Ride on, Grandma: 83-year-old Idaho Falls woman still pedaling

Henrietta Boland is one of a growing number of seniors who are cycling to keep themselves in shape.


Henrietta “Hank” Boland grew up sharing a rickety old bike with her brother. Now she has a custom-made bike that fits in a suitcase so she can ride anywhere she wants.


IDAHO FALLS - The sprinkler head on the wheel line snaps in the sunrise to a continuous rhythm. Henrietta "Hank" Boland passes the wet potato field pushing her pedals to the beat of the water delivery.

"It's like a meditation. You can erase all the stress that might be in your life and just look around the fields," said Boland. "The sky is beautiful. The clouds are beautiful. I love the outdoors."

Boland, 83, sees the outdoors from the seat of a bicycle. With lines of wisdom running down her face and white curls tucked neatly under her helmet, she jokes about the risk of riding in the country.

"I've been bitten over the last five years or so three times," she said. "The dogs seem to be getting hungrier. I don't know why."

Boland has ridden all over the world, including a trip from Canada to Idaho totaling 1,000 miles. She rides at least 20 miles a day five days a week, and age is the last thing on her mind.

"I don't think about my age until you ask me," Boland said. " I just do what I can do. Age is a number."

Riders with that kind of attitude visit Bill's Bike and Run every day. The shop sells 1,800 bikes annually to cyclists around the region. The store in Idaho Falls is divided by bike type. From road bikes to mountain bikes with BMX and a ladies section rounding out the wheels racked on the walls. Thirty percent of the bikes sold at the shop are recreation bikes bought most often by customers over 50.

"We're finding that older people are coming in and when I say older, they're 60, 70, 80 years old," said Brandon Fell, Bill's Bike and Run manager. "They want to get on a bicycle. It's a great exercise. It's low-impact on the joints."

Fell thinks about age more than Boland does. It's a factor in how he fits a rider for a bike. Flexibility is considered for older riders, and stretching is encouraged.

"When you're 80, you really need to warm up before you go on a bike ride," Fell said. "Somebody that's in their 20s can just jump on a bicycle and go off and ride 50 miles and not have to worry too much about it. At an older age, you have to make sure you are staying flexible and you're stretching before the ride so your joints don't lock up."

Boland recognizes she's slower today than when she shared a bike with her brother way back when, but she easily dismisses a pack of six racers passing her. She wipes sweat from her brow and watches the sun rise over a freshly cut hay field while she keeps pedaling.

"I know not everyone shares my attitude about the outdoors," she said. "I talked to one woman who said, 'Camping? That means my bedroom window is open.' That's a pretty small world. I like to explore beyond."

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