The day we meet her at Waiatarua Reserve in Remuera, Anne-Marie Coury is showing off her new bike. She can't keep the grin off her face as she cruises up and down the track winding through the wide, green space.
"Most people don't realise they can ride along here," she tells us. It's not Auckland's only cycling secret: many don't know where to find great cycling tracks in suburbs across the city.
But the vice-president of Auckland Grey Power, who grew up in Christchurch and rode "seven kilometres to school and back with a violincello on my back", hopes her new initiative will help older cyclists to make the most of them.
50 Plus Cycling is being established as a sub-group of Grey Power so individuals can meet, learn cycling skills and join on and off-road group rides. She has 10 people signed up to attend bike safety training in local parks and says Mayor Len Brown has pledged that he'll join a monthly ride.
"The whole idea is about freedom - that's what attracts the baby boomer generation. There's a freedom that comes from being on a bicycle. You don't get that walking," says Ms Coury, who has asked Albert-Eden Local Board for money to help roll out the training section in their area. The idea is to help people find cycling buddies, try trails around Auckland and train for safer road cycling.
A qualified fitness trainer, the Remuera resident has attended Auckland Transport's safety courses and says riding on our roads can be scary. "Some people are genuinely frightened because they've got genuine examples [of accidents]," she says.
As a result, people leave bikes sitting in their garage because they're unaware of urban cycle tracks. "But there are safer roads, quieter journeys and ways of getting to interesting tracks by taking your bike on the train."
With the northwestern cycleway, where 60 per cent of the track is an exclusive cycleway, and pushbiking allowed in parks such as Mt Albert War Memorial Park and the Domain, Ms Coury says there are lots of options. "These local spots are so important, because that's where you can do your exercise three times a week."
Research shows numerous health benefits, including prevention of age-related illness, she points out. "Cycling is an Alzheimer's prevention because it's stimulating brain cells and creating multi-sensory modality. Being on a bike you have a heightened sense of awareness; the left and right hemispheres of the brain are in synch. For people with Parkinsons, tremors can stop when they're regularly cycling.
"One of my favourite rides is taking the ferry - you can take your bike for free - over to Devonport and riding the back roads to Takapuna. You can stop at the cafes on the way there and on the way back," she says.
50 Plus Cycling meets at Waiatarua Reserve, Abbotts Way, Remuera, on specific Sundays at 3.30pm, and Mt Albert War Memorial Park on Wednesday evenings.
TRAILS TO TRY
Project Twin Streams 8.6km of cycle paths alongside the Oratia, Opanuku and Waikumete Streams in West Auckland.
Rotary Track Just over 5km, this track runs around the eastern edge of Tamaki Estuary and Whakaaranga Creek.
The Green Route 6km from Devonport to Takapuna. Avoids Lake Rd and is divided into sections. Cyclists can visit
Narrow Neck Beach.
Northwestern Cycleway From the Upper Queen St-Ian McKinnon Drive intersection, the cycleway runs through St
Lukes to Te Atatu Rd. The full track is 10km with the off-road path running along the side of the motorway.
Mt Roskill 4km off-road link, runs through Keith Hay Park, Winstone Park and links to Richardson Rd.