29 Mar 22 - Resident stories

Pedal power

For Brian Frost (better known as Frostie), cycling is simply a way of life. Come rain, hail or shine, the Summerset Palms resident clocks up at least 30km a day on his bike, and reckons there’s no better feeling than the freedom of whizzing around on two wheels.

Frostie was well into his 60s before he caught the cycling bug. He had just come back from a long European trip, the holiday lifestyle had taken a toll on his waistline, and a friend’s good-natured jokes had given him the push he needed to get exercising. “My friend said to me, ‘What have you been doing mate, you’re as fat as a pig! You’re coming on a bike ride with me.’ Eventually that led to me doing the Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge, a beautiful 162km ride around the lake. After that I was well and truly hooked.”

Since then, Frostie has tackled some of the country’s best trails and cycling races, and completed several cycling trips overseas. These days, the 80-year-old still does about 15,000km a year on his bike. He’s no longer interested in competitions, but instead cycles for the pure joy of being on the open road. “It’s a real pleasure, having that feeling of absolute freedom. Cycling is my thinking space.”

He sets out on his bike every morning, whatever the weather, and sometimes squeezes in another ride in the evening, too. And with his trademark giant teddy bear attached to the handlebars, Frostie’s a familiar sight around Napier roads.

“The teddy thing came about when everyone was putting teddy bears in their windows during the first Covid lockdown,” he says. “I started putting one on the front of my bike, and he’s been riding with me ever since. The kids love it, and I often see people do a double take! I think if you can bring a smile to someone’s face, then why not?”

But if there’s one thing Frostie won’t do, it’s cycle slowly. “I belt around at 35kph most of the time. I don’t do pottering – that drives me nuts! I don’t really like cycling with a group; I prefer to be on my own.”

The affable bike fanatic says his favourite rides from his earlier days include the Round the Mountain Race in New Plymouth, the Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge, and the Around Brunner Cycle Ride on the West Coast. Further afield, he says Scotland was another stunning place to explore on two wheels.

“My wife Shirley and I went right down the Western Isles, including Skye and the Isle of Mull, and it was just beautiful. We had a tent with us and thought we would camp our way around, which was a stupid idea, come to think of it. On the first night we woke up and there was ice on the inside of the tent! After that we sent the tent back home and stayed in backpacker hostels for the rest of the trip.”

On the English leg of the same bike tour, Frostie was even able to meet his mum for the first time. “I had researched where she lived and a friend of ours had called her to say I was coming. It was a bit of a crazy time. I almost didn’t do it; Shirley had to just about hit me with a cattle prod to make me knock on the door! I’m still in touch with that side of the family.”

Frostie and his wife Shirley

Frostie, who previously worked in radio for nearly 40 years, reckons his sunny outlook on life has helped him through plenty of tough times, including challenges on the bike. “You just do what you have to do. When you’re cycling, if it’s tough going and you’ve got sore legs, don’t think about it, just do it! I think the same thing often applies to life in general.”

And for a man with such a zest for life, it’s almost ironic that Frostie has spent the past 11 years officiating at funerals. Despite “just falling into the job”, he’s overseen more than 800 services so far. “After meeting with the family and learning about their wishes, I often write the service in my head while I’m out cycling,” he says. “I don’t find it sad. I see it as a way to help people.”

  • Get involved with a local cycle group. There are plenty of them around, they welcome newcomers and they have great advice on the best rides for novices.

  • Stick to flat terrain when you’re starting out.

  • Start a bike ride heading into the wind – it’s no good cycling into the wind when you’re tired on the way back!

  • If you’re keen to keep going, having some decent equipment makes a world of difference. Head to your local bike shop and have a chat with the staff about the best options for you.

This is an article from the Autumn 2022 edition of Summerset Scene magazine

Click here to read the full issue