Pedaling Passion: All-Weather Mountain Biking Provides Fun, Fitness in your 50s

by Paula McGarvey

Fitness gurus widely agree that if you pick an activity that’s fun, you are more likely to succeed at your fitness goals.

Butte’s Sean Cleverly, 51, took up mountain biking in his 20s, and readily confessed that at the time, he wasn’t remotely interested in the health benefits of biking. And it’s still not his prime motivation.

“I ride because I love to ride,” he said.

But after 30-plus years, that passion has had a nice pay off.

“The fact there’s a fitness component is just a convenient byproduct,” he said.

Sean Cleverly, left, and Shawn Gleason, both of Butte, like to ride their mountain bikes in the open space west of Montana Tech

Sean Cleverly, left, and Shawn Gleason, both of Butte, like to ride their mountain bikes in the open space west of Montana Tech

Like Cleverly, Shawn Gleason, 52, fell in love with mountain biking when he took up the sport in 1993. The two have been cycling together in and around Butte for more than 20 years and are part of a larger group of approximately 15 mountain bikers and cyclists who work at NorthWestern Energy and regularly ride together.

The group has worked to develop trails west of the Montana Tech campus in Butte and on any given day, you can find members of their informal, two-wheeled contingent rolling along the labyrinth of dirt trails snaking their way through the sagebrush. That trail system also links into trails heading up Big Butte.

“There are three really good trails on the M that we cycle,” Cleverly said.

“Steep stuff,” chimed in Gleason, with both riders agreeing that they worked their way up to the really sharp inclines over time.

The lunch hour is a favorite time for these cyclists to ride — taking a break from their jobs at NorthWestern Energy, where Cleverly works as the director of security (cyber) and Gleason supervises the gas transmission drafting department.

Both men are pleased that their company is pro-fitness, supporting on-site areas for fitness activities and bike storage, along with on-site locker rooms and showers.

“Cycling at lunch time really breaks up the day nicely,” Gleason said.Cleverly agreed.

“My job is very technical, and it’s a really great stress breaker,” Cleverly added.

Both men also agree that Butte has a lot to offer mountain bikers, regarding terrain.

“This is some of the most challenging cycling around,” Cleverly said.

From west of Montana Tech, north to Moulton Reservoir, to the East Ridge, and both west and south
of town, there are trails fit for any and every level of expertise.

“Butte is really a center for mountain biking,” Gleason said.

In retrospect, as they start out their 50s, both Cleverly and Gleason are glad that their passion had
a few fitness perks. The activity gained by regular cycling has helped both men avoid health and weight
issues their less-active peers have faced. Cycling is considered a low-impact activity, so their knees have benefited, too, suffering less wear and tear than those participating in some other sports.

Cleverly and Gleason are four-season cyclists, and getting outside on their bikes is preferred by both to working out inside on fitness machines. In the past, they have cycled in some extreme conditions, but are easing back a bit with age.

“We just put a limit on temperature recently,” Gleason said.

Sean Cleverly and Shawn Gleason pedal toward Big Butte on Butte's West Side. The two are in their early 50s and don't let middle age slow them down.

Sean Cleverly and Shawn Gleason pedal toward Big Butte on Butte’s West Side. The two are in their early 50s and don’t let middle age slow them down.

Their cut off? When the ambient temperature “feels like” 10 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill
factored in.

With a shared passion for mountain biking, the two often encourage others to take up the sport, with their pedal pushing geared toward getting others to get out and ride.

“I push people at work all the time to come out and ride,” Gleason said.

“You can start slow. There are lots of trails you can build up to,” Cleverly added.

Though Cleverly and Gleason feel that over the years Butte has become more bike-friendly, they still prefer the dirt trails to paved roadways.

“The biggest advantage of mountain biking (over road biking) is that there’s fewer distractions,”
Cleverly said.

His final advice for would-be mountain bike newbies of any age is this:

“You live in this wonderful playground. You should get off the asphalt and hit the trails!”

Paula McGarvey is a freelance writer. She can be reached at: paulajmc@bresnan.com

No comments yet.

Add a comment