Life Fitness

Sunday 21 September 2014

91-year-old cyclist shares his fitness advice

Two wheels are better than four, as far as 91-year-old cycling enthusiast Risteard Mulcahy is concerned.

Alison O'Riordan

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

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Risteard Mulcahy, aged 91, has given up his car in favour of the bicycle. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sunset Ride
Sunset Ride

EXERCISE enthusiast and environmentalist Risteard Mulcahy relinquished his car when he turned 90 years of age and, two years later, the retired cardiologist is still pedalling his way around Dublin.

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The noted heart specialist bought his first bike at a police auction for £1 in 1937 when he was only 14 years of age.

"Cycling was such a source of enjoyment and it was the only way we could get around as kids. I had to cycle across the city to my school and at that time relatively few motor cars were in existence so we were dependent on our very poor quality bicycles," says the colourful former head cardiologist at St Vincent's Hospital.

According to the health commentator, Dublin was a cycling city back then and he reflects how, at rush hour, the bridge at Portobello in Rathmines was congested with a build-up of cyclists pedalling fast and furiously in the morning to work, and it was the same coming home in the evening.

"There were very few cars back then and during the war we were entirely dependent on cycling. Chains broke frequently and we had to carry spare tubes for punctures. I was on a bike all the time from then until I went to London in 1946 as a young doctor on postgraduate work. My father didn't own a car until the 1948 election," adds Risteard, son of General Richard Mulcahy, a former leader of Fine Gael.

In 1971, Risteard, one of the first anti-smoking advocates in the country, bought his second two wheeler, a bike that has stood the test of time for over 40 years and which he still uses every day. He goes out with his wife Louise, another avid cyclist.

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The high profile health campaigner has been a member of the Dublin Cycling Campaign for as long as it has existed.

"I support the campaign to have a lot more cycling in Dublin. There are huge advantages such as health, safety for people who are careful and the whole question of the environment.

"The social side, as one is in touch with people, and one can be rather isolated as a motorist. It is very active at encouraging cycling in the city and improving cycle pathways."

Two years ago, Risteard, who credits good genes for his long life, gave up his car, choosing instead to travel by bicycle with the use of the odd bus and occasional taxi.

"I have been very committed to cycling since and cycle everywhere. One has to be very fit and remain in a good physical and mental state if you are going to cycle at my age."

Due to turn 92 years of age next month, on July 13, the noted researcher and historian fully supports the aim of National Bike week, now in its sixth year, which is to raise awareness of the benefits of cycling, and to persuade more people to take to the saddle and cycle more often .

This year will see the biggest number of events taking place to date. Events are aimed at every type of cyclist, from the daily cycle commuter to weekend cyclists and to the lapsed cyclist who may not have been on a bike for a few years.

The hundreds of Bike Week events include, lunchtime city cycles in almost every city and county throughout Ireland on Wednesday, June 18, including a week-long bike festival in Dublin's Phoenix Park, electric bike challenges, cargo bike demonstrations and races, free bike maintenance checks, heritage cycles, a 'tour de romance' by bike, and road races.

National Bike Week runs until June 22. See www.bikeweek.ie for details

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Bike Facts

• There are around one billion bikes in the world (about twice as many as cars)

• Every year some 50 million bikes are produced

• There are almost 400 million bikes in China

• Air-filled tyres were used on bikes before they were used on motorcars

• The term 'bicycle' first entered into popular usage in France in the 1860s

• The prototype of the mountain bike was not developed until 1977

• Twenty bikes can be parked in the same space as one car

• The bike as we know it today – with two wheels of the same size – looks almost exactly the same as one from 1900

• Half of all the parts of a typical bike are in the chain

• The fastest speed ever recorded on a bike was attained by American Olympic cyclist and Ironman triathlon competitor John Howard, when he reached 152.2 mph in 1985.

 

Bike Care

• Invest in a secure bike lock and always park your bike where it is visible.

• Pump up your tyres regularly

• Check tyre pressure before you cycle

• Clean your bike chain regularly, and use a lubricant on the chain to improve performance

• Check your tyres for splits, cracks or tears, especially along the sides. Also check tyre tread for uneven or excessive wear

• Check your brake pads to ensure they are in good working order

• Check the cable and surrounding rubber for cracks, rust, dirt and looseness

• If you cycle regularly, have your bike serviced about twice a year.

 

Why bike?

• Cycling is fun

• Cycling is healthy

• Cycling is low in cost

• Cycling is an adventure

• It gives you freedom

• Cycling is the quickest mode of transport in an urban environment for trips of up to six kilometres

• Three hours of cycling per week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50 per cent

• The average car produces 1.3 tonnes of carbon emissions. A bike produces none

• Cycling speed is around three times that of walking speed.

 

Bike Safe

• Always look and signal to show other road users what you plan to do, and make eye contact where possible so you know you have been seen

• Always stop at red lights, and obey the rules of the road

• Avoid cycling up on the inside of vehicles, such as trucks, vans or buses. You will not be seen

• Always use lights on your bike when visibility is poor, and in the evening and at night

• Wear reflective or light coloured clothing when cycling during the day to increase your visibility

• It is recommended you wear a fitted cycling helmet when cycling

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