How an 84-year-old cyclist uses extreme sport to enhance mental health


There’s a world of untapped ability inside us all. Though Arthur Duncan only started cycling when he was 65, he swiftly matched the pace of professional riders. The sport renewed his perspective of life and motivated him to expect greater things of himself. Now 84 years old, Duncan still competes in road cycling and mountain biking championships around the world. But to get going, he first had to push past the hurdle of depression. 

Duncan’s journey as a cyclist began during a battle with his mental health. “I thought if I could find something that would exert me to my limit, I might get out of my depression,” he says. Soon after he started, Duncan challenged himself to keep moving with a bold venture. He cycled 278 kilometres solo from Durban to Thabana Ntlenyana in Lesotho. At 3 482 metres above sea level, it’s the highest point in southern Africa. Reaching that peak allowed Duncan to realise the full extent of his potential. If he could do this, he could also master his mind. 

Duncan shows no signs of slowing down since his zealous beginning. To maintain his momentum, he rides at least 100 kilometres a week. He made headlines when he represented South Africa at the UCI World Tour Road finals. Locally, he’s conquered the KAP sani2c mountain bike race multiple times. The arduous three-day trek is a challenge even for professionals. “It might not be easy to start a hobby at my age,” Duncan says. “But the rewards far outweigh the effort.” Cycling was the vehicle that helped him allay his depression. No matter the path you choose, there’s always a way forward. 

Footage by Flight Film Productions was used in the creation of this film