The cycle of life

For the past 30 years, 84-year-old Bob Wong has cycled more than 12,000 miles a year for a total of 361,000 miles.

“I bicycle more than I drive a car,” said Wong, who started cycling in 1978 to stay in shape after he retired at 55.

And while his early retirement from Lockeed Aircraft didn’t take for the Burbank resident — he went back to work for 11 more years — the cycling did.

His friend Richard Eshe, of Glendale, has been riding for more than 30 years. He got started when he wanted to lose weight, he said. They are members of the Los Angeles Wheelmen, a bike club that meets at Sesame Donut in Glendale at 9 a.m. Saturday mornings to ride, although they’ve been meeting at 8 a.m. lately because it’s been so hot, Wong said.

“Sometimes we take the Los Angeles River bike path that runs along Griffith Park,” Wong said. “We go to Mimi’s or Philippe’s in downtown Chinatown. We ride all over. You name the place. We’ve biked there.”

Wong enjoys the socialization with fellow club members he tours with, he said.

“We stop for coffee to chitchat,” he said. “We’ve got schoolteachers, people who work for the studios. Lots of us are retired.”

This year, it’s been too cold in the morning, so Wong decided to back off on the miles, he said, adding that he hopes to just make 8,000 miles this year. He keeps track of all his miles on his calendar, he said.

Riding has helped to keep him sharp, Wong said. “You’re not daydreaming,” he said. “You’re watching traffic in the rear-view mirror.”

But for Eshe, cycling is the time he is able to do some serious thinking.

“It is enjoyable,” he said. “My mind seems to travel. I get some good ideas.”

He rides about 100 miles a week, he said, and it’s his only form of exercise.

The rides give him a feeling of peacefulness and a shot of energy, he said.

“After a bike ride, you are really tired, but pretty soon, you feel great,” he said.

At 79, Eshe said he’s very healthy.

“A lot of people my age are walking around with walkers and stuff,” he said. “I do have arthritis, but I’m still getting around. They believe exercise is almost better than medicine, but it is medicine for the body, exercise.”

While it’s excellent for older people to cycle, there are some drawbacks, said Dr. Jack Yu, associate director of the Family Practice Residency Program Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

“If a bicycle isn’t adjusted for your size, you may have pain in the legs and hips,” he said.

Yu suggests that everyone wear a helmet and that the bike is adjusted to the rider who uses it.

Those who ride a lot of miles can get overuse syndrome, he said. Riders who are just starting out need to take it slow and consult their doctor before starting a new exercise, Yu said.

For older seniors, other things to consider are the same things when driving a car, he said.

Their judgment and reaction time may be slower, and their vision may be impaired by glaucoma, which is a lack of peripheral vision, or cataracts, which makes things seem foggy.

The sun exposure is another thing to think about, Yu said.

“The ultraviolet radiation, which we think causes cataracts, can cause skin cancer,” he said.

So riders need to wear protective clothing and sunscreen, he said. “And ride when it’s not so hot because it causes dehydration,” he added.

Seniors have to be especially careful because their sense of thirst decreases, he said. But the commitment Wong and Eshe give to cycling is excellent for their cardiovascular health, muscle tone and mental well-being, Yu said.


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