published Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Older riders urged to join Outdoor Chattanooga cycling events

David Blackwell crosses a bridge over South Chickamauga Creek on an Outdoor Chattanooga bicycle ride for older adults.
David Blackwell crosses a bridge over South Chickamauga Creek on an Outdoor Chattanooga bicycle ride for older adults.
Photo by John Rawlston.

GET INVOLVED

The next Outdoor Chattanooga bicycle ride for older adults is Monday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. Cyclers should meet at the Hubert Fry Center at the Chattanooga Riverwalk. For information, call Kassi Webster at 643-7880 or email kassi@outdoorchattanooga.com.

David Blackwell said as bike riders go he is too tall, too big, has a little asthma and was just diagnosed with cancer for the second time. But Outdoor Chattanooga's bicycle ride for older adults was just the ticket for him.

"I enjoy riding," he said of the twice monthly rides along the Tennessee Riverwalk. "I'm not a very good rider."

The outings, geared to riders ages 55 and older and usually held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month April through October, begin at the Hubert Fry Center near the C.B. Robinson Bridge.

"It's so important for older adults to stay active," said Kassi Webster, public health prevention specialist at Outdoor Chattanooga. "It's important to be able to keep a lot of mobility and balance. Biking is ... a good option. It's not hard on your joints, and there's not the knee pain with running. It's an easy, low-impact activity.

"It's also a lot of fun," she said. You feel like a kid again. You have that feeling again of pedaling to the corner store. And it's a way to be social -- to not become isolated."

The rides, which are held in tandem with the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department's adaptive cycling program, are geared toward the ability of participants.

If most of the riders are comfortable with riding, they may go all the way to the end of the flat portion of the Riverwalk at the Bluff View neighborhood, according to Webster. If, as is sometimes the case, some of the riders haven't ridden since they were teens, they don't go as far, she said.

"We can adapt," she said. "It's not really steep. It's the optimal place to do it."

"Some on the younger end are still working," she said. "Once I pedaled with an 82-year-old man. He brought his own bike and gave me a run for my money."

Participants can bring their own bikes, but Outdoor Chattanooga usually brings about a dozen from its mobile fleet. There are adaptive bicycles for those with disabilities or bone and joint problems, Webster said.

They might be called commuter or city bikes, she said. They're easy to use, stable and don't have the ultra-thin tires many bikes have, she said.

"It's a public service," Webster said. "We just want to reintroduce some people to biking."

Blackwell, who said he's been on "a bunch" of the rides, said the Riverwalk is a safe venue where his wife won't have to worry about him winding up in a ditch.

"It's not hard on the knees and joints," he said, "and it's a little bit of a cardiovascular workout. If you go out and work your lungs and work your heart, you have increased odds of living longer."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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