masters cyclist

How Old is too Old for a Masters Cyclist to Race Mountain Bikes?

So I was competing in a Mountain Bike relay race last month when suddenly I was laid out in the middle of the trail, face down in the dirt. I thought I was an accomplished masters cyclist!?  I moved to get up and felt my shoulder pop back in the socket. All I can remember is asking myself, “Am I too old to be racing Mountain Bikes”?

I’m 63 years old and have been racing CAT 2 Cross Country Mountain Bike events for 30 years. I’ve had some great and not-so-great results over the years. Indeed, racing mountain bikes can be dangerous, especially for a masters cyclist like me in his 60s. The bottom line is that our bodies don’t heal as fast as we get older. 

Several factors are associated with a slower healing process

masters cyclist
  1. Decreased collagen production: Collagen is a protein that is essential for the formation of tissues, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. As masters cyclists age, their body’s ability to produce collagen decreases, which can lead to slower healing and recovery times.
  2. Reduced blood flow: Blood flow is crucial for delivering nutrients and oxygen to the injured area, and for removing waste products from the body. As athletes age, their blood vessels become less elastic, and blood flow to the injured area may be reduced, resulting in slower healing times.
  3. Weakened immune system: As masters cyclists age, their immune system weakens, making them more susceptible to infections and illnesses that can slow down the healing process.
  4. Decreased hormonal levels: Hormones play a significant role in the body’s healing process. As masters cyclists age, their hormone levels may decrease, which can result in slower healing times.
  5. Prior injuries: Masters cyclists cyclists may have accumulated previous injuries that can affect their ability to heal and recover from new injuries.
  6. Poor nutrition: Adequate nutrition is essential for the body to heal and recover from injuries. However, older athletes may have difficulty maintaining a balanced diet or may have specific nutrient deficiencies that can impede the healing process.
  7. Reduced physical activity: As athletes age, their physical activity levels may decrease, which can result in decreased muscle mass and strength. This can make it more challenging for the body to heal and recover from injuries.

The danger factor in mountain bike racing

Because of the danger factor inherent to Mountain Biking and the fact as a masters cyclist, I’ve got a life outside of cycling, a family, and a corporate job, and I have FOMO (fear of missing out)  in future races if I get hurt. So I have three rules for my cycling. 

  1. Don’t get hurt
  2. Don’t get hurt.
  3. Don’t get hurt. 

My rule(s) is stupid. If you ride your bike an average of 5 times a week and race like I do, you’re going to crash. No matter how careful I am, I still end up crashing my bike a couple of times a year. Crashing is just part of the sport, meaning you will get hurt once in a while. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is try your best not to get hurt.

Here are some tips to help prevent injuries in mountain bike racing

  1. Wear protective gear: Always wear a helmet and consider wearing other protective gear such as gloves, elbow and knee pads, and a full-face helmet.
  2. Warm-up and stretch: Take the time to warm up your body and stretch your muscles before you begin your ride or race. This will help prevent muscle strains and other soft tissue injuries.
  3. Train and condition properly: Build up your endurance and strength gradually through a structured training program that includes strength training, flexibility work, and cardio exercise.
  4. Master the necessary skills: Take the time to master the necessary mountain biking skills, such as cornering, braking, and balance, before attempting more challenging trails or races.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings: Stay focused and aware of your surroundings at all times while racing. Pay attention to the trail conditions, weather, and other riders, and adjust your riding accordingly.
  6. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your ride or race to stay hydrated and prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration.
  7. Rest and recover: Take the time to rest and recover after your rides and races. Allow your body time to heal and recover from any injuries or soreness.

By following these tips, you can help prevent injuries and stay safe while mountain bike racing. It is also essential to listen to your body and seek medical attention if you experience any pain or discomfort that does not go away.

Which brings me back to my original question: As a masters cyclist, ow old is too old to race your mountain bike? 

In my opinion, there is no specific age at which someone is “too old” to race their mountain bike. The ability to participate in and compete in mountain bike races depends on several factors, including an individual’s overall health, physical fitness, skill level, and personal goals. I’m 62, and I seem to be doing just fine.

The fact is many older adults continue to compete and excel in mountain bike racing well into their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. However, it is essential to listen to your body and adjust your training and racing approach accordingly as you age. It may be necessary to incorporate more rest and recovery time, modify your training regimen, and adjust your expectations for performance.

Additionally, it is important to consult with a medical professional before beginning or continuing any vigorous physical activity, including mountain bike racing, to ensure that you are healthy enough to participate safely.

So my advice to you, keep racing your mountain bike as long as you’re having fun. That’s what I’m doing.  

Additional resources you may find valuable

What is a Masters Cyclist?

Comprehensive Review of the Most Popular Masters Cycling Training Programs

Masters Cyclist age categories


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