Why I still love cycling at 86: Sylvia's story

Sylvia with her bike in the countryside

Sylvia hopes to still be cycling when she is 90

Sylvia started cycling regularly when she was 70, and has never looked back. From keeping fit, to enjoying nature and making new friends, she explains why cycling helps her feel a million dollars.

When I was around 70 I discovered Bicycle Belles, a local cycling group for women.

The group was really good for all abilities as people would join who hadn’t touched a bike since school and we’d do rides up to 20 miles, which were fantastic. There would always be a back marker so you wouldn’t fret about being left behind.

I really enjoyed the rides and met lots of people through it. I started cycling regularly to my Tai Chi class, which was a round trip of six miles. I realised that I was actually cycling quite a few miles a week, so I decided to set myself a challenge to do 1,000 miles in a year to raise some money for charity. I didn’t cycle for very long or go fast and I didn’t cycle when it’s windy, the wind scares me a bit. On a nice day I’d enjoy a longer ride.

I’d get out there and see the sky and the birds and the endorphins kicked in.

- Sylvia Briercliffe

Sometimes I really didn’t want to get on the bike and would be feeling quite low but I’d get out there and see the sky and the birds and the endorphins kicked in. Cycling can be quite spiritual really, a special time to think. People kept telling me how inspired they were by me and their mouths dropped open when I told them I was 86.

I completed my target of 1,000 miles in twelve months and raised £1,857 for local charities. I met the Boardmans at the local Eureka cycling café. They had heard of the challenge and congratulated me. I felt a million dollars! People started calling me Super Sylvia!

No one noticed me before but now I feel like I’ve done something worth doing. It can change your life if you get on a bike at 60. People think they can’t do it and just watch sport on the telly but age should not stop you. I use the bike all the time for short journeys to the shops or the bank. There’s a fantastic cycle network around here and if the roads look dangerous I sometimes hop off and push my bike along the pavement.

I had an angina scare about five years ago but I’m sure I’ve made my heart stronger. I listen to my body and don’t try to keep up if I can’t. I am sure travelling by bike helps me keep strong.

You see much more on a bike. The other day I saw a kestrel teaching a young kestrel to hunt. You wouldn’t get a chance to see that in a car.

I hope to still be cycling when I’m 90.

About the author: Sylvia Briercliffe is a Sustrans supporters in the Wirral, Merseyside. As a younger woman she sometimes used a bike to get around but now cycling is her main form of transport. She wishes more older people would get on their bikes.