Chapter 10 Roll Models
ROLL MODEL #6:
GET YOUNGER FRIENDS
That’s the key to super-fitness for this Malibu legend,weight trainer, big-wave surfer, and cyclist extraordinaire, who’s faster than ever at 80.
We’re 45 minutes up a forbidding Malibu dirt road that climbs 2,200 feet in 4 miles, and the Wild Man is ahead. Way ahead. Out-of-sight ahead. And my excuses begin: “I’m a mountain biker, but I’ve never ridden right after a grueling, two-hour, all-body weight-room workout before.” “It’s so hot—90 degrees
and rising—that I’m literally blinded in my
own sweat.” “I’m bonking because I haven’t eaten athing in over three hours.”
But, of course, the Wild Man hasn’t eaten, either. He lifted the same weights I did, probably more. And, amazingly, he hasn’t swallowed one sip of water all morning; he didn’t even pack a water bottle on his bike. So at the top, when he greets me with his typical upbeat attitude—“Wow, I’m really getting strong; that’s the first time I ever rode this in my
middle chainring”—I look at the leathery brown face, the slightly stooped shoulders, the washboard abs and bulging biceps, and face reality:
A 76-year-old man just kicked my butt
And then: I better train harder.
Malibu resident Don Wildman, possibly one of the fittest septuagenarians on the planet, has always had that galvanizing
effect on people. The founder of the company that became Bally’s Total
Fitness, the giant health-club chain, Wildman not only made a career out of telling people to get fit, he fit the part himself, packing his life with daily workouts and an endless parade of grand physical challenges— world-class sailing races against Ted Turner, 90 holes of golf in a day, nine Hawaii Ironman triathlons.
The activities didn’t retire when he did in 1994. On one vacation, he paddled the length of the Hawaiian Islands. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he leads “The Circuit,” a grueling two-hour weight workout at his gargantuan home gym that has become legendary in Malibu. He rides seven days a week and paddles three.
“I don’t rest,” he said.
A month after I rode with him, Wildman was racing across the country for 3,000 miles on a road bike as part of “Team Surfing USA,” a fourman team competing in the 2009 Race Across America from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis,
Maryland. Team Surfing, which paddled 115 miles from Malibu to the start and planned to paddle to the Statue of Liberty after the finish, used the event to raise money and awareness for several causes, including ALS (amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease; see Augies Quest.org), autism (BeautifulSon.org), and cystic fibrosis (http://sca.cff.org/pipeline2009).
This was Wildman’s second RAAM, having
done the race at age 60 on a 1994 team that finished second with a time of 5 days, 21 hours, and 24 minutes. In 2009, the father of three grown sons was old enough to be the dad of two of his
RAAM teammates—Tim Commerford, 41, the bassist for the rock group Rage Against the Machine, and 45-year-old Laird Hamilton, the famed big-wave surfer. And he could have been a
grandfather of the third, Jason Winn, 27, owner of Bonk Breaker energy bars. Their difference: a mere 49 years. (Note: Team Surfing led the 2009 RAAM into West Virginia, until it was knocked out when Jason was hit by a car.)
Back in Malibu, Wildman, Winn, and I
coasted down Winding Way. In my early 50s at the time, I’d wondered if I could hang with the Wild Man after hearing those raves about him from McEnroe. With that question clearly answered,
we braked at his stunning, tropical-themed, five-acre cliff-side estate and stashed our cycling gear in one of his four bike-and- Porsche-crammed garages. Then we hopped into a souped-up golf cart and took his winding private road to his one-room beach house on the
shore of Malibu’s Paradise Cove. Next on the agenda: an hour of stand-up paddleboarding.
Before we wrapped up the nearly five-hourworkout—a normal day for Wildman—he jumped up to a bar and reeled off 12 full-hang pull-ups, his lats flaring out like a cobra. I eked out 11; between gasps, I said, “I’ll get you on these next time, Don.”
“Yeah, but you better do those overhanded,” hesaid. “You know those underhand ones are a lot easier.” Of course, he’s right. I need to train harder.
Some people keep very fit into their 40s and 50s. Wildman is heading full-speed into his 80s.
The Wildman Luck
Nearly six decades ago, a rail-thin, 6-foot-2 17-year-old from Burbank High muffed the kickoff in the last football game of the season. “I kicked the ball about 15 yards—then ran over and dove on it. Coach yelled out, ‘Great on-side kick, Wildman.’
“A teammate looked at me and said, ‘Don, you’re the only guy who can fall on an outhouse and come up smelling like a rose.’ They called it The Wildman Luck.”
As the troublemaking, street-fighting,
evolution-believing son of Pentecostal preacher Al Wildman, an acolyte of famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Don always managed to make the best of a bad situation—even when he was shipped out to the Korean War before graduation to “get me on the right track.”
His first day in Korea, Wildman found himself a medic in a wiped-out convoy surrounded by dozens of dead American boys and thousands of Red Chinese soldiers pouring south across the
“I high-tailed it across a frozen river, certain I was going to die,” he said. “I wanted to shoot myself in the foot, break my hand, anything to go home. Then I met other survivors: If they could take it, I could, too.
“When I got home, I had a reference point for the rest of my life. Nothing was as bad as Korea. If it wasn’t life or death, I could deal with it.”
Back in L.A. in 1953, Wildman worked construction, sold insurance, got married, and, to put some bulk on his skinny frame, began working out at a Vic Tanny gym in Burbank. He ended up running the gym for 10 years, battling the stereotypes that claimed fitness was dangerous for women, and that men with muscles were dumb—even as he built up his own.
“I tried to lead by example,” he said. “Unlike these MBAs who never worked out, I had to look the part. When I started out, it was a selling business—and I was a muscle-head who totally
believed he was a better salesman. I guess because my father was a minister, I naturally ended up doing the same thing: changing lives.”
Wildman began preaching the fitness gospel to a much larger audience when Tanny went bankrupt in 1962. “It was the Wildman luck again—I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. Creditors contacted him about taking over eight clubs in Chicago. Soon he was buying
big and small chains in other cities, always careful to maintain their separate identities to avoid the system-wide scandals that plagued the fitness bus-iness. Driving traffic with ads featuring celebrities like Raquel Welch, he rode the fitness and racquetball wave to owner-ship of 17 nationwide chains under his Health & Tennis Corporation.
By 1993, when he retired from running Bally’s, the successor company
that had bought him out a decade before,
there were 400 clubs, making it the biggest health-club company in the country.
All the while, Wildman kept working out. His time crunch, and the advent of multi-station weight machines in the ’60s and ’70s, led him to clear messy barbells off the floor and experiment with what became known as “circuit training,” the
rapid movement from one exercise to another.
“I think I invented circuit training because Ihad to—I didn’t have the time to rest. You work one muscle group, then the opposing group— and you’re done in half the time.” Circuit training was a huge hit—especially with women, who
flooded into his clubs.
Training at 6 a.m. every day, Wildman built up to 237 pounds at age 37, leaving him time to pursue his big hobby, sailboat
In 1982, the morning after Wildman and his crew of 20 became the first to win all three of the Chicago Yacht Club’s famous Mackinac races in one season, a Fortune magazine writer asked him what was next. Drunk on champagne, Wildman
remembered something about a new sport he’d recently seen on TV, and blurted, “I might do that Ironman.”
“That ended up in the article,” he said. “Now, I had to do it. So I started running.”
The Ironman Decade
In October 1982, Wildman flew to the Big Island of Hawaii with a bike, running shoes, swim goggles, and a small transistor radio. Instead of carrying
a cassette player and tapes, he had rented a local radio station for the day to play his own music—the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, the Cure, The Beatles, and Talking Heads.
He finished in one minute over 12 hours, second in the 50-plus age group to Canadian Les MacDonald, who would be his rival for the next decade. Running 100 training miles a week and cycling three or four times that, Wildman leaned-out to 175 pounds. He scored his personal
Ironman record of 11:23 at age 60 and finally beat MacDonald, the president of the International Triathlon Federation.
“I did the Ironman until my knees were wrecked,” he said. “A surgeon told me no more running—‘You’ve got bone on bone.’ But I don’t blame it all on the running; the bump skiing and golf every morning—all that torque—helped, too.”
But Wildman didn’t slow down. After his last Ironman in ’93, documented in an NBC profile, he moved on to his newest loves: snowboarding, windsurfing, and cycling, both road racing and mountain biking.
His Advice: Weights, Races,
and Younger Friends
Today, Wildman said that his cycling is stronger than ever. “My bike speed is similar to my Ironman days—and there’s a reason for that,” he said. “Strength helps cardio. In the last decade,
I started to try to keep my strength up.
As you get older, the fall-off in strength is
greater than the decline in VO2 max—unless you fight it.”
Wildman took his old circuit-training routines and ramped them up into what he calls “The Circuit,” his now legendary two-hour blasting sessions. One wing of his estate, stocked with a couple dozen machines, free-weights, and inflatable exercise balls, looks like a condensed
version of a Bally’s gym.
Everything gets used.
Wildman usually doesn’t work out alone. Joining us were his Team Surf teammates Commerford and Winn. Hamilton is also a frequent workout partner, along with McEnroe, 50, and Detroit Red Wings star Chris Chelios, 47, when they’re in town. A pattern emerges: None of them is within a quarter-century of him.
Wildman eats healthy, takes lots of supplements, fills his radiant, Architectural Digest–worthy home with happy photos and paintings, and is always up for fun. The night before, he
and his friends piled into a limo and went to a Lakers playoff game. But a key element to his fitness strategy clearly is finding younger friends.
“Old guys don’t train anymore, so all my buddies are real young,” he said. “They’re more fun. They push you and you push them, and you forget how old you are.”
Young friends also teach him new games. “When Laird met me in 1996, he saw that I was an aggressive snow-boarder—and thought I’d make a good tow surfer,” said Wildman, who often joins Hamilton on surfing and paddle- boarding adventures in Hawaii and other bigwave hot spots.
Conversely, he got Hamilton hooked on
mountain biking, an obsession since he moved to Malibu in 1983.
Of course, acting like a man 50 years younger carries some risks. In 2006, Wildman tore his rotator cuff while snowboarding in Argentina. Heliboarding six months later, he drove his left femur through the end of his tibia, shattering
the latter. (“I couldn’t walk on it for 12 weeks, but I could cycle with the other leg,” he said.) In the winter of 2009, he broke his left femur at a right angle when his mountain bike slipped on black ice in Utah. Ten days later, he was doing chin-ups; two months later, snowboarding.
When he was surfing in Hawaii with Hamilton in September 2008, a barrel slammed Wildman into his board, puncturing his lung and breaking a rib. A month later, he won three golds and four silvers in cycling events at the World Senior Games, which he has competed in since 2004.
“Seeing high-level people your age once in a while is important,” he said. “It tells you that you’re normal.”
If all goes as planned, there will be many more accidents and Senior Games to come, because The Wildman Luck is genetic, too. His dad lived to 88, his mom to 94. He’s had no medical problems, other than an overactive thyroid 30 years ago. He rarely gets sick.
Wildman likes being a role model, but finds it ironic that he usually inspires younger people, not his chronological peers.
“When I met the Wild Man, I was in my late 30s and already starting to think slowing down was natural,” said Commerford, as an excited Wildman personally serves us raspberry yogurts at his downtown Malibu yogurt shop, his latest passion. “Then we rode together, and the same thing that happened to you happened to me: I thought, ‘What’s my excuse? I gotta train more!’”
“People my own age say, ‘It’s too late for me,’” said Wildman, “but all kinds of studies show that even nursing home populations can improve with exercise. And you get the reward for it: the endorphins. So pick something that you really like doing—cycling, trampolining—and just do it.
“As a kid, you go out and play. As an adult, you want the same fun, the same excitement,” he said. “So when people say to me, ‘When are you going to grow up?’ I always say the same thing back: ‘I hope I never do.’”
I followed up with the Wild Man in October 2013.
Eighty now and still sounding as buoyant as a 30-year-old, Wildman was on his way to the Senior Games in Utah, where he again won a number of medals. Always looking forward to new adventures, he was putting together another Race Across America relay team for 2014. He was also excited about marketing his new inven-tion: a giant motorized skateboard for golfers.
Despite two knee replacements three months earlier, Wildman said he could still leg-press 635 pounds and do 22 full-hang pull-ups. He had fallen in love with his 35-year-old nurse, a mountain biker who, he raved, was a “10.”
“You look and feel 20 years younger if you lift weights and associate with younger people,” he reiterated when asked for the keys to athletic longevity and success. “About 400 athletes show up at the Senior Games, and all of them except me and a Navy Seal have scrawny upper bodies. You can’t let yourself get fragile.
“Because growing older is not for sissies.”
“Russell — push it, man!” I yelled. “Come on, dude—you can do better than that! I can’t do it alone! Give me some of that Olympic leg power!”
Suddenly, Russell Allen, the stoker on my tandem, kicked it into gear—and it was like a jet engine roared to life. Suddenly, he was that 19-year-old track rider on the 1932 US Olympic Team again.
We stood up out of the saddle. I shifted into the big ring. We hit 25, 27, 30 mph.
We passed hundreds of riders and hammered through the finish line of the 2006 L.A. Marathon bike ride, 22 miles long, in exactly one hour flat.
Russell was 93 years old.
“That was goddamn fast!” the last surviving member of the ’32 team whispered to me when it was over, beaming like he’d won a gold medal.
Halfway into his 10th decade, surrounded by photographers and gabbing away with threetime Olympic rider John Howard (1968, 1972, and 1976) in the VIP area after-ward, he looked as happy as a 10-year-old kid.
Doing the tandem ride with Russell that day and seeing the childlike joy on his face was one of the greatest moments of my life. For me, it was also a testimony to the life-affirming and life-extending power of this magnificent machine, the bicycle—and validated the promise of my 2005 book, Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100. It was another vivid example of how the bike literally can be a time machine—a fun, thrilling vehicle for anyone who wants to stay fit and functional at any age. Russell, an Olympic, professional, and lifelong cyclist, fitness buff, family man, car salesman, and professional gambler—whom I actually met because of Bike for Life (as you’ll read in a couple of minutes)—was proof of that.
Russell and other older riders have convinced me that the driving mission behind Bike for Life is completely realistic and doable. Yes, you can get fitter as you get older. At the very least, you can slow down and even stop the natural deterioration that hits everyone after about age 35.
And if everything goes as planned, you will indeed be able to, as Bike for Life promises,
“Ride a century when you
turn a century.”
It’ll just take lots of work—on and
off the bike.
If you like riding bikes and love life,
you are very lucky. Because cycling
is simply one of the best— maybe
the best—activities for functional, fit,
and fun longevity.
Living to 100 used to be rare, but more and more, it will be common for those with good genes and healthy lifestyles. Tens of thousands of Americans will reach the century mark in the coming decades—advances in medical science will make sure of that. The question is: Do you
want to be functional when you get there? Do you want to do the same stuff that you like doing now? If you’re a cyclist, do you want to experience the triumph of conquering a steep hill, the thrill of the wind blasting your face on a winding descent—at age 80, 90, or 100? Wouldn’t it be great to ride 100 miles at age 100?
Enter Bike for Life, a blueprint for longevity, health, and well-being. Cycling is a sport uniquely suited to long life, as it provides the potential for physical and mental challenge, superb cardiovascular fitness, adventure, relaxation, and social interaction—all at the same time. It works for all abilities, both sexes, and every age and demographic, a great equal-izer unifies generations in fitness and fun.
Unfortunately, like all sports, cycling is not perfect. It does little for upper-body muscular strength, can wreck posture and bone density, and can unwittingly get you additcted to a destructive sugary/processed food habit that can
leave you disease-prone and old before your time. Those issues are exacerbated in cyclists over the age of 35 or 40 as a result of the natural deterioration caused by aging.
So cycling both giveth and taketh away—unless you train smart.
If you want to ride a century when you turn a century, you have to make two significant changes to your routine:
1. Add intensity to your rides: Shorter, more strenuous training sessions will help you maintain and build muscular power without wearing you out.
2. Get off the bike: Do some weight training, cross-training (run, swim, skate, play tennis, etc.), and flexibility/yoga exercises to protect your muscle mass, bone density, and posture.
This revised edition of Bike for Life has about 50 percent new content. It updates groundbreaking information about cycling-related osteoporosis, wrecked relationships, impotence, knee and back preventive care. It adds new, cutting-edge research about diet and training—both cardio and strength—that will have huge effects on achieving peak fitness, staying injury-free, and fighting the deterioration of aging. You’ll get happy reading two colorful new chapters on cycling role models and ways to stay motivated.
We don’t skip the small stuff, either. In Bike for Life, you’ll learn how to fight off a mountain lion, avoid and manage a car-bike accident, survive a bike-jacking, and deal with a dozen other “it-only-happens-tosomeone- else” sub-jects that can throw your longlife plan off track.
Proudly, Bike for Life addresses some crucial topics largely ignored in the cycling press:
>>Bone loss: Want to make sure you don’t break a hip when you’re 70? See Chapter 9: Cycling and Osteoporosis. Bike for Life broke the news on this crucial issue in 2005, and too many cyclists still are not paying attention to it. They should. If you only ride a bike for fitness, you are at risk— male or female. You’ll learn why you need to hit the weight room, do some jogging and jumping jacks, and consume more calcium if you want to keep your skeleton as fit as your heart.
>>>Biker's Back & Cyclist's Knee: Read Chapter 8: Prehab, long before you visit your chiropractor or surgeon. Proper pedaling form, activating your glutes, targeted stretches and exercises, and a unique body-straightening routine from Symmetry, a leader in postural therapy, will keep your riding pain free and save you time, money, and years of anguish.
>>>Power and endurance: Want to be faster and go farther at age 40 than at 30, at 60 than 50? Check out the radical new “Maximum Overload” weight-training method in Chapter 2 and discover “butt-centric” riding in Chapter 8. These sections will help you
hold power and form until the end of the
longest rigdes and help you utilize the much- ignored—and highly powerful—gluteal muscles.
>>>Yoga for cyclists: Cycling’s unusual, not-found-in-nature position leads to imbalances that can cause on- and off-the-bike pain and poor performance. Renowned cycling and yoga coach Steve Ilg provides a 10-position yoga routine in Chapter 2 that will get your posture back in line.
>>>Reviving your reaction time: Getting older, and afraid to ride because your reaction time has slowed so much that you can’t avoid road hazards like you used to? Get back up to speed by reading Chapter 2, which describes explosive, rapid-contraction weight lifting, the only thing proven to resuscitate your invaluable fast-twitch muscle fibers. A bonus: Doing so will also raise your flat-land speed, increase your fatigue-resistance on the hills, and restore youthful bulges to age-flattened muscles.
>>>The 5-to-1 relationship ratio: Cycling is a demanding lover. Reconciling your significant other’s and the sport’s significant demands on your time will be a lot easier with the help of a mathematical plan from some of the world’s foremost and fittest relationship psychologists. Find it in Chapter 12: Rolling Relationships.
>>>Staying motivated with world-wide biking adventures: 90% of the challenge of staying fit is just getting up off the couch and doing it. The nine stories from the field in Chapter 11 will show you how to stay excited about cycling, including taking on crazy challenges, joining (or starting) a club, and turning a work trip into a memorable cycling vacation.
Cycling has a leg up on most other sports
when it comes to long-term fitness and health. It’s easier on joints and muscles than running. It’s way more fun and far less monotonous than swimming. Unless your backyard backs up to a dock, it’s a lot more convenient than paddling. With a $200 training stand, it’s one of the rare workouts you can do while watching the evening news. And, best of all, it's the rare sport you can do alone or in a group at any age.
Some people start cycling in their 60s (see the first story in Chapter 10). Ever see a group of 60-year-old men play pickup football or basketball? Never. But on a century ride, a weekend charity ride, or a 24-hour mountain biking event, you’ll see plenty of silver-haired men and women pursuing active retirement into their 70s. Riding is the best social security.
While pedaling into your seventh or eighth decade is commendable, why stop there? Why should age be a barrier to health? With a good strategy, age doesn’t matter. Just take a look at hard-training cycling legends like John Howard and Ned Overend, who are deep into their 60s and 50s, respectively, as I write this. They have no intention of stopping—ever. Because the longer you do, the harder it is to get going again. If you are inactive now, don’t wait another minute.
“It’s not the older you get, the sicker you get, but the older you get the healthier you’ve been,” said Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician at Boston University, who was quoted in a Time magazine story entitled “How to Live to Be 100.”
The Time story confirmed my notions
about longevity, but it also left me with one big question: Why stop there? A better tale, told in these pages, is “How to Ride to 100.”
I believe the info compiled in Bike for Life can help you radically slow the deterioration that starts in your 30s and 40s and push the cycling odometer far into triple digits.
One of the best things about using cycling
as your longevity tool is that it makes you
part of a supremely positive culture that
cuts across all racial, age, language, occu-
pational, and socioeconomic groups. Being
a cyclist makes you part of a team that cel-
ebrates adventure and goal achievement.
If you’ve climbed the same hill and ridden
the same route as another cyclist, you’re
automatically bonded for life, even if you’ve
I saw this phenomenon firsthand when
the first Bike for Life helped reunite two
cyclists who hadn’t seen one another in 74
years: my LA Marathon tandem part-
ner Russell Allen and his 1932
Olympic teammate, John Sinibaldi.
A year before that tandem ride, the original Bike for Life featured Sinibaldi, a member of the 1932 and 1936 US Olympic cycling teams, which competed in Los Angeles and Berlin, in a lengthy oral-history interview. He was still riding, as was Allen. But they never met again after 1932, so each assumed he was the last survivor of the team.
Four months after the book came out in May 2005, a year before Allen and I rode the tandem together, I got a call out of the blue from Audrey Adler, a Los Angeles indoor-cycling instructor, who was also profiled in the book for her efforts to found a cycling-based charity.
“I just met Sinibaldi’s teammate,” she said. “His name is Russ Allen. He’s handsome and fit, with sparkling blue eyes. We need to take him to Florida so he and Sinibaldi can meet.”
Allen had walked into Adler’s Los Angeles cycling class that day and asked if he could join. Noting his age, she mentioned that the class was very intense and that he might enjoy one of the club’s senior classes instead.
“Oh, I can keep up,” he said. “I ride on the beach bike path all the time. In fact, I even rode in the 1932 Olympic Games.”
Adler was dumbstruck. “What? What’s your name?” Upon hearing the name Russell Allen, she said, “Wait a minute. Do you remember John Sinibaldi?”
Allen got teary-eyed and sadly waved his hand in front of his face in a gesture of resignation. “Yeah, but he’s gone,” he said. “They’re all gone. I’m the only one left.”
“No you’re not,” said Adler, “I know for a fact that Sinibaldi is still alive. And I’m going to take you to see him.”
Allen took her class (and had no trouble keeping up). A month later, Allen, Adler, and I flew to St. Petersburg, Florida, to meet his old teammate, Sinibaldi.
More than 500 other people from 15 states also showed up, joining us for a 25-mile ride officially dubbed “Ride with the Legend,” which Sinibaldi’s son and riding buddy, John Jr., had organized in his honor.
Allen and Sinibaldi signed specially made “Legend” T-shirts for two hours. They signed books at my Bike for Life lecture.
And the two Olympic teammates, who’d known each other—barely—for two weeks as 19-yearolds over seven decades earlier, were inseparable, posing for pictures, poring through photo albums, and talking non-stop. Joined at the hip for two straight days, both still sharp, they traded names and places like human Rolodexes.
It was amazing to see them go at it like two old pals, when in fact they had not seen each other since the Olympics. While Allen turned pro, traveled the globe, and made big money doing six-day races until the start of World War II, Sinibaldi stayed amateur, went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936, and had then gone to work in a factory.
After years off the bike, both continued cycling for decades. But they also credited their remarkable fitness and the spring in their steps to cross-training.Russell began lifting weights severaltimes a week in the gym as a trainer during the war; Sinibaldi spent three hours a day digging and planting in his enormous garden.
Three weeks after Ride with the Legend, John Jr. called me. His dad had died. Sinibaldi Sr. had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer right before I’d initially contacted him, a month beforethe party. “He was supposed to die in a week, the doctor told me,” his son said.
“What kept him alive was knowing that he was going to see Russell.”
At the end of the phone call, John Jr. gave me instructions: “You must celebrate Russell,
do for him what I did for my dad,” he said.
So I did. I wrote a couple of big articles about Russell, did the LA Marathon tandem ride with him, and arranged to have him get a special “Legends”award at the Competitor Endurance Sports Awards gala.
Adler and I would get together with Allen several times a year. His daughter started
inviting us to all his birthday parties, and we became part of his large extended family.
At his 99th in March 2012, Russell looked
frail but was excited to be flying to New Zealand the following week to attempt to reclaim his record (orig-inally set when he was 94) of being the oldest person to bungee jump off the famous bridge in Queenstown. He didn’t make it. He died in his sleep the day before the flight.
Russell would be mad at himself for that. He was looking forward to being in my book as real proof that you actually could ride to 100. But 99’s not so bad; it’ll motivate the rest of us.
This edition of Bike for Life keeps the original book’s interview with Sinibaldi and adds a large profile of Allen. You’ll also find interviews and stories about venerable cycling champions and industry stalwarts, from John Howard and mountain bike pioneer Gary Fisher to Specialized bike boss Mike Sinyard, all in their 60s, as well as reigning off-road endurance queen Rebecca Rusch and 1990s’ mountain bike superstar Juli Furtado, both in their 40s.
The book also profiles two notable age-80-plus riders: Don Wildman, fitness industry icon, 10-time Hawaii Ironman, and Malibu mountain bike legend; and UC–Berkeley professor emeritus Gerd Rosenblatt, who did 38 double-centuries after age 70 and was inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame.
Between the personality profiles and the technical chapters on training, diet, and technique, you will find a wealth of valuable lessons that you can apply to your own cycling longevity plan.
A reminder: Strength, flexibility, hard training, and recovery are the key threads. Going shorter is fine, as long as you go hard. The Golden Rule: Follow a hard day with a recovery day, as your body strengthens by adapting to the stress that you put on it. Any opportunity you get, challenge yourself, then rest. Most of all,just get on the bike and ride it.
A key: Goals. Weekly ones, yearly ones, and lifetime ones—they become self-fulfilling prophecies that force you to get on your bike when you don’t feel like it, and remind you to do all the extra stuff that’ll keep you riding. As a sport, nothing beats cycling for goal-setting. It’s replete with events that can keep you endlessly motivated (see Chapter 14).
In my case, although I’m no mega-miler, my motivation is endurance events. Since Bike for Life was first published in 2005, I’ve done six weeklong mountain bike stage races (TransRockies, BC Bike Race, Breck Epic, and three 3- and 4-day La Ruta de los Conquistadores races); half of the 1,200-kilometer Paris-Brest-Paris randonnée; hundreds of bike tours, century rides, one-day hill climbs; plus a mountain bike ride every Sunday with my buddies Kennedy and Matta.
Although I was never a speed demon, I
honestly can say I have not slowed at all from my 40s through my 50s, despite riding less. For that, I credit my ramped-up strength training, stretching, intervals cross-training, a better diet—and the subtitle of my book.
Because when you decide to tell the world “How to Ride to 100—and Beyond,” it keeps you pretty motivated.
Do I really think you can ride to 100? Absolutely! In fact, I’m counting on it. See you in 2056 at the Bike for Life century ride.
Roy M. Wallack (age 58)
From Chapter 11: BIG-TIME MOTIVATION