Monarch of cycling conquers mountain challenge

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Monarch of cycling conquers mountain challenge


People at the Bike Lovers Association call Heo Hae-sook, 69, “queen chairwoman.” The group, which Ms. Heo has been running for the last four years, has about 160 women members from their mid-30s to 60s. Ms. Heo said that probably one of the best things she ever did in her life was to start cycling 14 years ago.
She added that one of the happiest moments in her life was the 28 days of “road hell” when she cycled the 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) from Paris to Berlin in 1999. She was 62 years old.
“At the time, it was summer and I rode my bike, sweating like a pig during the day and shivering in a tent at night suffering from aches and pains,” Ms. Heo recalled. “I was the oldest of the 100 people who finished the course.”
That same year, Ms. Heo managed to get her husband Kim Cheol, 69, who had just retired, to start riding. Mr. Kim was so weak that he had spent whole winters suffering from colds. But his health improved remarkably after he started riding.
Ms. Heo believes it’s all thanks to her bicycling that her blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels are all normal, and that she doesn’t suffer from any of the conditions associated with aging.
Her passion for riding knows no bounds.
“I have had no pain at all in my legs or knees since I began riding,” said Ms. Heo. “Riding a bicycle is an exercise for the legs while not overusing the joints.” She also noted, “There are many successful examples of people with serious diabetes lowering their blood sugar levels by riding a bike, and most older cyclists are not affected by the climactic changes that are often experienced by those between 45 and 60.”
Ms. Heo rides her bicycle three to four times a week for six hours at a time. She rides slowly at a speed of around 20 to 25 kilometers per hour and if she feels tired, she rests. Every Wednesday, she rides with club members from Seoul’s Olympic Park in Jamsil to Yeouido in western Seoul, or Gwacheon, Gyeonggi province. The distance is over 50 kilometers.
Once a month, she goes for a more challenging ride. In 2003, Ms. Heo rode Daegwallyeong, a high mountain pass in Gangwon province. For that trip, she took her bike on a truck to Gangneung, Gangwon province, her start-off point. The following year, she conquered Jungnyeong, a pass between Danyang, North Chungcheong province, and Punggi, North Gyeongsang province.
Ms. Heo said that the Yeouido course is not popular with her club members because it is too flat ― that means it’s boring. The members prefer the winding course on Mount Cheonggye, which pushes them harder, she added.
Ms. Heo has done national tours with her bike four times, starting from the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul or the National Assembly building in western Seoul to Ttangkkeut, a village in Haenam, South Jeolla province, that is located at the southern tip of the peninsula.
“It’s never too late to start cycling even for a woman in her 40s or 50s,” said Ms. Heo. “But one should learn how to ride properly, wear a helmet and avoid being too competitive.”
Ms. Heo says her bicycle is a part of her. She proudly said that her current bike, worth 4 million won ($4,100), is the one thing she would never part with.

by Park Tae-kyun
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