On the road: Bicycling offers Alfred Arkley pain-free way to stay in shape


Name: Alfred Arkley.

Age: 76.

Hometown: Formerly from Bellevue, Arkley and his wife now live in Fairhaven.

Family: Married to Harriet Arkley for 47 years. They have three children.

How it began: Arkley began bicycling regularly in 1991 to get exercise. Since then, he has logged more than 60,000 miles, he says.

A short ride for Arkley is 25 miles, and logging 100 miles is a good week. In a typical year, Arkley rides about 4,000 miles, he says.

While living with his wife in Springfield, Ill., Arkley got started biking with a local club. Since then, bicycling has become a way for Arkley to maintain his physical health as well as a way to socialize.

Social biking: When he first began biking, Arkley didn't expect it to be a time to get to know his fellow riders.

"When I first started riding, I couldn't believe that people could actually talk while they rode," he says. "I thought it was so much effort."

But socializing is the best part of riding, he says, and riding, for him, is the perfect combination of exercise, socialization and fun.

Before biking: Prior to bicycling Arkley was an avid skier, but he had to give it up two years ago due to a bad knee. He also had several operations on his ankle, which put a stop to hikes with his wife. Biking is the only exercise Arkley has discovered that doesn't bother his knee, hip or ankle, he says.

Before Bellingham: Arkley and his wife are initially from Bellevue, but lived in Bellingham from 1970 to 1975 while Arkley taught political science at Western Washington University. He then took a position teaching public administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Arkley's career harkens back to the time he spent teaching African history with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, from 1961-1962.

"I didn't know a thing about African history," he says, "but I learned."

Arkley's three children live in the Pacific Northwest, which prompted him and his wife to move back nine years ago.

"It's the best thing we ever did," he says.

Biking the Northwest: Arkley has connected with a group of local bikers - whose average age is 72 - who enjoy social rides of about 40 miles, biking about 10 to 14 mph. They've been biking together since 2005.

The informal group, while not connected with Mount Baker Bicycle Club, advertises its rides in the club's newsletter.

Arkley has become a sort of unofficial organizer of the rides, he says, and thus has become an amateur meteorologist, too.

"I have to look at the weather each Thursday and Sunday to make sure it is OK to go bike riding," he says.

Nearly impervious to weather: For riders in Bellingham, fair-weather biking isn't an option, Arkley says. Unless there is a particularly bad rain or strong winds, Arkley and his group brave the cold to log some miles.

"Here in Bellingham, if you didn't ride in the rain, you'd never ride," he says.

Scenic routes: The group often rides from Edison to Anacortes, and to other destinations along the way, Arkley says. The Edison ride, as they call it, is particularly nice in the early spring.

"The birdlife down there is fantastic," Arkley says.

On a spring day, the flat, low-traffic ride takes them past flocks of trumpeter swans and snow geese, as well as eagles and herons, all of which can be seen with Mount Baker or the Olympics as a backdrop.

Add to that the Edison Café, which Arkley says is home to the best oyster burger around, and the ride is ideal, he says.

Off of the saddle: When they aren't outdoors biking or hiking, Arkley and his wife enjoy the creative arts Bellingham has to offer, such as attending plays and concerts, and eating out.

"We seem to be very busy all of the time," Arkley says.


• Social bicycle rides starting at Edison Elementary School are held most Sunday and Thursday mornings. The rides in listed in the Mount Baker Bicycle Club Newsletter, and details are also available from Alfred Arkley, at Arkley@comcast.net or 360-527-8638.

• For details about Mount Baker Bicycle Club, see mtbakerbikeclub.org or call 360-927-2332.

Alisa Gramann is a freelance writer in Bellingham.

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