24 Aug 2016
On a brisk mid-April morning, members of the 60+ Cycling Group of Westchester gathered in the parking lot behind the UPS Customer Center on Warehouse Lane in Elmsford to suit up and ready themselves for the ride ahead.
It was the group’s first get-together of the new season. Regulars greeted each other with enthusiastic hugs. First timers were welcomed with warm handshakes and friendly smiles. Before long, it was impossible to tell who was ‘old’ and who was ‘new.’
“I’ve made so many friends [through this group], it’s unbelievable,” Michael Esposito (standing front and center in the yellow windbreaker in the above photo) of Yonkers told me. At 81, he’s the oldest cyclist in the group. One of the fittest too – though that wasn’t always the case.
A life-long heavy smoker, Esposito woke at three o’clock one morning, unable to breathe. He was rushed to the hospital where, once he’d been stabilized, the doctor gave him a grave ultimatum: quit smoking or be dead in as few as six months.
Esposito was also advised to start some type of physical activity. Due to back and hip problems, walking was out of the question. So Esposito joined a gym and decided to try the stationary bikes, since cycling is gentle on problem areas like the knees, hips, and back. But more importantly, Esposito discovered an exercise he enjoyed.
Soon, he’d bought a bicycle of his own and was hitting the trails. There was just one problem: “It was boring. When you cycle by yourself, it’s boring.”
So on June 30, 2014, Esposito started the 60+ Cycling Group of Westchester NY on the online social networking portal Meetup.com. The group now has 66 members and meets two to three times a week, along with Esposito’s other cycling groups (he now runs a total of four, including the 60+ group). “On average, we spend about two to three hours [biking], but sometimes we spend a good part of the day – it all depends,” Esposito said of the group outings.
On any given ride, there are multiple routes based on the riders’ experience or fitness level. Cyclists depart in shifts depending on their chosen route, and the group meets up at the turnaround point to eat and socialize before heading back to the starting location. On this first ride of the season, some members were off to Millwood; others were heading out to Briarcliff Manor; still others were biking to the reservoir bridge.
David, 60, tries to make it out to at least one event each month. He’s been cycling since he was a kid and joined the group to find other people to bike with. “Some of us even meet up outside of the group, if schedules permit,” he said.
Of his decision to start the 60+ Cycling Group of Westchester, Esposito shares, “I kind of felt like I wanted to pay back somebody, you know? Because of my situation and how I improved.” Almost two years after founding the group, he has a clean bill of health. “My doctor told me whatever it is I’m doing to keep doing it. And I plan to.”
Connect with the group at www.meetup.com/The60-Cycling-Group-of-Westchester-NY