When you think about cycling, many images come to mind. Visions of the Tour, people out on a trail, a kid taking a loop on his first two-wheeler. Another image is the cyclist who comes to the sport later in life and embraces it full on. Meet Harry Grace. He is one of those riders.
Harry credits his entry to cycling in his late 50s to a pesky neighbor. The neighbor was a very active cyclist and frequently rode with John Olin, the original founder of Higher Gear. Talking about his neighbor, Harry said, “This guy is a cyclist. He is not just out there to ride a bike.” For years his neighbor was after him to get him to ride. In the summer of 2009, Harry finally took the bait. He came into Higher Gear based on the recommendation of that same pesky neighbor.
Harry was tentative about the sport and especially unsure about being able to handle a bike on the thin tires of a road bike. He opted for a Specialized Tricross which gave him a bike that was equally suited for the trails and riding on the local streets. On a good cyclocross bike, he didn’t have to fret about just 23mm of rubber holding him to the road. The Green Bay Trail became his path of choice, in those first years on the bike. Harry then faced a series of self-induced injuries that kept him from riding, as much as he liked. He also was getting commentary from friends that he should upgrade to a road bike.
Harry admits that his cyclocross bike spent too much time in the garage the first couple of years. He decided to upgrade his commitment to cycling in 2012, all motivated by a number. Harry was turning 60. “I viewed cycling as a challenge to hold back aging. I began to give attention to my weight, dropping some 30 pounds, started Pilates and weightlifting, focused on better health and set a goal to complete a century ride, 100-miles on a bike. With his new commitment, Harry upgraded to a Specialized Roubaix. Ready with his new endurance road bike, Harry began to chase his new goal over the winter.
With his goal of the century in sight, Harry knew he had to train, despite the bad Chicago weather. He began working out at the Higher Gear CompuTrainer Studio in Highland Park and would join many of the cyclists from the weekly women’s ride on the CompuTrainers. It took some adjustment, compared to the road and path-riding Harry had done. He claimed, “I had to digest riding on the trainers at first. There was a shift from being on the road and going forward,” added Harry. “I used to bike from point A to B and back to A. When I’d go out and do that, I had a successful ride. Now with the trainer, I was able to manipulate my riding conditions and really pushed myself more.” Harry would joke with the staff, “Delfino! You tell me where there is an 8 percent grade in Chicago.” Harry admits that the CompuTrainer riding throughout the winter, “Made getting on a road surface so much easier,” once spring arrived.
Harry trained through the summer and successfully completed the Wrigley Field Road Tour in August. “This is my first solid year of doing cycling. I feel I’m still new to the game. I like to live my life day-to-day,” said Harry. “The goal of the century was one of the first times in my life I planned ahead and the century was cake.”
When you ask Harry what he likes about cycling, he is quick to tell you, “It is an activity where I can set goals and chase them. Now it is all about how far, how fast, how quick and how not to feel overly strained at the end of the ride” Harry likes to vary his riding. “I like being by myself for a ride and I also enjoy the company.” Harry enjoys the sense of community around cycling. He can be involved with in a group ride yet still equally enjoys the solitude of the trail or a long ride.
If you ask Harry what suggestions he would give to other folks fighting the realities of aging by getting on the bike, he’ll tell you, “Cycling is an activity that addresses several points that we find important as we get older in life. Physical health, mental health, and a sense of competition and challenge.” Harry adds that cycling is also a good way to collect cool toys and, oh yeah, “Don’t be afraid of spandex.”