It doesn't matter who you are, if you like riding, you want to stay on the bike for as many years as possible. I have been riding and racing mountain bikes for over 22 years; from World Championships, to grassroots races, I've seen and ridden it all. But I'm not stopping anytime soon, in fact I'm planning to ride for at least another 22 years.
Many believe that age forces you off the bike. Maybe physically, from the business of life, or simply disinterest. I totally understand those categories personally, and have seen them push many former racers off the bike. However, I strongly believe you CAN stay on the bike for a long time if you keep a few key points in mind.
1. Mix it up. I like to explore new trails, check out different parts of the country, meet up with different groups, ride at different speeds, find new challenges, etc. There are endless possibilities. Exploring them keeps the sport fresh and new, it keeps you from developing too many patterns that could lead to burn out or disinterest.
2. Don't crash. It sounds basic, but this is a key to staying on the bike long term for me, especially as I get older. Although most mountain bike crashes are not particularly serious, they still hurt and can result in injuries that can be tough to recover from. Crashes also destroy your equipment and can get expensive quickly! When life is weighing on you both financially and in terms of greater responsibility as you age, adding crashes and injuries to the mix can become an excuse to end your riding career.
3. Take breaks. For me, just a short one-week break from mountain biking is all I need to feel hungry and excited to ride. Some people might need longer, but either way, a break can be refreshing and everyone needs it occasionally. You also come back to the bike with new zeal that could help you mix it up, and motivate you to try something new to keep things fresh and interesting (point 1).
4. Change your goals. My goals for mountain biking are very different now than when I was racing full time. If I was still chasing the same goals, I would burn out quickly. Setting new goals every year or so will provide fresh motivation and reinvigorate your passion for the sport. Maintaining that passion is extremely important to staying on the bike. Chasing the same race/power/fitness goals for years and years is going to lead to an eventual burnout. It's inevitable.
5. Get nostalgic. It's always fun to go back to the trails where you learned how to ride. Revisit an area where you had your most epic trip, or go out for a ride on your ten year old bike with outdated technology and equipment. Getting nostalgic will remind you of all the things you love about mountain biking, and in turn, keep you interested and loving it.
6. Make it a family affair. Ride with your wife, sister, father or kids. Sharing the love of riding a bike with others you care about provides a deeper meaning and will help them appreciate why you love it so much. It's much easier to stay out there riding when your family understands your passion and supports you being out there pursuing it.
Riding a bike doesn't have to end when you get to a certain age. You just need to work on developing a few habits to keep it fresh and interesting, so that you can continue enjoying it for decades to come.
Chris Eatough is a former professional mountain bike racer. With a focus on ultra endurance racing, Chris raced to many wins in 100 mile and 24 hour races, including 6 consecutive wins at 24 hour solo world championships. He now lives in Elkridge, Maryland with his wife and two children.