Darlington Cycling Club: John Harper’s story

John Harper, chairman of Darlington Cycling Club

Meet John Harper, who has had a heart bypass and still cycles 10-12,000 miles a year.

John Harper, 73, a retired sheet metal worker, joined Darlington Cycling Club in 1999, and “got back into it in a big way”, as he puts it. He is now club chairman.

He started getting angina symptoms in about 2004. He says: “I used to walk to the bank in my lunch break and I was getting out of breath. Also, when I was cycling I was getting pains in my chest.”

With the help of his GTN spray he was able to carry on cycling, but his symptoms were getting gradually worse. After further tests, in January 2006 he had a quadruple bypass operation. Being able to take part in a club cycling holiday was a big incentive for him to get back to fitness.

He says: “After six weeks I went back to see the specialist. He said I was ok to ride and to fly out to Majorca, where we were due on a cycling holiday. I took it easy and didn’t do the hill climbs, but the following year I went back and this time I did the hills.

“Now I do 10-12,000 miles a year. I bought my car in 2009 and I have only done 1,500 miles in it – whereas in that time I have done 44,000 miles on my bike.”

You see more of the countryside - things you never see from a car

John cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats with Clive Nunn and two others in 2009. He says: “I am still going out with the club four times a week at least. The great thing about it is that you have got people to talk to, and you stop for a break somewhere and have a chat.”

He’s also learned a lot about his local area. He says: “I get out in the countryside and you learn a lot more routes. A lot of people only know how to get somewhere by going on the main roads. We know four or five different ways to get to places, to make it different. You see more of the countryside - things you never see from a car.”

John has one son and two granddaughters, and is trying to encourage the next generation. He says: “My younger granddaughter is eight and she loves it when we go out on our bikes together – there is a nature reserve nearby so we go round there. I am hoping she is going to be a cyclist!

John says that age is no barrier to cycling, or to joining a cycling club, and it’s never too late to start. “A lot of people in the club have retired from work and then they take up cycling. One of them only started cycling after he retired, and now he has four bikes!”

More useful information