Q&A with eldest legend, Ryno Walker

This month we talk to Ryno Walker, at 82 years old he is our eldest member at Holla Trails

Where are you from? My early years were in Durban Berea, but from age 7 I grew up in Vryheid. With one friend in particular, I spent weekends and days on my bike. It was an essential part of my life for exploring, fishing, etc and going to wherever I had to. No lifts and being taken to school in those days.

Do you ride an e-bike or a normal bike? A normal bike!

What initially inspired you to start mountain biking? and how long have you been riding at Holla? It was so obviously suited to my nature of always wanting to explore and see what’s up this hidden valley, or behind that mountain ridge. Where does this or that path or dirt road lead to? Throughout most of my adult life I lived on the South Coast and I started riding a mountain bike in the early 1990’s. However, there were no trails as such, and traffic remained a constant nuisance and danger. I retired at age 60 and moved from Pennington to Westbrook. I did a lot of running, but always had a mountain bike and nowhere to go for a ride peacefully and safely without the possibility of getting run over or hijacked. Holla Trails was heaven sent. I have however, only started riding on the trails in the last six years or so, including lockdown.

As our eldest member, what motivates you to keep coming back to the trails and riding despite any challenges you may face? I’ve always cycled on my own. I’ve never been drawn to riding in a group or even with a buddy. I love being free and without constraints of time and effort and pace. Importantly though: I make every ride count, meaning that each ride must be a workout, as well as being a time of introspective thoughts, decisions and establishing and realising values to live by. The quietness and absence of “town sounds ” is therapeutic. To sit down to a coffee after a ride is therapeutic also. Being single at my age can be deadly lonely. A ride at Holla is the cure… always someone there for a brief exchange or little chat.

Can you share some of your favourite memories or experiences from your time spent mountain biking at Holla Trails? when I had stopped for a water break and saw this lake and realised that I was overlooking the inflow of Dudley Pringle dam. I wasn’t expecting to see it there… kinda out of place. I thought of it as near Verulam somewhere and the windsurfing place where I had had gone on Sundays with my young family.The Rain Farm as well… It belongs to lady friend’s son in law (the Nidd family) and I had spent so many happy times there . But to look at the familiar lodge, wedding venue etc from where I was on a Holla trail was so different!
I love the ride from Holla to Umhlali through Fairview Estates. (Stop for coffee in Umhlali before returning via a different route).

In what ways do you believe mountain biking contributes to your overall health and well-being, both physically and mentally? Holla is my gym and my rehab place. It’s my place where I restore endorphins and other feel good substances. Parkrun at Holla did it for me too, but that was before a major lumber fusion operation a year ago. Cycling gives my life such purpose. It makes me feel like a real and robust guy, a fit and wholesome person.
And here’s a thing: I really think that with my, sometimes rather over the top, eating habits of real and natural foods combined with the exertions of a trail ride, I have countered or even reversed a mental decline that had crept up on me. Dementia and Alzheimer’s runs in my family. I’m not imagining it, but the pain that’s inevitably felt on a hard ride pays off so much in the form of mental alertness/brightness. Naturally it reflects in one’s appearance. I do look young for my age. I know it from being told that. And inside my head I’m just so young! No cardio or blood pressure or blood sugar issues.

Do you have any advice for fellow mountain bikers, regardless of age, on how to stay active and passionate about the sport as they grow older? So simple advice to other oldies is to JUST DO IT… don’t overthink it because there’ll always be some reason to do it tomorrow rather than now… and believe me, once you’re in the saddle and moving it up, you’ll think wow! imagine if I hadn’t done it!? This is so much better than any of the tempting sedentary and easy old man stuff…

What do you enjoy most about the social aspect of mountain biking, and how does riding with others contribute to your enjoyment of the sport? I mostly cycle on my own or occasionally with a friend and it’s really good to experience the friendliness or perhaps even the camaraderie of younger cyclist’s when they pass with a nod or a Howzit.
Finally, how do you think your love for mountain biking and staying active has influenced your outlook on life and contributed to your overall happiness and fulfilment? The changes one feel or notice is motivation enough to keep it up. The human body must be moved and flexed daily otherwise it deteriorates literally overnight at old age. To quote Clint Eastwood: “DONT LET THE OLD MAN IN”.