RETIRED cowboy Harry Manuel saddled up again yesterday – to help launch a new mountain bike trail.
Mountain biking is the latest challenge for 81-year-old Harry and his all-action lifestyle.
He road-tested a 20-mile blue-graded trail for casual and leisure bikers, which is the longest in England, at Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland.
Harry, who lives in Hexham, aims to cycle from John O’ Groats to Land End .
He said: “It is something to go for and I hope it happens, even if I will be travelling a bit slower than younger riders.”
Harry took up mountain biking after having a hip replacement at North Tyneside Hospital 18 months ago.
As part of his recovery programme, he was asked to exercise on a stationary bike
“I thought if I was going to pedal a bike it may as well be outdoors and not in a room looking at a blank wall.,” he said.
“Now I’m loving mountain biking. It’s another new experience for me.”
It is consolation for Harry not having been able to celebrate his 80th birthday with a freefall parachute jump.
That’s how he marked his 60th and 70th birthdays.
“But the hospital said I couldn’t do a parachute jump with my new hip,” he said.
Harry began his working life at the age of 14 as an apprentice jockey and continued working with horses when he spent 11 years in Colorado and Montana in the United States. In Montana he enjoyed the cowboy life.
“Cowboys are really farmers on horseback but I had to learn how to rope and round up cattle,” he said.
I’m still better at breaking a horse than most people a lot younger than me.”
While in the US Harry also tried his hand at snow and water skiing .
He was also Northumberland Fusiliers army boxing champion during his National Service.
He said: “A lot of older people think you should take it easy and put your feet up but I don’t think you should. You have always got to be in there. All my life I have been like a cork in a stream, going with the flow and where it takes me. My father used to say that you can’t do a lot about what life throws at you but you can do something about how you react to it.”
THE opening of the new blue route coincides with 35-year-old Carl Poulter’s appointment as the first bike and leisure officer in Kielder Water & Forest Park.