Age is no barrier to active life for Ross

MAN AND BIKE: Retired farmer Ross Paterson, about to set off on his usual 40km Tuesday bike ride.
MAN AND BIKE: Retired farmer Ross Paterson, about to set off on his usual 40km Tuesday bike ride.

For a few years now, Ross Paterson's name has been cropping up in cycling stories.

He's been the oldest competitor in the Pass to Pub mountainbike race, and the same for the Central South Island Charity Bike Ride.

He was 76 when he took part in his first charity bike ride; clocking up more than 300 kilometres on the three-day fundraising journey that sees cyclists set off from Timaru and travel through the Waimate and Mackenzie districts before returning to Timaru.

That was six years ago. Now 81, Ross is showing no signs of getting off his bike, and every Tuesday, is part of a group that heads off on a 40km ride around various parts of South Canterbury, and beyond, on and off the road.

The Seadown sheep and cropping farmer retired about 11 years ago, and despite remaining busy with a large vegetable garden, a bit of woodturning and some steel work, eventually decided to join Aoraki Polytechnic's Third Age adventure group, which holds regular activities such as tramping, kayaking and cycling.

Ross said he started with some tramping trips, and then eventually moved on to cycling, "dusting off" a mountainbike in the shed.

"I was walking with the Third Age eight or nine years ago, and we were on a bike ride around the back of Tekapo, the Pyramids. We were sitting having lunch, and Jan [Kirkpatrick], our leader, said, ‘I think you could do the Central South Island Charity Bike Ride'."

Ross decided to give it a go, and kept on going, completing five charity rides. Asked if he has retired from that ride now, he says he thinks so.

He was not much of a cyclist in his youth, saying he would bike to school, and sometimes he and his mates might go for a ride, but it was not a big thing. However, he is quite happy to be on the bike these days, saying you can see a lot more country on a bike.

"Just getting out and seeing the country on a bike is better than anything else. There's the company, the ones who like bike riding, they're all keen as mustard, and they've got fitter since we started."

His bike now has 24 gears, although he says you do not use them all. Every Tuesday, he and up to 10 others gather and then set off on a tiki tour around the countryside. They will usually start at 9am - an hour later in winter to allow frosty roads to thaw - and be home in time for dinner.

There is a lot of on-road riding, but Ross says they will sometimes head off road as well; a recent trip up Mt Somers way involved a rough section of 4WD track. How rough, Ross was soon to find out.

"My seat broke off my bike, and we still had 7km to go, so we tied the seat on to the bar with a bit of tape, and I had my feet on the pedals, trying not to sit down too much."

Despite the number of kilometres covered, Ross says he has been lucky so far, with no injuries from cycling.

"The charity bike ride, that sort of thing, you do have to be careful not to ride too close, and not touch the tyre of the bike in front of you."

When he is not on his bike, Ross is likely to be found tending his large vegetable garden, growing "quite a few" vegetables to give away to friends.

How big?

"I use the tractor to dig the potatoes . . . it's big enough to get a digger in."

The garden has been occupying some of his time over the last few days, rotary-hoeing the ground to prepare it for planting.

He has just finished building a plastic house - like a tunnel house, but with a peaked roof - and plans to grow tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in it.

That has been an ongoing project over the past five weeks or so, with Ross designing it and making it all himself, starting with the steel framework. It is all screwed in - not a nail in it.

"If you want to change anything, it's easy to take it off. You can take a screw out and it doesn't make a mess," he explains.

Steelwork is just one skill. Ross also plays around with some woodturning, and has made a number of wooden items, including seven kauri clocks.

The Timaru Herald