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Title: Fast after 50

Author: Joe Friel

Publisher: VeloPress

Date: March 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 328

ISBN: 9781937715267

Price: £15.99


Following on from recent reviews of Bike Fit and Faster, here is another book that risks limiting its appeal because of the title: the use of the work ‘Fast’ indicates a focus on racing, whereas with all three of the books there is much of relevance to non-competitive cyclists.


A more appropriate title for the book might be ‘Cycling after 50’, but that title has already been used ... by Joe Friel himself!  That previous book was written when Friel was a mere 53 years old, but now that he has celebrated his 70th birthday, personal interest spurred him to review all of the latest research and current thinking on the subject of helping your body to perform as you get older.


This book is the result of that work, and whilst there may be little information here that is not already available elsewhere, it is presented in a logical order and understandable format.  There is a reassuring level of science to support the book’s conclusions and recommendations, and the extensive notes give you plenty of opportunity to follow up on any references of interest: as Friel says, “this level of citation may make the book look more like a college textbook than an entertaining read.  But ... I believe that it is necessary to provide some degree of proof about what I am proposing.”

Reviewed by Richard Peploe

As Friel says, “You aren’t old until age becomes your excuse”, and there is a lot that we can do to make that excuse unnecessary. 

In the normal course of events your body’s physical abilities diminish as you get older, primarily due to three factors: “Decreasing aerobic performance, increasing body fat, and shrinking muscles”.  From personal experience I don’t think that you have to be over 50 to start to experience those effects, and the bad news is that the rate of decline simply increases as you get older. 


However, it does not have to be like that: by adopting a few basic tenets explained in the book, you can do a lot to slow down this deterioration.  The main principles can be summarised briefly: undertake regular high intensity exercise; include some high-load strength work; and modify your lifestyle in relevant areas, such as nutrition, sleep, and recovery. 


To some extent Friel will be preaching to the converted here, as anyone who carries on cycling into old age already knows the benefits of regular exercise; what they might not appreciate is the extent to which they should embrace strenuous exercise – at just the age when the more sedentary types try to avoid it.  


As cyclists, not only do we need to work on our body, but we might also benefit from modifications to our equipment to better accommodate the changes to our bodies – such as lower gearing, higher handlebar position, or even tyre and saddle choice.


For serious athletes the detail in the ‘workout guidelines’ and ‘field tests’ in the appendices will be of interest; and for the less competitive the contributions from successful but ageing athletes will add interest.  I remember following the exploits of Ned Overend, Mark Allen, and John Howard in their prime, and enjoyed their insights into the ageing process. 


If you are interested in enjoying cycling well into your old age I recommend that you do not read this book ... unless you are prepared to both finish the book and take on board the advice given.  By the middle of the book you will better understand why your body will change for the worse as you get older, which will be really depressing - but unless you finish the book you won’t realise that there is actually a lot that you can do to minimise the effect of ageing on your physical performance.


As Friel says, “You aren’t old until age becomes your excuse”, and there is a lot that we can do to make that excuse unnecessary. 





Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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