Victoria Emanuelli practiced pedaling her blue bike - a castoff from one of her grandchildren - in the carpeted hallways of her retirement community.
Ben Morelli is under doctor's orders to cool it, but he still zips around the wide roads of the neighborhood on his Raleigh - one of seven bicycles he owns.
And Philip Baur hasn't biked in decades, but he got back in the saddle without a hitch.
These residents of Normandy Farms Estate retirement community in Blue Bell belong to the Old Spokes, a 13-member cycling club - the youngest pedaler is 67, the oldest, nearly 90 - that travels the trails (paved, please) of Philadelphia-area parks every couple of weeks. Sure, they bike for the exercise. But what they truly enjoy is the company and the experience that recalls their childhoods even as they chance risks many others their age would not.
On this sunny fall day, seven have gathered in the clubhouse parking lot to load the bikes for a jaunt along the Schuylkill River Trail section in Valley Forge National Historical Park. Those absent usually miss the ride only because of vacations or doctor visits.
Ron Dellecker, 78, pumps up a tire on the bike of Joan Torello, 70.
Morelli, who will be 90 on Sunday, comes by in full gear, including bright yellow helmet and cycling gloves.
"He's the official mechanic," offers Dellecker, the group leader.
"They build me up for nothing," Morelli insists, straddling his bicycle. But he does have a small trailer on site that houses a workbench, tools, and extra parts as well as a 1946 vintage cycle that he used to ride and now wants to refurbish.
"I just putter around on the bicycles, fix flats, get them tuned up, and tell these Old Spokes how not to fall off bicycles," he said. That's a group joke, because he's the only one who has taken a spill so far. (It left him with only a cut on his hand.)
Morelli, retired from the family trucking business, was one of the instigators who got the group of walkers to turn to two wheels last fall. On one ride, he, Roberta Taylor, 67, and Emanuelli, 81, were throwing out names. Someone suggested Old Spokes, given the average age of the group. It stuck.
Morelli biked as a kid and never really stopped. In the 1970s, when he was diagnosed with diabetes and needed to lose 30 pounds, he applied himself to cycling with renewed vigor, he said.
Usually, he goes along with the Old Spokes without fail, but his doctor recently put him on a new medicine for blood clots in his legs and wanted him to take it easy for a bit.
"The doctors grounded me," he says as the rest of the gang piles into three cars with full bike racks. "My son wants me to get a recumbent three-wheeler. I'm not too keen on that. I won't be able to climb any hills."
With that, Morelli speeds away on his bike.
The pace of the outing is "a four-letter word. S-L-O-W," Dellecker says. The Old Spokes go out biweekly because, he jokes, "it takes two weeks to rest up."
No matter. It's still activity. "It's low-impact, but it gets them out in the world," said Rona Note, a fitness instructor affiliated with the West Point-based ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, which includes Normandy Farms Estate. "I commend them."
Nationally, more than 48 million people older than age 6 rode bikes more than once in 2008, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
But biking isn't without its risks. In 2007, 698 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes in the United States and 44,000 more were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The average age of fatality victims has gone up as more Americans, especially baby boomers, take up the sport. In 1997, the age was 31. Ten years later, it was 40.
The Old Spokes know the dangers. Emanuelli wouldn't venture out on a bike until she got several hours of practice. "I had to learn all over again," said the grandmother, who last rode as a child. "I was scared. I didn't want to fall."
After the first club ride, she was confident enough to upgrade her wheels - to a brand-new, blue-and-white Schwinn with automatic gears. It has the goods, including basket, mirror, and a bell that goes ping!
"I love it," she said. And the Old Spokes? "Oh, those people, they are so nice. They really take care of you. There's always someone watching that I don't fall."
Dellecker has established rules for the club:
The group never rides on roads. Everyone has to wear a helmet, and should wear biking gloves to protect their palms in a fall. A horn or bell is a must to alert others on the path of the group's approach. He and another rider, both with walkie-talkies, bracket the line of cyclists.
Mostly, the Old Spokes enjoy a couple of hours of leisurely pedaling along creeks, wooded paths and open vistas. Dellecker and another member, Pete Torello, 73, have designed a logo - an old-fashioned Victorian bike with the big front wheel and tiny back one - and have hopes of club T-shirts.
Between spring and fall, weather permitting, they travel trails that have included the Wissahickon (where the reward was lunch at the Valley Green Inn), Perkiomen, Peace Valley (and its Lake Galena), and Nockamixon (the farthest away).
Baur, 78, used to ride to work years ago. "One day," he said, "I was riding in a seersucker suit and I split the seam right down the middle."
On this day, no one has any wardrobe malfunctions. But a few have to walk their bikes up the steady incline of one section of the trail.
Back at Normandy Farms Estate, Rhys Gunn, a friend of Dellecker, overhears the cycling enthusiasts talk up their trek.
"I gave that up when I was 18," Gunn says to an invitation to join.
"You want to be 18 again?" Dellecker asks. "I'm going through my second childhood."