Getting up and away into the glorious Yorkshire Dales keeps Steve, 65, fit as a flea. ‘I’ve been cycling regularly since my dad taught me when I was eight,’ he says. ‘I love getting out in the countryside – you can just take off whenever you want.’
Now retired from local government, Steve lives in Skipton, in the heart of the Dales, and often cycles 100 miles a week, unfazed by floods, ice or abusive motorists.
On April 30, the three-day Tour de Yorkshire passes through Skipton, and Steve and fellow members of the Skipton Cycling Club will cycle out to greet them, although not to race alongside. ‘These are some of the world’s best professional cyclists,’ he chuckles. ‘We couldn’t keep up!’
‘The terrain round here is extremely hilly but we usually make it to the top because our bikes have up to 20 gears.’ Skipton Cycling Club member Steve Wilkinson
Skipton Cycling Club has 120 members. ‘Half are 50-plus and 21 are 60-plus,’ says Steve. ‘We frequently ride out for about 50 miles and often see the Brownlee brothers [triathletes Alistair and Jonny] training. The terrain is extremely hilly but we usually make it to the top as our bikes have up to 20 gears. It can still be leg-burning – the older you get the harder it is. Café stops consist of bacon or egg butties, and we love flapjacks!’
The attraction is the sense of achievement – and the health benefits. ‘I had a mild stroke four years ago and was back on my bike within three weeks,’ says Steve. ‘I’m on medication that sometimes makes me feel cold because I have thinner blood, but it hasn’t reduced my energy levels.’
He’s been knocked off his bike a couple of times but his biggest bugbear is pot holes. ‘You have to be careful, particularly in winter. Then there are car drivers who think we’re a nuisance – but our response is just to smile and wave.’
To find a local cycling club, visit britishcycling.org.uk/clubs
This article was first published in the April 2017 issue of Saga Magazine.
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