Monday, March 7, 2016

Fountain of Youth?


In the course of speaking to the artist whom I featured in the previous post, it occurred to me that we might have some friends in common, whom I gauged to be around the same age as himself. As it turned out though, I was off by a decade. That is, the fellow was 10 years older than the age I guessed him to be. "Cycling," we joked. "Must be the fountain of youth!"

It is not uncommon for me to meet cyclists who look a fair bit younger than their actual age, even remarkably so. But is this disproportionately the case compared to, say, other outdoorsy or athletic people I know? Thinking of it purely anecdotally, I would say possibly yes. And several friends I've consulted agree. But then of course we are biased, being cyclists ourselves! And to be fair, I have also met cyclists who look older than their age - skin withered from overexposure to sun without protective measures.

In the absence of any evidence, perhaps it is enough to say that cycling makes us feel younger - a sentiment with which, almost surely, anyone who has pedaled agrees. After all, "I feel like a kid again" is a phrase we often hear from those who rediscover cycling as adults. And that is hardly a surprise, if the last time they pedaled a bicycle had indeed been in childhood. That association could very well bring out the cyclist's younger self, with interesting implication for their future personality development, should they persists in cycling as adults. In that sense, cycling can "un-jade" us and make us see the world in a different light again. Some report rediscovering a sense of wonder, the ability to get excited about things again, which they may had once feared they lost. Others feel more youthful in the sense of being more energetic, sprightlier, fitter.

Whether the effects are mental, emotional or physical, they are nearly always beneficial. And of course it is not a far stretch to think the people around us might notice their effects on us.

As a teenager and young adult, I had always looked older than my age. I was the first kid in my neighborhood who could walk into the Quiki-mart in the part of town where no one knew us and buy cigarettes, then a couple of years later, alcohol. In my early 20s, I was always put in charge of things at work because I had an air of maturity about me.

But when I hit my 30s something weird happened: It was as if I started to go backwards. At the university where I lectured I'd get mistaken for an undergraduate. I began to get carded in restaurants and liquor stores. Persons in administrative and authoritative positions would speak to me in parental tones. Whether this was flattering or insulting I could not quite decide. But either way, such treatment was distinctly new to me. It was as if in my 20s I'd been mistaken for someone in their 30s, and now it was the other way around. Is it coincidence that I began cycling in my third decade?

"It is the same with me exactly," said a cycling peer, when I shared these impression with her. Just two weeks earlier a 19-year old (at a bicycle shop, incidentally) had asked her out on a date and was shocked to learn her age.

"Damn girl!" said the young man allegedly, "Sure I thought you were a couple of years older... but you're, like, MILF-age!" Aw. How sweet indeed.

But lest we give ourselves too much credit for looking genuinely youthful, here is another take on things:  In situations where we are unsure of a person's age (or don't want to offend by guessing in the wrong direction), we might look for clues. And the bicycle, in our society, is still considered a toy, or at least a youthful preoccupation, more often than not. Which in this case, might work in our favour. All else remaining equal, if we are seen with a bike, a stranger might judge as as younger than otherwise.

Is cycling the fountain of youth? Perhaps. Or perhaps not exactly. Still, it's good to feel like a kid again and "fly" with the breeze in our face, knowing spring is just around the corner.


34 comments:

  1. I am 58 and look quite a bit younger than I am, I think. Just staying fit and lean and protecting your skin does a lot. Perhaps there's also some benefit to cycling being a low impact sport.

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  2. You're too young for this post. Check back with your thoughts when you hit sixty.

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    1. I'll be 70 in April. A friend told me the other day that she put me at around 62. I thanked her and i feel smooch better now!

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    2. I turn 61 this month, and chicks still give me come hither looks. Yeah, I wish. Still, being half Filipino helps a great deal (my father was so WASP he made most Britons look Sicilian, and that is only hyperbole, not gross hyperbole -- in the '60s and '70s people thought he was a British military officer). But I am sure that a lifetime of outdoor exercise, and cycling since the age of 4, must help-- even though I've never used sunscreen in my life -- Asians just have it so good. In fact until I was in my mid 30s, people would call me "young man" much to my annoyance, but I am getting my revenge now and believe me it is sweet.

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    3. I just turned sixty this past summer and have been biking consistently since I started at age twenty. Ten years ago with the kids out of the house I got rid of my car and been on a bike everyday since. I believe it's contributed to my staying the same weight and size since high school and kept me completely out of the doctor's office and hospital. That said, I've friends the same age who are youthful, healthy, in love and happy and they don't have bicycles. They, instead, curious travelers who walk and hike a lot and live simply. Other friends, too, who tried to incorporate bikes into their lives and gave them up..It didn't make them happy. So it may be the perfect key for some but not all.

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  3. My experience has been like yours and your friend's. I do credit cycling*, since friends began remarking on how much younger I looked in a matter of months of taking up cycling - at the age of 40.

    * Personally, I think this is due to one's rediscovered joy/pleasure/delight/wonder/refreshed outlook on life etc, rather than from any measurable physical change.

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  4. You're looking young and getting carded because you are happy. If you can maintain that I will guarantee you another twenty years of being carded.

    Service people who do card checks know that women of a certain age will be flattered, that they have it in their power to make the lady feel good right this minute. That translates into tips. If it's a place without tipping it still makes the workplace a more pleasant place to be. If you are a sourpuss there is no reason for them to bother.

    The best is yet to come (as sung by Sinatra). Walk in anywhere being over 60 while accompanying a partner over 60 while being visibly in love. The service is phenomenal. Always. Not to mention getting the best seats, free drinks, free meals, free bike parts.

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    1. I know what you mean of course. Though I'd be even more flattered had they not actually refused to serve me when I could't produce my driver's license!

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  5. You're as young as you feel, and when I ride a bike I feel unencumbered, free, and alive. Is that not how we think of youth? I have been told repeatedly that I look younger than my age and I like to think a spirited and adventurous attitude towards life is eventually reflected in a youthful countenance, despite the years. A nice feedback loop.

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  6. Maybe I'm just paranoid but I wonder how many are thinking when they see me: "Hey, grow up!" Thanks. Jim Duncan

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    1. Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean it's not happening : )

      But hey, I'd take it as a compliment.

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  7. On the face of it ⎯ pun intended: apologies ⎯ I’m pretty sure I show my years or even more. Silver threads; laugh lines round my eyes (never “crow’s feet,” for the record!); and the dry skin that spared me too spotty an adolescence, and that I still pretty much ignore now, is showing some wear. My husband says I’ve aged nicely, but then, that’s his job.

    Sadly, I didn’t come back to cycling in my 30s or even my 40s, so any rejuvenating effects of the last two years of getting about on a bike will have their work to do. I’m not looking to revisit my childhood (been there, done that, glad to move on), but your idea of cycling un-jading us, restoring the wonder and the magic, that resonates with me. That’s true for me. Swinging a leg over and pedaling off gives me freedom and fun, fresh air, and the warm, virtuous glow of a little movement in my otherwise rather book-centric life. If the laugh-out-loud thrill of swooping through a puddle or batting at leaves as I ride past means there’s a resultant twinkle in my eye, that’s a perq, even if no one notices but me.

    Best,
    Lil Bruin

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  8. I imagine genetics plays a part, as does diet/lifestyle/mental health - and cycling can be indicated in lifestyle and mental health - if you are physically well you are probably happier - riding a bike can re-connect us with the feelings of childhood - after all these years of bike riding I still have that sense of completeness as soon as I am out on my bike, it's like a novelty that just persists.
    Then again, others may feel that way as soon as they have thrown a fishing line from a river bank or taken their clubs out on a golf course - perhaps any activity which gives that sense of freedom and de-stresses will engender a youthful attitude and appearance. I'm just glad that biking riding works for me because it is such a simple activity that can be incorporated into everyday life.

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  9. I would say I look younger then I am, but the thinning gray hair gives me away! :-)
    Mas

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    1. Psst: the cycling cap cures all!

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    2. LOL! I wish! I got a head like a watermelon and a cycling cap only makes it look worse!! HA! - Mas

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    3. Along those Lines though, I will have to say beyond outward appearances I find my mind is much sharper when I've recently been riding. Beyond the ability to think about things and relieving stress, there is a residual effect of keeping the mind young. Mas

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    4. I know we're joking around, but in all seriousness have you tried cycling caps with different types of panel construction? There are surprising differences in how flattering/unflattering a cap can be to different head shapes and sizes, depending on construction (3 panels, 4 panels, etc). I am fairly watermellonheaded myself, so I know!

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    5. Well, typically self effacing humor is best when dealing with those parts of our bodies we are less then happy with, but I have yet to find a cycling hat that looks like it belongs on my head. Not that it matters, because lightweight stocking caps or a helmet typically are more the order of the day. Even helmets can be a problem though; hard to find one that fits, but does not look like it's perched on top of my head rather than surrounding and protecting it.

      Ah, but it's what I've been dealt . . . so you know, I deal with it.

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  10. I've always looked younger than my age, so it's hard to say. I will say, though, that *on* the bike there is no question of looking younger than I am. Between the helmet, which covers silver strands, and the sunglasses, it can be very hard to gauge a cyclists age.

    Once when I was catcalled by a young man in a pickup truck, I yelled back at him "I'm old enough to be your mother!" He looked appropriately chagrined. Now *that* was satisfying. :)

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    1. I like to think of my silver strands as nature's highlights : )

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  11. As this is a bike blog why not attribute youthfulness to bicycling? It doesn't hurt but I think it's not conclusive. Many friends have tried it and given up yet they remain youthful…Seems they've found their own route to happiness and health and that's why I enjoy spending time with them. Bikes are fine but not the entire answer for all. Be well.

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    1. Yes, I think it's about finding something you are passionate about - if that also includes physical activity then that is a bonus - actually none of my close friends ride bikes, they have other interests.

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    2. My grandfather (now 92) used to tell me his secret to staying young was to "always keep learning new things." It's passion, and it's also, I think, a certain sense of curiosity and openness that tells the universe "hey, I am not done yet!"

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    3. That is a wonderful attitude - I wish more thought this way.

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  12. I've always looked older than my age. When I was a sophomore in high school, somebody asked me what my major was in college. At age 19, I grew a beard and was never carded at the clubs where you had to be 21 to enter. When I hit my 40s, I'd hear things like "What's up, Gramps?" from the young street toughs. Today, people keep asking me if I'm retired, even though I'm still years away from being a pensioner. If it weren't for my trim physique, thanks to 40 years of cycling, people would probably think I was dead.

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  13. Where is the fountain in the photo and what does it represent? Intriguing!

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    1. Ah. 'Tis the Phoenix Peace Fountain in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

      see:
      http://www.colerainebc.gov.uk/show.php?id=247

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  14. Another fountain of youth: use the flash light with your camera and people's faces will be younger.
    It doesn't work with bicycle.

    L.

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    1. I don't know, I rather think my face looks better by candle light!

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  15. Well, I wouldn't dream of claiming a youthful appearance for myself, though my spirit remains distinctly adolescent and perhaps a lifetime of cycling accounts for that. However, my late clubmate from the Abbotsford Park CC in Manchester, Jack Brownhill, was a veritable fountain of cycling youth, and a real gentleman as well. Jack held, at one time or another, more than 30 age group related time trial records and, at the age of 91, recorded a 'short' 29 minute 10 mile time trial! Jack passed away in 2005, aged 93; his doctor told him the pain in his side was simply due to old age. Alas, it was peritonitis. Only the redoubtable Harry Hill, who was a bronze medalist in the 4000 meters pursuit at the 1936 Olympic games, and who was still to be seen in his 80s training on the Cheshire lanes, came close to Jack's formidable cycling longevity. Harry died in 2009, aged 92. Two unsung, but extraordinary cyclists. The Fossil

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  16. I've been cycling for a while, and quite seriously since 2008, when I turned 40. But I was also fairly fat then. Some people would be surprised to learn my age. But since losing weight and taking up running in the last few years, many more people have been surprised to find that I'm in my late 40s, and that's when I'm nowhere near a bike or a pair of running shoes. Being thin probably contributes, but I bet my posture and the spring in my step factor in too.

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  17. Ha ha! I'm not sure whether I look younger than my mid fifties age, but I do know that every time I sit on my bike saddle and push off I'm just a kid again, and I can go right round the world on it if I like (as long as I'm home by teatime). And walking it along by the saddle for any, all or no particular reason gives me a smile that can last all day ...

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  18. Just ran across this yesterday — seems relevant.

    http://www.lifehack.org/374699/science-explains-how-cycling-can-make-you-mentally-stronger

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