SCUM on the track – Elders on bikes

During these past wet and cold winter months, I have found myself most Saturday mornings waking and getting out of bed in the dark. My alarm sounds and I listen hard, hoping I hear heavy rain on the roof, but if all is quiet I reluctantly get out of bed. I cross to the window, shivering as I pull back the curtains and peer into the gloom, trying to work out how likely it is to rain.

You would think a retired man would sleep in and remain snuggled under the warm blankets, but no, we senior cyclists are made of sterner stuff. We go out in the cold and ride our bicycles instead. We suffer from a temporary collective insanity. Sometimes deciding whether to ride, or whether the weather is too bad to do this, can be a difficult decision. One recent Saturday morning, when it was pouring with rain, several of us conspired to send a text to another member asking him where he was – telling him we were all set to start our ride and were waiting for him. He rushed out in the rain, put his bike on the car rack and drove at speed to the starting place, and found no one there….

Well, we thought it was funny.


Since that morning, communication from male riders on a doubtful weather day can’t be relied upon, and we all wait until a sensible and reliable woman rider makes a decision. Our group has found that having a sensible woman telling silly old men what to do is the most efficient form of governance.

I am sure that one of the joys of cycling is finding out how much beauty there is in your own neighbourhood that you miss while driving in a car. As a South Auckland group, most of our rides are either in the countryside around Drury and into Franklin, or somewhere near the shores of the Manukau Harbour. Those Aucklanders who think all the beauty is around the Waitemata, out east, or around the Waitakeres, have never cycled the shores of the Manukau Harbour on a crisp frosty but sunny morning or gone off the beaten track into the green and rolling countryside of Franklin. Further afield, the Hunua Ranges give the Waitakeres a run for their money. A word of warning – if planning a new route through the rolling and verdant farmlands of Franklin, don’t rely on the word of someone who has only driven the proposed route in a car. The hills are so much steeper on a bike! The good news is that even in rural South Auckland you are never very far from a coffee stop.

However, we are not so particular that we don’t sometimes grace inner Auckland with our presence. We have been known to give Winnie’s Gold Card a workout on the trains and have taken our cycles into Auckland to ride the inner city loop and other nearby rides. The proliferation of cycle trails is a tribute to local government and hopefully a sign of things to come as more people discover non-polluting and less stressful transport alternatives to motor cars. Most of our group don’t rule out getting e-bikes in a year or three.

The other Saturday our group was relaxing over a cup of coffee, sitting in the sun at a table on the pavement outside the Mangere Bridge shops. The ride from Ambury Farm along Kiwi Esplanade and over the old bridge to the Onehunga side and foreshore is a favourite ride. On a fine day, it is as beautiful a harbourside ride as you will find anywhere. It is popular with many cyclists and we had waved to and spoken with a number of other cycle groups that we had encountered along the way.  A mature aged cyclist stopped at our table to say “hi” and asked us if we had heard of ACTA. We hadn’t. Apparently, it was an acronym for Auckland Cycle Touring Association. He invited us to join.

Male cyclist enjoying a ride in reflective safety clothesAfter the friendly cyclist left, we talked about the situation and someone suggested that it was about time that our group also had a name, something that stood out as a catchy acronym. Aided by the power of caffeine, we finally came up with the acronym – SCUM. This stands for Southern Cyclists United Movement. When asked, we can now proudly tell people that we are the SCUM from South Auckland. We are currently working on a design for a suitable patch to sew on the back of our Hi-Viz vests. We need something that will celebrate the joys of senior cycling and be vaguely intimidating at the same time. Hopefully, it will be an image that will make truck drivers give us a wide berth on narrow country roads.


By Terry Carson.

This is another of Terry’s posts on GrownUps. If you like Terry’s work, you can read more from him here.