You're never too old to ride a bike, says founder of Facebook group for cyclists 80 and over
Royal Academy of Octogenarian Cyclists now has more than 550 members, Ray Marentette says
Eighteen months ago, a Mississauga, Ont., man started a Facebook group for cyclists 80 years and older who enjoy the thrill of a bike ride.
Ray Marentette, a resident of Port Credit who describes himself as "a kind of fun guy," says he gave the group a whimsical name, the Royal Academy of Octogenarian Cyclists.
Within 24 hours, he had one member. Within one week, he had 10. Now, the group now has more than 550 members from around the world.
Cycling is for everyone, regardless of age Marentette says.
"Age is not a deterrent to cycling. You can cycle as long as you can get on your bike and ride," he told CBC Toronto. "There's never a reason why you are too old to cycle."
The group is composed of avid riders. Some members were champion cyclists in their time. Some even competed in the Tour de France. Ten are in their 90s and the oldest member is 99.
Marentette says the group has helped cyclists of a certain age connect with one another.
"All of a sudden, here is a whole group of octogenarian cyclists who hadn't seen or heard from one another for years and years. And here they were, in an exclusive group. You had to be 80 in order to belong to our group."
Marentette said he first developed a love of cycling when he was "a young fellow" of nine years old.
His family had moved from Windsor, Ont., to nearby Tecumseh, and he was a good mile away from school. There were no school buses in the 1940s, he said, so he ended up cycling 11 months of the year.
Since then, he says he's never stopped and has cycled throughout his life.
"I'm not a competitive cyclist like some of the champs in our group, but I enjoy cycling and I enjoy the freedom and the joy of just getting out there and feeling the breeze on my face."
'One big family now'
Marentette says he's happy that he's found a like-minded community through the group, which he founded because he didn't know anybody in their 80s who was still cycling.
"It's such a sense of camaraderie. These individuals are just all one big family now. Because it's an exclusive group, there is a direct connection with each one."
He says the group was started before COVID-19 hit, but members have provided much support to one another during the pandemic.
Marentette hopes to get some members together for a group ride and said he hopes all the members keep cycling.
With files from Grant Linton, Kirthana Sasitharan and Muriel Draaisma