Cycling is one of my favorite activities and a primary source of aerobic exercise. The older I get, the more I enjoy it. I was a runner for almost 40 years, but a knee replacement compelled me to quit.
The knee guy said, “If you keep running, you’ll be back for another one.”
A certified sissy, I’m not suffering that very painful rehabilitation again if I can avoid it.
Harvard Medical School reports what I’ve long believed. Cycling is great exercise and a wonderful form of recreation for almost everyone, especially us old people. It’s an outstanding aerobic workout, and much easier on the joints than walking or running.
Those clever folks at Harvard say cycling is excellent for the heart, brain, blood vessels, muscles, balance and bone density.
I just finished a bike ride, and I’m already feeling smarter and tougher. Unbalanced since birth, I doubt there’s any cure for that. If you’re a fellow geriatric, grab a bike and get out on the trails. If you’re young, start now and make it a lifelong addiction.
I ride a lot. The actual mileage I log is confidential, as I don’t want to be accused of being obsessive compulsive, a rumor without merit. Safety is my biggest cycling concern. There are simply too many people driving around texting and nipping. My preference is to get off the roads and ride traffic-free bike trails whenever possible.
Maine promotes itself as a cycling friendly state. Unfortunately, that’s not really true, at least comparatively speaking. Many states have a superior network of bike trails.
Traveling to Utah and back a few summers ago, I rode 33 different trails, most just off major highways.
In Florida, there are scores of paved bike trails spread throughout the state where gray-haired cyclists are often found.
Here in Maine, we only have a handful of true bike trails that allow for a decent ride. Many riders consider a 10-mile round trip to be the minimum acceptable distance. The vast majority of our scenic country roads lack a safe shoulder for bike travel. The good news is that things are improving.
Two great trail rides in southern Maine are two sections of the Eastern Trail. The northern sector from Scarborough to Saco is eight miles one way, while the southern ride between Biddeford and Kennebunk is six miles. My wife, Nancy, recently joined me for a ride on both. She’s younger than I so you’ll have to consult with her on whether she qualifies as geriatric. We chose hybrid bikes for our outing.
Leaving the Black Point Road Trailhead in Scarborough, we rode south on the hard-packed dirt and gravel trail for a long mile to Scarborough Marsh. This is such a captivating area that it’s almost impossible to avoid stopping to fully appreciate the wonderful views. Normally, kayakers and canoeists can be seen exploring the tidal waters. As usual, several bird watchers were carefully surveying the expansive wetlands as we proceeded.
After passing the marsh and crossing busy Pine Point Road, we entered a shaded, exceptionally serene path that continues for about five miles to Saco. A noteworthy bridge dedicated to one of the trail founders, John Andrews, crosses over Route 1 when approaching Saco. After several street crossings in the final mile, we arrived at the southern trailhead at Thornton Academy.
It’s possible to navigate through the streets of Saco and Biddeford to connect with the southern trail, but we chose to return to Scarborough and avoid the traffic. The weather was beautiful, and it was an exceptional day for cycling, so we decided to drive to Biddeford and complete the southern trail. The Biddeford Trailhead is located behind Southern Maine Health Care just a short distance from Interstate 95.
The ride to Kennebunk is similar in character to the Scarborough Marsh to Saco section of the northern trail. Shortly before arriving at the Kennebunk Trailhead, we crossed the impressive Eastern Trail Bridge over Interstate 95. Just beyond, a spur trail on the right leads to Kennebunk Elementary School where there is parking and an excellent place for a break. After completing the return to Biddeford our combined ride totaled 30 pleasurable miles.
My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates exploits on five Maine bike trails and three offshore island bike trips.