cyclist up Zwaanswyk Hill without four stops, fixing a puncture on the road, findingout that our tyres are actually tubeless and have goo inside or how to use a pump and spin the wheel. Clearly, we’re not Cape Epic material yet! We love our cycling, everyone has become more confident, lost weight, improved personal fitness and it has lifted our spirits thanks to our ever-patient coach Lisa. The group joke about how Christmas and birthday gifts are now all cycling related, for example tubeless tyres! Who would have thought. We have formed strong bonds and yes, we laugh a lot.

We have just experienced our first ever mountain biking weekend getaway when 15 of us went off to Grabouw for two days of riding. It was one of the best weekends of my life. I would never have guessed a year ago that I would have been capable of something like this. The sky’s the limit!
Trail Angels you have changed my life – thank you!

Di is one of the many Senior Angels within the Trail Angels group. Every one of them has experienced the benefits of riding a bike –
+ Increased cardiovascular fitness
+ Improved joint mobility
+ Decreased stress levels
+ Improved coordination and balance
+ Decreased body fat
+ Mood enhancer and feel-good vibes
These are a few of the many benefits of riding a bike. It is really heart-warming to see the growth of these women both on and off the bike. Who would have thought that one could experience such personal growth in the latter part of one’s life when so often we reach an age where we think that change is not possible. These women have proved that change is possible at any age.

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