The only retiring Swicked Cycles owner James Durand expects he'll do is retiring customers' bikes. Photo submitted

When do you pull the plug?

By James Durand

My uncle has been riding mountain bikes since the late 90’s. The last time he and I rode together was eight years ago on my home trails, and as much as he isn’t quite as active, quite as young, or quite as experienced on a mountain bike as I am, he had a great time and hung on for the entire ride. (He’s from Winnipeg and our hills are a bit foreign to him)

No matter how fit we may be, all of us lose a step with age, and this hit my uncle pretty hard two years ago. At 71-years-old he rides with a group of younger riders and as he dropped back in the pack from leader, to mid pack, to “Hey guys, wait up,” he has contemplated giving up the sport.

I’m not much on letting people push riding down the priority list, and about a month ago we received an e-bike at Swicked Cycles that just happen to be size XL. Perfect for my very tall uncle. We chatted a bit, organized a few logistics, and then the bike made the trip from Swicked to Manitoba, and my little family vacation had us following the bike shortly thereafter.

We arrived in Winnipeg with a full schedule of family visits and touristy stuff, but before the first day ended, Uncle Wally had bikes set up for us, and a full ride plan for me and Chenoa.

We headed to Grand Beach and to my surprise, there were hills, lots of short, steep hills. So up and down we went for a couple of hours.

It was a really fun ride, and despite the great trails, a new location, riding with my uncles for the first time in ages, and being the guided opposed to the guide, the best part of the ride was the smile on Wally’s face

Every time we crested a hill, with him off the front and me gasping for breath many bike lengths back (did I mention the bikes organized for me and Chenoa were not e-bikes?)

The next day I was tied up with family stuff and Wally snuck in a 30km ride before we made our way back for lunch.

And then somehow, later in the week, he organized everyone but me to go on an excursion, and… he and I went riding again. We hit his local trail network and although there was no climbing, these twisty fun trails had him fully pinned with me sprinting as hard as possible trying to keep up. As I started to hear my heart beating in my ears, I could also hear him chuckling as he said, “I hear you panting back there, you going to be OK?’

Rather than be bummed that this B.C. hardcore mountain biker was getting punished by an old man in the flat lands of Manitoba, I took joy in the fact that this guy, who most of us would consider too old to be mountain biking at all, was riding like a kid again.

In just a few rides, he went from quitting the sport he loves, to loving it more than ever. I don’t think his lawn will get mowed too much this summer, but he’ll be leading his group around the local trails every chance he gets.

So sure, E-bikes are cheating, but in this case, we’re cheating the aging process, and who doesn’t love that?

I’m James Durand and I’m Going’ Ridin’…

Campbell RiverCycling