On a bicycle built for one

| 20 Sep 2012 | 01:34

— When Jim Grady stows his bike away for the night he checks in with his family. His wife, Ann Marie, waits for his call. The Grady’s have been married for 47 years, he’s 73 years old and we’re not talking about a pleasure ride around the neighborhood. His last big ride was a six-day jaunt around New Jersey.
Grady, a Bald Eagle Commons resident, is the father of three and the grandfather of eight. His wife does not ride. “She puts up with it,” Grady said.
A semi-retired certified public accountant, Grady teaches accounting part time at Berkeley College. Raised in Dumont, he biked a lot as a kid. “It was our means of transportation, a bus or a bike,” he said.
When he was 37 years old he read somewhere that it was at around this age that you start to lose your inhibitions. Thinking that riding would be great for weight control, he left his own inhibitions behind and took to the saddle again. During the first year he racked up 300 miles. Getting into it he felt healthier, he upgraded his bikes and last year he put 4,020 miles on his wheels.

Taking in the sites

Since 1981 Grady has belonged to the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey, which offers approximately 1,000 rides each year. A couple of weeks ago, Grady, who sometimes serves as a tour leader, rode in a 42-mile trip around West Milford.
The club plans out varied tours in different locals. They provide a description of the terrain and the daily mileage challenge.
“You end up riding with people of your own ability,” Grady said. He leads many of the West Milford rides. “New people can just show up and join the ride,” he said.
Riding around the hills and lakes of West Milford is one thing, but Grady’s 483-mile bicycle ride this summer was a horse, or a bike, of a different color. That tour touched on all 21 counties of New Jersey, the ride averaging 72 miles per day.
The tour originated and ended in West Milford. Along with three other riders, Grady began his trip on June 25, touching on seven counties and biking 90 miles the first day.
“It rained in the afternoon but we have a destination so we keep going,” he said. The bikers take turns choosing the route and making all the decisions for the day’s ride.
Staying in motels along the way, the group rode from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. They travel light, carrying only necessities; a few changes of clothing, toiletries and repair kits. “Anything you carry you have to carry uphill” is the mind set.
Riding a Trek Touring bike with saddle bags and heavy duty tires, Grady said that he felt well and energized on the trip - and he dropped five pounds.
One day during the trip the mercury soared to 99 degrees and as they were pedaling through Clinton Grady felt he had gone as far as he could go. Close to heat prostration, a friendly driver picked him up and took him to his motel. Sometimes, he said, you’re out in the boondocks with no place to stop and cool off.
Out on the open road Grady enjoys the feeling of being one with the bike and the elements and he enjoys the challenge. The group rides close together for safety and they stop when they need to. “Mainly, you don’t want to run out of water,” he said.
When they arrive at their motel they may take a dip in the pool. They have dinner, take a walk to keep the muscles loose, then early to bed for a sound night’s sleep.

International rider

As a senior biker, Grady has his physician’s blessing to take on these long-distance rides. The doctor has sanctioned his rides with the caution of not over-doing it.
He has ridden in Niagara Falls, Canada, Boston, Washington DC, Virginia and even went across the ocean for a ride through Ireland. Riding on the other side of the road felt strange, but the scenery made that tour worthwhile.
Grady highly recommends bicycle riding. “It’s a non-pounding, non-impact sport. It doesn’t hurt your knees or your back, you just use your muscles,” he said.
He rides about four days a week around town, constantly in training. He also hikes with a group from Bald Eagle Commons and has conquered 11 of the 13 local peaks. When not physically engaged, he enjoys the less demanding art of creating stained glass pieces.
This very active senior doesn’t just talk the talk. “As soon as we get off the phone I’m off to ride on Clinton Road,” he said.
For more information on the touring club go to www.btcnj.com.