The Baby Boom has long since turned into the Geezer Boom, creating multiple challenges for policymakers. We often see these challenges in negative terms — geezers won't pay for public schools; geezers will bankrupt Social Security; geezers hate taxes, loud noises after 9 p.m., barking dogs, open garage doors and anyone who can still have sex without Viagra.
But there are points of intergenerational convergence. Such as cycling.
Elected officials and economic development gurus tend to see cyclists as members of a younger, more active demographic. Geezers walk, garden, complain and post pictures of their grandkids on Facebook — they don't risk broken bones and road rash on bicycles. If they're on two wheels, they're fat guys on Harleys with gray ponytails, no helmets and plenty of attitude.
Tain't so. For proof, get on your bike any summer morning, head for 26th Street, cross U.S. Highway 24 going south and start climbing.
For road bikers, the five-mile ascent up 26th to Gold Camp Road and thence to the end of the pavement is cycling's equivalent of the Manitou Incline. It's accessible, reasonably strenuous and a great workout for west-siders.
Training this summer for the Copper Triangle — an 80-mile ride through the mountains that begins and ends at Copper Mountain — I've tackled Gold Camp with my riding buddy Amanda Luciano almost every weekday morning. We see the same Gold Camp junkies every day, exchanging friendly waves with familiar strangers.
We've given them nicknames. There's Fast Blonde Girl, Fast Brunette Girl, Backpack Racerman and others of the carbon fiber elite, superbly fit people who whiz past us as if we were standing still. Then there's Geezeman, Gray-Haired Girl and other people of a certain age who love to ride — and they're still fast.
We see mountain bikers as well. Gold Camp is an access point for multiple trails (Captain Jack's comes to mind) that can challenge almost any rider. Our city's mountain biking culture may not be as celebrated as Durango's, but it's been around for decades.
Back in 1991, local schoolteacher Mike Merrifield wrote Colorado Gonzo Rides, a guide to 30 suitably hair-raising, single-track rides around the state. Since then, Merrifield has served four terms in the Colorado House and currently is running for the state Senate. He's still riding — we see him frequently on Gold Camp. And he's still doing big rides. A recent Facebook post noted that he and a friend had done a 50-miler with 7,500 feet of altitude gain.
"Not bad for a couple of old guys," Merrifield wrote. At 66, Mike may be the poster child for aging cyclists.
The folks who participated in the cycling boom of the '70s and '80s are now in their 60s, and other aging jocks are taking up the sport. Your knees may not let you run 10Ks or climb 14ers anymore, but cycling is easy on the knees, great for building fitness and accessible to everyone who ever rode a bike as a kid.
As the cycling community ages, the city may need to rethink its cycling infrastructure. Older cyclists don't see as well, hear as well, or react as quickly as their younger counterparts. Bike routes that are easily negotiable for young riders present problems for seniors. But we're coming, like it or not.
Consider Betsy Price, the 64-year-old mayor of Fort Worth, Texas. An ardent cyclist, Price launched the "Tour de Fort Worth" a couple of years ago both to promote healthy living and interact with her constituents. The tour consists of a dozen rides during July, during which (according to The New York Times) her fellow cyclists have trouble keeping up with Mayor Price's "ambitious pace."
And like some of her 60-plus peers in Colorado Springs, Mayor Betsy is a tough cookie. After taking a tumble on a patch of gravel a couple of years ago, Price shrugged off her injuries.
"I took a spill on the bike this morning," she posted on Facebook shortly afterward, "but I'm OK aside from some scrapes, a concussion and a broken collarbone."
Broken bones, concussions, road rash ... they're not gonna slow us down! But it'd be nice if the city would sweep the gravel off Gold Camp Road occasionally.