Bike Week: Geoff, 85, on why everyone should give two wheels a go

PUBLISHED: 11:56 09 June 2018

Lilley cyclist Geoff Mercer, 85. Picture: Bev Creagh

Lilley cyclist Geoff Mercer, 85. Picture: Bev Creagh

Archant

Lilley octogenarian Geoff Mercer is a familiar sight whizzing round Hertfordshire’s highways and byways on his Giant Cypress 24-gear hybrid bike.

He firmly believes that more people of all ages should join him on his two-wheeled odysseys – and there’s no time like Bike Week, which started on Saturday and runs until Sunday, June 17.

The 85-year-old grandfather of four started cycling when he was a boy of eight – and reckons it was that initial experience of going to school in Shropshire by bike and train that has stood him in good stead throughout his life.

“It’s a wonderful thing being out in the open air, especially in the summer – looking at the ever-changing scenery and keeping an eye on what’s happening in the various villages,” he said.

“It gives you a sense of wellbeing, keeps you fit and clears your mind.”

Geoff has always been a fitness fanatic. After training as a teacher, he gained an advanced diploma in physical education at the Carnegie College of Physical Education.

He went on to run approved schools in Bristol and Hertford and, after subsequently being made redundant, forged a new career as an associate professor and senior tutor at the International Management Centre.

When he retired in 2001, he revisited his love of cycling to keep fit.

As a former president of Hitchin Priory Rotary Club, he has also got on his bike for charitable purposes. He rode the 181 miles from Hitchin to Oswestry in three days – raising more than £3,300 for the organisation’s Polio Plus programme.

For many years he was a regular participant in the Beds and Herts Historic Churches Trust ride, visiting all 30 churches in Hitchin deanery during the course of the day.

In addition he volunteers for Sustrans, the charity that encourages people to use alternative transport.

Geoff looks after a stretch of the National Cycle Network, from Parkway to Harpenden. He said: “I clear debris and overhanging branches, as well as reporting any potholes.”

More and more cycle ways are being built. This enthusiastic pedal pusher’s favourite ride is to the Isle of Dogs through the Lea Valley.

Geoff said local drivers are very courteous, and that almost every bike on the road overtakes him – but he’s not bothered.

“I’m too busy enjoying the scenery,” he said.

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