Te Awamutu’s Colin Williamson turns 89 in a month and is living proof of the adage: You never forget how to ride a bike.
What is a bit unusual is how far he rides his bike.
Plus if you think the surname and bike riding sound familiar, that is because earlier this year I wrote about my neighbour John Williamson, who undertook a solo bike tour of New Zealand, riding from Cape Rēinga to Bluff. John and Colin hadn’t met, but after the story ran they did meet and discovered they were related.
Now Colin’s daughter, Jane Bailey, is also hooked and last week she came home from Brisbane to see her parents, Colin and Melva, and to take her “Pop” for a three-day tour of the Otago Rail Trail, covering 163km.
Everyone they met was surprised Williamson was riding, albeit on his e-bike.
Williamson is a man who has to have something to do.
The couple farmed at Maihihi until 1979 then owned an orchard in Kerikeri, a coffee business and lounge in Cambridge, had a bed and breakfast in New Plymouth and when they retired they bought a campervan and toured Australia for two years.
Melva says it was great - no housework.
Now settled in Te Awamutu, Williamson loves to look after his vegetable garden and to exercise.
About nine years ago he had open-heart surgery to do an aorta valve replacement.
“My doctor told me to get the exercise up and keep the weight down, so I started walking.”
“But four years ago a friend introduced me to the e-bike.
“I remember it was a Thursday, because by Friday, thanks to my wife, I owned one.”
Since then Williamson has covered about 20,000km around Te Awamutu and sometimes a little further afield.
He has the electric assist set so that he gets a good amount of exercise pedalling but without stressing himself.
Williamson also likes to cycle alone.
“I am happy with my own company and I think it is safer.”
Every day, unless the weather is atrocious, he heads to the end of his road and decides left or right.
He’ll ride as far as Cambridge or Pirongia and likes to cover about 100km each week.
Williamson keeps both hands on the handlebars and chooses roads with the least traffic - safety first. But he adds that drivers around Te Awamutu are very courteous and give him plenty of room.
He says cycling is more enjoyable than walking simply because he can go further and see more of the countryside.
His daughter, Jane, is an even more recent cycling convert.
She lives with partner Graham about 40km north of Brisbane, where she says there are fantastic tracks and trails.
“I enjoy the outdoors but wasn’t planning on being a cyclist until Graham suggested we go and look at some e-bikes.
“Just look, he said.
“Later that day we owned a bike each and had to make two trips to bring them home.”
That was six weeks ago.
Bailey organised the Otago Rail Trail trip for her father and went with him. Melva drove the car and was the support crew.
“It was fantastic,” says Williamson.
“I loved the scenery and the trails and everything was so well organised.”
“Some of the towns were just a pub, but that was fine with me as well.”
Bailey purchased a tour so everything was organised for them.
She says it made enjoying the ride much easier.
Luckily they had a three-day window of good weather and the trail was at its best.
Now Williamson is inspired to take on some more challenging rides and plans to take the bike on the car rack and do a few more of the local trails.
Next year the couple are visiting Jane and Graham and plan to do the rides in their neck of the woods - including the Brisbane Rail Trail.
Williamson says he’ll keep riding the e-bike while he has his health and says everyone else should give it a go as well as it is a great way to stay active, see the countryside and stay young.
Dean Taylor is a community journalist with more than 35 years of experience and is editor of the Te Awamutu Courier and Waikato Herald.
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