By Harriet Whitehead
An elderly couple have revealed the secret to their long-lasting marriage has been clocking up 200,000 miles on a tandem bike since they met in 1948.
Graham Cox, 87, and his wife Betty, 92, have been married for 66 years – and credit cycling together as the key to happiness.
The couple have cycled all over the world including in New Zealand and Canada and reckon they’ve clocked up in excess of 200,000 miles since meeting, when Betty was 22 and Graham was 17, at holiday resort Barry Island, Wales, 70 years ago.
The healthy pair, who have four children, still go out three or four times a week on their tandem bike clocking up 2,000 miles alone in the last 18 months.
Former engineer Graham, from Newport, Wales, said: “It’s something that we can both do together.
“We’re not fitness experts, we just like a leisurely cycle. In our younger years we could ride hard and fast but now it’s a case of maybe doing 10 to 15 mile trips then stopping off to have a cup of coffee.
“When I met Betty it was love at first sight.
“She lived 24 miles away from me so my trip after work to see her was a circular route of 48 miles which I’d do a couple of times a week come rain or shine.
“I said to her that she’d better get a bike as well.
“It’s the peace and quiet and the freedom that we enjoy. It’s being able to go on an adventure together.
“It’s great for keeping us healthy. My wife is 92 and she’s a tough old bird. We don’t seem to have a lot of aches and pains.
“We’re out at least three or four days a week. We’ll be out from 10.30am till lunchtime.
“From the beginning of our relationship we had a tandem and side car. In 1953 our daughter Marilyn was born. We put her in the side car and away we went – that was six weeks after Betty gave birth.
“One of the neighbours said ‘you can’t do that’ but we did 10 to 15 miles that day.”
Betty said: “It’s definitely the key to a happy married life. We’d cycle everywhere together staying in youth hostels when we were younger.
“It’s partly about attitude to life. Being out in the fresh air – that’s had us in good stead.
“We don’t have to go to the doctor very often.
“I just hope I’ll be able to ride forever and forever. I never want to give it up.”
Graham started riding when he was 10 years old as a way of traveling and getting out to see places he’d seen pictured in the paper.
Having had four tandems over the years, the couple have covered all corners of the UK – the Brecon Beacons and the Wye and Elan Valleys in Wales, Devon, Cornwall and up to Scotland and spending a week travelling to Land’s End and back again.
Graham said: “In the late sixties we took our bikes on the plane to Calgary in Canada and cycled over the Rocky Mountains – that was 890 miles and took three weeks.
“We’ve taken our bikes to New Zealand and clocked a thousand miles on that trip.”
The pair took their bikes to Bournemouth for their honeymoon, cycled around Ireland, France, Norway and Los Angeles while waiting for their flight to New Zealand.
The pair now have a partly electric tandem bike which tracks their miles – showing they’ve done 2,000 in the past 18 months.
Graham said: “We reckon we’ve done in excess of 200,000 miles over the years.”
And Betty credits it with helping her bounce back from a cancer scare five years ago.
Betty said: “I had bowel cancer in my eighties and because I was so fit from cycling I had the operation and was home within eight days. I didn’t have any side effects and didn’t have to have chemotherapy.
“When I went for my check-ups they were asking if I was still riding my bike and said that had put me in good stead for my recovery.
“I’ve still got the bike I bought in 1949. It’s a Ladies Carlton and cost £19. It was a lot of money at the time and I’d never part with it.
“As a family with four children we used to take part in cycling events. We once won the family race at York racecourse. That was marvellous.
“Our children have definitely caught the bug. Our son Gareth and his wife Gill took a six month sabbatical to cycle across New Zealand from Vancouver to the Mexican border covering 4,000 miles.”
Ian Atkinson, marketing director at over 50s experts SunLife said: “Our research shows that despite being together for at least 20 years on average, most couples aged 70 and over are still very much enjoying each other’s company.
“Graham and Betty are a wonderful example of how you can enjoy life even more in your 70s than ever before. And how a shared love for something – in their case, cycling – can be the basis for a long and happy relationship.”