Skip to content

Cycling pays off with healthy benefits

Rider and trail builder encourages pedalling for seniors
PEDAL POWER: Local cycling enthusiast and trail builder Wayne Brewer traverses one of many bridges found along cycling and hiking trails in the areas surrounding Powell River. Kelly Davies photo

At the age of 68, Powell River Cycling Association (PRCA) director Wayne Brewer still has a strong passion for riding on trails and roads. When the avid biker moved to Powell River in 1988, he immediately began looking for trails and maps.

“There were just hand-drawn maps, everyone used them and passed them around,” said Brewer. “I started drawing my own and naming some trails that had no names.”

As one of three founding members of the Chain Gang, Brewer also spends time building riding trails for other cycling and hiking enthusiasts to enjoy.

“I started trail building to make the trails better for riding, but two or three of us have become so addicted we sometimes forget when we were last on our bikes,” he said.

Brewer logs about 650 hours of trail work per year and spends about 100 hours per year riding one of his bikes; he owns versions for both road and trail riding.

The vast network of trails in the area was one of the reasons for Brewer’s move to Powell River from the prairies.

“When I lived in Winnipeg, I would road ride everywhere,” he said. “I still road ride here but my real passion is riding trails, getting out into the bush where it is silent and there is no traffic.”

Brewer recommends that other seniors use road riding for exercise, stating the benefits gained can come quicker than riding on trails.

“Road riding is a fast way to get in shape,” he said. “When I used to race mountain bikes, I bought a really good road bike in order to train.”

Owning more than one bike is common for PRCA members, but not necessary for someone starting out or getting back into biking after a few, or many, years away.

“Bikes are made and designed for different things. If you are seriously into road biking, you have a skinny tire,” said Brewer. “If you’re going to trail ride, you have to have a bike made for that.”

For seniors nervous about getting back on the bike, or even climbing aboard for the first time, Brewer suggested now is a better time than back in the ’80s when he started.

“It has changed a bit now in that we have accurate trail maps,” he said. “Before people were concerned they might not be able to navigate and get back safely.”

People who are still nervous can get good exercise from riding on the road, if they don’t want to go into the bush, he said.

“You can get more of a workout riding toward Lund or Saltery Bay, or even Black Point and back is a good 45-minute workout,” said Brewer. “Trail riding is a good, but it typically takes more time; you have to allow yourself three to four hours for a decent workout.”

Brewer does not allow his age to affect his riding style, and suggests riding can be a benefit to people who not might consider it as an exercise option due to arthritis or other health concerns.

“A lot of people, when they get older, will say, ‘My arthritis keeps me from riding’ or, ‘I can’t ride hard, it will hurt to much,’” said Brewer. “The interesting thing from others I have spoken to, and this includes a fair number of local doctors, is that you ride through a little bit of the pain and it goes away.”

Brewer, who has arthritis, says getting a good sweat with a good ride can make him pain-free without taking anything.

“If I hurt before a ride, or when I get up in the morning, going out and doing trail work or going for a nice ride actually makes me feel better,” he said. “You work through a little bit of pain and there is a payoff.”

Brewer encourages new or former cyclists getting back into the sport to contact PRCA through its website, or its Facebook page, for information about upcoming group rides where PRCA members offer tips and coaching for beginners.

“We start them off on easy rides and we always have someone at the back to make sure no one gets lost,” said Brewer. “If people want to get back into it, pull out that old bike and make sure it is working.”

Brewer said there is nothing wrong with an old bike, as long as it is properly tuned up and ready for riding.

“It may not be the latest, sexiest looking bike, but we don’t care; we are not snobs about that,” he said. “The whole idea is to get people back into it or introduce them.”

The pace is never rushed, which allows everyone to get up to speed in a comfortable environment, without any pressure or expectations put upon them.

“No one is in a rush,” said Brewer. “It is all about fun, meeting new people and getting them addicted to biking like we are.”