Dow, who is 37, appreciates that "you can age with bicycling. I know people in their 80s who are still riding strong."

French native Danielle Murray didn't grow up riding a bike in the steep, busy streets of Monaco.

"Nobody had bikes," she said.

It wasn't until her west county women's walking group decided to bicycle, too, that Murray started pedaling at age 60.

"I was very stiff and was running into posts, and some of the women had all these fancy bike clothes," Murray said. "But I thought what the heck. I just kept going, and I got better and stronger."

Five years later, she rides with two bicycling groups plus casual solo trips from her house in Forestville to places like the Sebastopol farmers market.

"I still don't like to ride alone on main roads," she said. "But the more you ride, the more confident you get. I have lower back pain but not when I ride my bike. I think it's because when you ride you have to suck your stomach in."

And though she hasn't lost weight from riding, friends tell her she looks slimmer.

"I say it's the bicycle shorts."

(Susan Swartz is a freelance writer and author based in Sonoma County. Contact her at susan@