Sam Jones doesn’t hesitate when he talks about how cycling has has been beneficial to him.
“Well, it’s kept me on the planet,” the 80-year-old said with a wry chuckle. “Mentally, it keeps me active on a daily basis. I don’t sit around and crawl into a cave.
“I got a partial military disability. When I go to the VA clinic, there are people 15, 20 years my junior, and all beat up. I don’t want to be in that category so I stay physically active.”
The Cape Coral resident used cycling to stay in shape when he took part in motocross when he was younger. He is using it now because he’s considering taking part in the Senior Olympics.
“I wanted to wait until I got to 80 so I could get in a better class,” he said, half-jokingly.
A member of Caloosa Riders for four years, Jones also has become a state-certified rider marshal. In Southwest Florida, the position is known more as a ride leader.
Here are five of his favorite tips:
Cycling lightens you: Jones said he’s helped other people get interested in the sport, partly because of the health benefits. “This year I’ve given three to four people encouragement and a little technical help and they’ve come back as active members where they’re riding 50-60 miles,” he said. “One gentleman, he was pretty heavy, around 380 pounds. By cycling, he’s lost 70 pounds. Another was 285 or 275. Now he’s down around 215. It’s a good way to lose weight.”
Know the wind: Jones said while there are not a lot of hills in Southwest Florida, there is wind. And since it’s a more enjoyable experience to finish cycling with your back to the wind, it’s good to start a ride by going into the wind. That means knowing where to start in Cape Coral. “Out of the east, you want to cross Edison Bridge or one of the bridges,” said Jones, who used his home near Cape Coral hospital as his starting place. “That way, when you’re coming from Gateway or the airport, on your way back, it’s a tailwind. Out of the south, I generally go down Academy on the way to the Rose Garden and El Dorado, then come up Sands and Surfside. Out of the north, ride the Gator Circle area and go to Coral Oaks Golf Course. In the west, ride toward Matlacha.”
Safety before fun: Jones said, “While fun is our objective, safety is our priority.” He said that goes beyond knowing how to handle the bike and how to properly turn and stop. He said there are two different facets. One is being courteous to drivers. “If they’re going right and you have right of way, don’t force it,” he said. “Allow them to go first. I’ve found that car drivers are more courteous to me when I do that.” The other is visibility. Jones wears neon jerseys, neon shoes and neon socks while having strobe lights on the bikes. “It makes the rider six times more visible,” he said. “Remember, bicyclists are smaller than motorcyclists.”
Baked nutrition: With cyclists on the road for an hour or more, Jones suggests taking a snack, even a candy bar. What he often brings is a baked potato. “It’s high in carbs and potassium,” he said. “On the bike, it stays warm. Or take a banana.”
Bike maintenance: Jones said cyclists should know how to change a flat – “Because you’re going to get one” – and have the proper equipment to take the wheel off and change the innertube. He added that every time a biker is in the rain or goes over standing water, “the chain goes downhill in a hurry.” Jones cleans his chain regularly and thoroughly. A trick he learned is to soak the chain in melted paraffin. “It doesn’t pick up as much dirt and grime,” he said. “I also run my bike on a little lower tire pressure because of comfort. It’s a smoother ride for the long haul and it outweighs going 1-2 mph faster.”
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: 80-year-old Cape Coral resident's cycling tips include baked potatoes and fixing flats