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Findings contradict popular perception of someone going through a mid-life crisis

A new study, published in the journal Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, examines the reasons for many middle-aged men’s enthusiasm for cycling. The researchers believe that far from being tied to some kind of mid-life crisis there are in fact complex motivations for riding a bike recreationally, tied to the desire for good mental as well as physical health.

The University of East London study sought to understand the ‘green exercise’ (GE) experience of a group of male recreational road cyclists aged between their mid-30s and early 50s who routinely rode in the countryside.

GE refers to physical activity conducted in the natural environment. According to the study: “A substantial body of literature has now been accumulated that establishes that carrying out exercise in this way has significantly greater psychological wellbeing benefits than the non-GE equivalent.”

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with men who considered themselves to be serious recreational cyclists with more than two years’ experience of cycling for a minimum of an hour a week in the countryside.

As for how ‘in-depth’ these interviews were, they only actually spoke to 11 blokes, so we’re imagining they were pretty comprehensive.

The researchers concluded that the 11 men’s cycling experiences could be summarised in three main ways, which they labelled: mastery and uncomplicated joys; my place to escape and rejuvenate; and alone but connected.

‘Mastery and uncomplicated joys’ related to the challenges of steep hills and long distances. Writing at The Conversation, study authors James Beale and Oliver Glackin say that there is a double reward in both a sense of achievement and also a growing confidence to explore nature further.

They also refer to, “the frisson of riding a bike at speed on country lanes, especially down steep hills where the sense of risk was amplified. Doing so was invigorating and seemed to gratify an inherent human need for excitement.”

‘My place to escape and rejuvenate’ described how changing scenery and a natural environment felt restorative. “Green-cycling represented an opportunity to get away from the concerns and worries of their lives back at home,” they write, likening the effects to mindfulness.

‘Alone but connected’ referenced cycling in groups, where there was no pressure to converse but also to online social networks where it is possible to interact with other cyclists.

Beale and Glackin also said that although participants tracked their performance via these networks, the sense of competition was typically secondary to other concerns, such as exploring other people’s routes or sharing photos.

They conclude: “Our findings contradict the popular view of a Mamil as someone going through a mid-life crisis, with riding substituting the roar of a sports car or other interests associated with men of a certain age feeling life is passing them by.

“The research also contrasts with the idea that cycling is a way for men to compete in a new activity that the ageing process will not take away so quickly as the sports they grew up playing.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

21 comments

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me [84 posts] 1 week ago
12 likes

I do it to get away from those who use words like empower, stakeholder, etc.  Puts all thoughts of corporate nonsense out of my head.

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nniff [168 posts] 1 week ago
10 likes

Hang on a moment.  Does this mean that researchers have finally caught up with my mother who, 50 years ago, was telling me, my brother and our friends to get outside into the fresh air because it was good for us?  

 

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RoboRider21 [22 posts] 1 week ago
7 likes

Its my release from work, in fact its my release from the world..

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Mungecrundle [806 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

I can relate very much to those findings.

Happy to go an entire ride without more than a few words of conversation beyond the pleasantries.

Enjoy wearing the club kit and being part of a group. Some competition but everyone makes a group effort to get round.

Skills of group riding, personal challenges sometimes requiring effort to exhaustion.

Fulfillment of equipment and mechanical devices fetish.

Fresh air and escape to a place where you are 10 years old again enjoying the rush of moving fast through pleasant countryside but not isolated from it.

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Grahamd [544 posts] 1 week ago
12 likes

I'm 48 and cycling is the only activity where I can feel like a child again. forgetting all life's worries and just get out and enjoy being alive. 

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Kapelmuur [382 posts] 1 week ago
7 likes

I'm a long way past middle age, I started cycling regularly 6 years ago when I was 64.   I used to play football and after retiring from that I was a distance runner.   Those sports caused knee and other problems which resulted in my being unable to walk for more than 20 minutes without pain. 

So my reason for taking up cycling was practical, it's the one exercise I can which do without making my knees hurt.   In fact I now have no knee problem and can walk for miles pain free.

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drosco [314 posts] 1 week ago
8 likes

Personally I like not turning into a middle aged blob like a lot of blokes my age. I never get tired of people saying 'how far!' When doing a century ride over the weekend.

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srchar [541 posts] 1 week ago
5 likes
drosco wrote:

Personally I like not turning into a middle aged blob like a lot of blokes my age. I never get tired of people saying 'how far!' When doing a century ride over the weekend.

Same here. Heading into my late thirties and looking at blokes at work a few years older who have let themselves get fat and unfit, thinking, "I don't want to end up like that."

I don't fit in many weekend centuries but I do enjoy the "how far?!" reaction to my hardly epic 12 mile each-way commute.

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ridemonster [1 post] 1 week ago
2 likes

As far back as my Uni days cycling has been my go-to exercise for getting in shape, staying there and actually enjoying the process. There have been years, even decades, where I've let it slide because of life, circumstances, or other "reasons" but in the end I'm always happier and healthier (all around) when I get regular saddle time. What do I say to justify it to those who don't? Nothing. I've found my bliss, I hope they find theirs.

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44dove [3 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

No shit Sherlock.

 

Really, it takes University research to uncover what asking any three blokes in a cafe would tell you?

No wonder my three kids spenta decade of my income getting degrees.

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cjwebb [37 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

"We're just having fun riding our bikes. End of story."

#bemoremike

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madcarew [375 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

Because...

Going long

Going fast

Going down

I live in a dark, dark world. Out on my bike, just some times, I see a little light.

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alansmurphy [582 posts] 1 week ago
8 likes

Researcher: Why do you ride for multiple hours on the weekend?

Me: Have you ever been shopping with my wife?

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keninoz [4 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

I agree with the findings but I don't think the results are limited to any particular age group.

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Beecho [131 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

Put simply, I'm happiest when on a bike. Be it climbing/descending on the road bike, through the city on the single speed, or pootling around on the shitebryd. And I like cake.

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bikeylikey [223 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

LIfe for cycling 'researchers' often seems to end at 50 something. They also seem to assume that middle aged cyclists have just started as a reaction to 'mid life crisis' or some other new fangled sound bite condtion. I am now 66, been cyling regularly for 60 years including racing and touring. For much of my life cycling every day. I have met, and currently know, a lot of other cyclists who have had a similar experience. All cycling for the reasons, amongst other, just been 'discovered' by these hotshot researchers. It would be good to find out something new from research rather that the bleedin' obvious.

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davel [1488 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I'm not sure about their conclusions either: can't the many reasons for riding a bike complement each other, as opposed to contradict/contrast?

I'm 42 and have just bought a new TT bike. Pointless purchase, really, other than I wanted it. I don't really want to tot up the money I've spent on bikes since my 30th, but I'm fairly sure that money would've been spent on other daft bloke stuff if I hadn't been into cycling.

As far as competition goes: I was a pretty good sprinter (athletics) when I was younger, and an OK boxer. I wouldn't be anywhere near competitive in either now, but can enter a decent standard TT, or ultramarathon, or triathlon of any distance and be disappointed if I don't comfortably finish in the top half of the racers of all ages. Endurance fitness and age is linked - no mention of that.

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Roadie_john [59 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I enjoy riding my bike. Whether that's going to the shop up the hill, getting to and from rugby training, taking the kids to cubs, potting around the lanes of a weekend or bashing myself in an open TT, I just enjoy riding and it's better than walking or driving and much better than even the decent public transport we have here. I would commute but traffic and respect for Mrs RJ's concerns for my safety stop me. I've been riding 'seriously' for 23 years but before then it was my primary form of transport since I was about 14. Now as a proper MAM (often)IL I don't see why I should change.  1

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The _Kaner [1119 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I like when people tell me I don't look 50...

but by god I feel it....

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mjmuk [1 post] 5 days ago
1 like

I've been cycling off & on since a lad when I used to cycle across Devon Hills to Motor Cycle Scramble meetings - yes I am that old!! Not much cycling done during 20 years in the Navy, but up and down ladders all day and many other sports kept the legs and lungs fit. Badminton, running & swimming met my 'middle ages' fitness needs during business travel across many countries. Finally got back into serious biking around 10 years ago, upgrading my bike over that time, now have a Carbon Cannondale Synapse.

I find Cycling a great way to keep fit and enjoy the outdoors (in all weathers I hasten to add) through solo rides and sportives. Average 150km a week if not more sometimes. Just spent 6 weeks in Southern France cycling over many hills to build up the legs (which worked) culminating in a ride up Mont Ventoux - that's a big hill!!! Did I break any records? No of course not, but what an achievement for me and one of my cycling boxes ticked!!

Not bad for a 68 year old whose managed to keep reasonably fit over the years.

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theloststarfighter [54 posts] 5 days ago
0 likes

I got back into it because my wife took up commuting on a bike.  She used to run but the impact caused issues with her arthritis.  So I have her to thank for getting me back in the saddle, upgrading both our bikes to nice carbon racers.  I still had a 20 year old Raleigh Activator! Of course she has to have 3 bikes and good knows how many pairs of shoes, shorts, jerseys.... but we both enjoy getting out and about.  It's the fresh air, freedom, simplicity, challenge and achievement of it.  Yes, I like the occassional solo ride to push a little further and higher but our motivations are the same.