Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

Not sure which sport to choose? Discover the benefits of e-bike touring!

Enjoy the great outdoors and get a workout and the same time with an e-bike.

1/ What's the best sport for older people?

Older people often choose walking as their go-to physical activity, thinking that cycling is too intense for them. Some older folk can even be fearful of getting back on a bike. But there's no reason to feel like this! Cycling is full of possibilities – including bike trekking, which is particularly well suited to over-55s. Even more so if you use an e-bike, as you can adjust the pace to suit your fitness levels.

Stay fit by cycling, no matter your age

Exercise is good for both body and mind! Whether you walk, swim, go to the gym, do aqua aerobics, run or cycle, every bit of exercise helps to keep you fit and healthy! And the more frequently you exercise, the more you'll feel the benefits.
Not sure which sport to choose? E-bikes (electric bikes) are something that anyone can use, and are particularly suited to older people. The bike's assistance enables you to pace yourself and adapt your ride based on how you're feeling. It also means you can go further afield than you might otherwise, and maybe even have a go at bike touring!

Strengthen your muscles outside with an e-bike

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: exercising is essential at every age! But did you know that, after the age of 30, we lose 1% of our muscle mass every single year? That's why it's so important to look after our bodies by eating a balanced diet and doing strength training.
We often associate strength training with gym workouts and, when it comes to the elderly, with gentle exercise classes designed specifically for them. But cycling is also a great way to maintain your muscle mass. It's a low-impact activity and also gives you an excuse to get outside and enjoy the countryside!

Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

Exercise every day with an electric bike

You no doubt already walk each day to do things like going to the shops – even if you hadn't really thought of it as exercise! But had you considered using a bike to get from A to B, starting with your short, regular journeys? Over time, if you find you're enjoying it, you may well find yourself gradually extending your journeys and even going on full-on bike tours! If you've got a sense of adventure, it's certainly worth having a go!

And if riding solo doesn't tempt you, sign up to a club where you'll be able to meet like-minded people who also want to get out on their bikes. It's a great way to discover new routes that suit your physical abilities. 

Cycling clubs and associations

Start by approaching the AF3V (French association for the development of cycling routes and greenways) and France Vélo Tourisme. They'll be able to advise you on what cycling routes are available within France and on making the most of both short and long rides. 

The French bike touring federation (FFCT) is the place to go for all things leisure and tourism related, and can direct you towards one of the 3,100 clubs in its network! With around 124,000 members, you're sure to find the perfect cycling buddy! Its Vélo en France website is a handy starting point for exploring France by bike.

2/ Which sports are best for over-55s? E-biking

In 2020, some 515,000 French people – including many seniors – took the plunge and bought themselves an e-bike. If you're tempted to join them, then you'll no doubt want to know all about this incredibly popular mode of transport. Why should you get an e-bike? Which equipment is best? Which cycling route should you choose? Read on to find the answers to all of your questions and exactly what some older men and women had to say about the fun of getting out on their e-bikes.

Stay independent and get fitter

For Jean-Jacques, 65, cycling was always “a good way to keep fit”. While he'd regularly ride 60 to 100 km with friends and family in his younger days, his career and young children gradually put paid to that, forcing him to go out less often and prioritise other activities. “I got back in the saddle 10 years ago after a knee operation, having been advised that cycling was a good way to strengthen my knee safely. That's when I got myself an electric hybrid bike. And I haven't stopped riding since! I find it very relaxing. It keeps me fit and helps me get away from it all, without having to work too hard, and I haven't had any problems with it.” His enthusiasm is such that he's even managed to convince his wife to get involved too!

A way to make cycling easier

As well as enabling you to do an activity that's good for both body and mind, e-bikes are a great way to spend time with others. Catherine, 63, wife of Jean-Jacques, learned to ride fairly late in life and didn't use a bike for many years, until she purchased a women's e-bike when she retired. We'll let her explain. “Since we live in the hills near Dijon, I only agreed to take up cycling again if I could have a helping hand. Our e-bikes allow us to ride along the Canal de Bourgogne and we've even used them to take advantage of the cycling opportunities in places like Cluny, for whole-day rides.” Nowadays, the couple can easily head out for 50-km rides whenever the traffic is light and the sun is out!

Are e-bikes easy to handle?

For Catherine and Jean-Jacques, riding an e-bike is no trouble at all. “It'd be easy to get caught out the first time you use it, when you set off. Start out on the lowest speed and then gradually increase the power. That way, you won't have any unpleasant surprises.” You also need to pay attention to the battery range. If you run out of battery, your legs won't be happy with you by the time you've slogged your way back home again!

But aside from these two little points, the couple are unanimous: “it's so easy to ride an e-bike!” For Catherine, “it's practically effortless. But I regularly force myself to lower the assistance level so that my muscles have to work a bit more! My electric hybrid bike is terrific for getting me through tricky sections of my rides. My neighbours are particularly impressed when they see me flying up the 10% hill near our home!”.

Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

3/ How to plan an e-bike ride

Change your habits with an e-bike

If you're a big fan of walking and cycling, giving up due to age can be a real wrench. Madeleine, now 70, had resigned herself to the idea that her rheumatoid arthritis had pulled the plug on her walking days. That was, until she discovered e-biking. “This bike is such a blessing! It means that I can still enjoy getting out and about, while having a sense of security. Nowadays I do all sorts of bike rides that I'd no longer be able to do or would never have even attempted without my e-bike!” It gives her a real feeling of freedom and independence, as it does for many fellow older bike trekkers.

Which routes can you do with an e-bike?

Wondering which bike routes are best for the over-60s? It depends on several factors, such as your preferences, your fitness levels and your bike's battery range. But ultimately, there aren't any routes that older people should avoid! As touring fan Madeleine explains, “I started with the Danube, doing a 400-km trek along the Eurovélo 6 route. It's a really popular route, plus it's a safe bet as there's lots of accommodation that's really well set up for bike tourists. After that, I did the Echappée Bleue, from Lyon to Rotterdam. The landscapes were stunning, even though the whole thing was much less organised! And last year, I set myself the challenge of doing the GTJ (Grande Traversée du Jura), a route with plenty of elevation gain!” It's all proof that, with an e-bike, anything becomes possible!

Planning your route

When bike trekking, and especially with an e-bike, it's important to plan your ride and calculate the distance so that you can be sure you've got enough battery to reach your destination! Madeleine recces every stage of her route before setting off. “I don't know if it's just because of my background as a geographer, but I always check the topography of where I'm going. After that, I plan the stages. I do 60 to 110 km per day and adjust the distance based on how hilly it is. I've only had to push my bike once, and that was because I got lost. It's something I'm not going to forget in a hurry!”.

4/ Which e-bike should you choose?

What should you consider when buying an e-bike?

Are you thinking that an e-bike is just what you need? Then all that remains is to pick the perfect one! There are several things that will affect your choice: 

   - how you'll use it and the types of ride you'll do: short one-day rides, multi-day rides or a long-term adventures? Riding more for the health benefits or more for sports performance?
   - your budget
   - the manufacturing quality and equipment, in particular the battery range

It's also important to try before you buy! Even if all of the technical specs look the same, bikes can vary dramatically in terms of handling. Catherine points out that, “at the start, I was very uneasy on my bike. You should get a bike that's the right size for your body so that it's easy to steer, and take the time to correctly adjust it, with help if necessary."

Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

Hybrid or mountain e-bike: which type is best?

It all depends on the types of ride you want to do! Our 3 seniors all opted for electric hybrid bikes. In Madeleine's opinion, “electric mountain bikes are more for young people with strong muscles who want to really push themselves.”

It's also worth getting advice from a professional! “I went wrong with my first hybrid bike,” admits Madeleine. “I bought a Dutch bike because the Dutch do a lot of cycling, so I assumed they must make good bikes!” For her next model, she spoke to a professional who asked her the right questions to figure out her needs and find her the right women's e-bike.

E-bike batteries

The question of battery range will dictate your choice of bike. The number of miles or kilometres that are advertised will vary depending on the bike (its weight, the state of its tyres, how well inflated they are, etc.), the cyclist (their weight, how hard they pedal, how much they use the assistance, etc.) and external factors (the temperature, the wind, the gradient, the quality of the road surface, etc.). But rest assured that you'll have access to real-time info about how many miles are left in your battery!

Here are a few tips on getting the most out of your bike's battery.

Jean-Jacques is chuffed that his bike's battery range allows him to plan and do longer bike rides of around 90 km. “The assistance certainly lets us go further, which means we can discover more new landscapes and places!”.

Having decided you're going to get an e-bike, planned your ride right down to the finest detail and picked the perfect model, all that remains is to get out there! Practise staying in control of your bike and not overdoing the assistance. It's the best way to work your muscles without getting too tired!

Sport for seniors: discover e-bike touring

Caroline Segoni

"Ever since I first rode a bike, I've been hooked on cycling. Be it solo, with family or with friends, I simply love exploring the forests of Picardy, the mountain bike trails of the Chaîne des Puys and France's many dedicated cycling routes. It's so much fun cruising along the trails and discovering the local architecture, culture, art and cuisine. It's a passion I share through my blog, Graines De Baroudeurs, and in my travelogue, Notre Tour à 7 Roues, which tells the story of the 8-month cycling tour of France I did with my kids.

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