You wouldn’t know it from her numerous cycling accomplishments, but 59-year-old Susi Wunsch didn’t get into the sport until her late 40s.
Looking for an activity to help keep her fit, Wunsch dabbled in running, swimming, weight training and tennis in her 30s and 40s. It wasn’t until she took a spin class and experienced the benefits of indoor cycling that she knew she wanted to take cycling to the next level. “I thought, I’m riding strong and I’m fit, so why not take this outdoors?” says Wunsch.
Cycling’s Spin-Off Benefits for Older Adults
Cycling can help with weight management. The number of calories burned cycling from a 1-hour ride can range from 600 to 885, depending on your body weight. Online calorie calculator Map My Ride can help you determine calories burned while cycling or calories burned per mile.
But for Wunsch, cycling has become much more than just way to stay fit and burn calories: “It’s made a huge difference in my psychological and emotional well-being through mid-life. One of the best parts is that it has connected me with a wonderful community of women who enjoy cycling.” Cycling also prompted Wunsch to start a blog, Velojoy, to celebrate the sport and encourage other women to ride.
Soon after a cycling tour in France with her husband, Wunsch celebrated her 50th birthday by completing her first Olympic-distance charity triathlon. In her mid-50s she raced the 100-mile GranFondo New York — taking third place in her age group. “My real ah-ha moment came when I bought my first carbon road bike. It was like riding on air. I connected immediately with the sensations of lightness and speed. It felt freeing,” says Wunsch. “That’s when I knew I’d discovered my passion, one I’ve been pursuing for more than a decade now.”
You may be surprised to learn that even an accomplished cycler like Wunsch still has her challenges, but she faces them head on.
“Descending long mountain passes has been a challenge. I would rather climb a hill all day than ride down one. So, a few years ago, I traveled to a spring training camp in a mountainous area to learn and practice proper descending skills,” she recounts. “I’m still hesitant on the downhill; I’ll probably be feathering my brakes forever, but I’m not afraid anymore and that feels like a victory.”
4 Cycling Vacations Ideal for Older Adults
Whether you’re a recreational rider or avid cycling enthusiast, a cycling vacation is an excellent way to hone your skills in unfamiliar terrain and explore a foreign country. Here are four cycling vacations to add to your must-ride list:
1. Belvedere Bike Hotel in Riccione, Italy
Experience La Dolce Vita at the Belvedere Bike Hotel. A family-run hotel and spa, it caters specifically to cyclists. Choose from five different daily tours where you’ll ride along the beautiful Adriatic coastlines and the hills of the Emilia Romagna. Explore historic towns and castles, right from your saddle. Hotel amenities include bikes for hire (state-of-the-art De Rosa bikes), a bike repair shop, close proximity to the beach and unbelievable food prepared by the hotel chef. Go for as many days as you’d like and choose from bike programs for beginner and advanced riders.
2. Trek Travel, Worldwide
From Cuba to Provence to France, Trek Travel is a professional tour company that offers a range of cycling tours worldwide. Their top tours include Puglia, Italy; Costa Brava, Spain; and Tuscany, Italy. Expect professional grand tours and iconic climbs all customized to fit your cycling ability. Cycling programs are suitable for beginner and advanced cyclists and you’ll ride top-of-the-line Trek bikes, led by an experienced guide. You’ll also get trustworthy transportation support so you can enjoy the breathtaking views while your luggage gets delivered to your hotel at each stop.
3. Stephen Roche Cycling in Mallorca, Spain
Get on a Pinarello bike and ride with ex-professional cyclist Stephen Roche in Mallorca, Spain. Unpack only once and ride from your hotel daily enjoying stunning views on well-maintained roads through quaint villages. Test your strength and endurance along the dramatic terrain of the Tramuntana mountains or take a leisurely ride through picturesque olive groves and orchards. Return late afternoons to a beach or poolside swim.
4. Duvine Cycling and Adventure Co., Worldwide
Duvine Cycling and Adventure Co. is a luxury cycling tour company with a large choice of cycling vacations all over the world. Some of the best destinations include Tuscany, Bordeaux, Croatia and Spain. Rent a Cannondale high-end bike and follow your experienced guide on routes suitable for beginner and advanced riders. After a well-earned day climbing and descending the exquisite countryside, enjoy the luxury boutique hotels and locally prepared foods and activities.
3 GranFondo Group Rides to Consider
Alternatively, if you’d like to try your hand at a major group bike ride, sign-up for the GranFondo. GranFondo loosely translates to “big ride” in Italian. It’s a combination of a group ride, race and tour. Originating in Nove Colli, Italy, today, GranFondos are held all over the world with thousands of participants cycling through stunning scenery and challenging terrain. If Wunsch’s 100-mile GranFondo in New York has you inspired, here are three locations to consider:
1. Nove Colli GranFondo, Italy
Nove Colli is the birth place of the GranFondo and is Italy’s largest cycling party. With 12,000 participants, this GranFondo varies in difficulty with 130 km and 205 km routes.
2. GranFondo Whistler, Canada
Ride from Vancouver, B.C. to Whistler along the picturesque Sea-to-Sky corridor with 12,000 other participants. There are three route distances to choose from: 55 km, 122 km and 162 km.
3. Levi’s GranFondo, Santa Rosa, California
Levi’s GranFondo offers 11 routes to choose from ranging from 13 km to 188 km. Santa Rose is in the heart of Sonoma County and this GranFondo route has long been celebrated for its beauty and intensity.