By Kevin Werner
Ancaster resident Bill Helm has put the brakes on his cycling activity.
The 93-year-old biker who led the Ancaster Senior Achievement Centre’s 55+ Thursday morning cycling group has decided it’s time to slow down.
“I’m doing it because of old age,” said Helm, who plans to still occasionally ride with the group. “My balance was off.”
The cyclists, who have been riding throughout the Hamilton area every Thursday morning for the last 15 years beside Bill, gathered together, along with Helm’s family, at the senior centre Aug. 29 to recognize his accomplishments. They had a chocolate cake on hand, belatedly celebrating his 93rd birthda on Aug. 17.
Helm began biking when he was 14 years old. He grew up in Hull, United Kingdom, and came to Sudbury, then moved around Ontario, living in Toronto, Montreal and Burlington, before settling in Ancaster.
He worked at Domtar as a credit manager until he finally left the company when he was 68 years old.
Helm helped organize a Monday cycling club with the blessing of ASAC’s Shirley Glauser and called themselves the Road Scholars. The group moved its outings to Thursdays, eventually calling themselves the Orbiters.
Helm applauded the city for helping to create the vital rail trails and biking lanes that have allowed cyclists to explore Hamilton.
“We never seemed to tire of the 12.5-kilometre loop in the quiet country lanes,” he said. “Nor do we tire of the Rail Trail.”
Helm called the area’s cycling lanes and trails “perfect” and “beautiful.”
“They are so essential for the people,” he said.
He told the gathering that even though he was fit, it was time to cut back on his cycling.
“My time has come full circle to recognize I’m at the stage of extreme and decrepit old age,” he said. “Now and then, I will still ride with you.”
When asked if he had any secrets for his life-long love of cycling, Helm dismissed the idea, saying he just enjoyed the outdoors.
“I don’t have any secrets,” he said.
Later, he said living a long life requires a healthy lifestyle and a certain amount of luck.
Cam Johnson, 73, said Helm remains an inspiration to the cyclists and the rest of the ASAC 55+ community.
“We have been everywhere, from Jerseyville to Lynden with him,” said Johnson, who has pedaled with Helm for the last 15 years. “He is a great fellow. We showed up unquestioningly and followed him like sheep.
“You have left a legacy,” said Johnson. “It’s in this room. You are an inspiration to us all.”