Why it’s Never too Late to Dance on the Pedals

It’s not just the young bucks who develop their cycling skills. Recently, seventy-five-year-old David Bagshaw entered a 140km Around Lake Brunner Road Race in New Zealand and ended up on the podium as second in the age group of 70 and over. It wasn’t an easy ride. The racecourse had over 1200 meters elevation gain, and David managed to keep up an average speed of 31km per hour. We interviewed this keen Supernova rider.

How was the race for you?

David: During the race, I got in with a good bunch. At first, I doubted whether I could hold their tempo, but I worked hard to keep up. We got into a good rhythm, rotating as a bunch. I ended up pretty well at the front of the bunch. I was proud to be second in my age group. The winner was five years younger, and I’m determined to step up and train hard for next year’s Around Lake Brunner race.

What was the shock that made you start cycling?

David: Six years ago, cycling wasn’t on my radar. But then I was diagnosed with stage one  bladder cancer. It was a real shock. After the operation, the surgeon mentioned that physical activity would help the body fight back. So when a friend of mine, Graham Snadden suggested joining his local cycling group, Team Squeeze, I started cycling – which I hadn’t done since I was a teenager.

Has cycling helped you recover from cancer?

David: Definitely! I’ve been in remission for some years now, and my surgeon told me at my last checkup that turning into an everyday athlete has been a crucial factor for my recovery. It’s a great feeling to reclaim health and fitness!

How was it when you started riding at seventy?

David: At first, it was hard being the weakest rider of Team Squeeze. I kept on being dropped on the home run because I ran out of steam. For sure, I couldn’t have developed the way I have without the help of mentors. 

One of my mentors is my brother-in-law, George Jaksch, who visited us in New Zealand. He is a keen cyclist, and I complained to him that I always got dropped on hills and didn’t know how to get faster. George turned to me in surprise and said, “But you live on a hill!” He immediately went out with me, and we rode up and down our long, steep hill seven times in a row. To my surprise, it began to feel easier. I’ve kept up my hill climbing practice, and now I’m known for my strength in climbing, even amongst younger riders. These days, I regularly ride about 300km plus a week and a lot more if I’m training up for an event.

What do you enjoy about cycling?

David: I love the fact that I’m improving all the time. And I love the camaraderie! It’s so lovely to ride with others. It’s a great feeling when you’re riding in a peloton, and everyone takes turns at the front. I’ve made many friends in the cycling community. I love being outdoors and riding in the beautiful New Zealand countryside. But there are always new challenges. A year ago, I joined a racing club and found staying with even the slow group was hard. But I persevered and, recently, I was invited to join the fast group, and I can now keep up with the faster riders. 

What do you say to other mature riders?

David: Get a bike and ride! Don’t worry about not being fit. It’s amazing how the body adapts to exercise at any age. You can do so much more than you think. For me, cycling with others is one of the great joys of my life! I love dancing Argentine tango too, so I’m either dancing on the pedals or on the dance floor!

What about safety on the road?

David: Having good lights is super important. I never ride without my Supernova Airstream. Daylight running lights make us so much more visible to other road users. And at night, Supernova lights beat everything else. A few years ago, I cycled with a team from Nelson to Christchurch in New Zealand. That’s over 450km. Because of heavy traffic in the daytime, we left at midnight and rode through the night. The Supernova Airstream was terrific and it illuminated the highway all through the night.

Thank you for your interview, David. We hope to hear more from you in the future. It’s so inspiring to see a growing group of mature everyday athletes dancing on the pedals.

Text: Mary Jaksch, Pictures: David Brunner