I ran into all the desert obstacles possible and crashed a number of times.
Roy Sidles is a retired auto mechanic who still putters with his Citroen and enjoys taking his wife, Margaret, for an occasional ride in his Triumph Mayflower sedan. But he puts more miles on his 15-speed bicycle. Sidles and a small group of friends and relatives celebrated his 75th birthday recently with a 75-mile bike ride. The Sidles live in Sun Valley.
I only lacked three of the requisites for being a first-class race-car driver. One of them was the money, and I didn’t have that much talent, and I didn’t have much guts.
I did have an XK-120 back in 1953 when they were quite an oddity in the automotive field. I drove that in drag races and time trials, but I never got involved in the racing.
My first motorcycle was a street machine, a great big thundering Harley Davidson, which had me outweighed by about 5 to 1. I rode that to and from work in downtown Los Angeles back in 1939.
Along about 1960, I became interested in off-road riding. The longer you’re involved in it, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the faster you go, and the faster you go, the more exciting it is. It’s just a sporting thing.
Once in a while you come up into a situation and say, “Oh, God, get me out of this and I’ll never do it again.” You’re whizzing along this unfamiliar trail, and you come up to the crest of a sharp rise and expect that the trail will go straight ahead and it doesn’t go straight ahead. You have absolutely no control because you’re airborne. You see a pile of rocks with some bushes in it, and that’s when you wish you hadn’t done that.
One of the worst things I ever got involved in was when I attempted to ride the Barstow-Vegas cross-country event, 170-plus miles. At that time, I was about 55 or so, and I was in way over my head. I ran into all the desert obstacles possible and crashed a number of times. I broke two ribs. I broke the fuel tank on my bike. I lost the exhaust silencer. I tore up one of my boots, and I ended up with a flat tire on the front wheel. I camped overnight in the desert until some people came by and picked me up. The club I was riding with awarded me a trophy for camping out overnight.
I decided that I should be doing something not quite so likely to result in serious injury. So then I got into bicycling. That was about 10 years ago.
A young fellow, neighbor at the time, gave me a girl’s three-speed bicycle, complete with basket on the front. It wasn’t in riding condition, but I reconditioned it and started riding it. I needed exercise because I was recovering from an illness
Starting out, I could ride from the driveway to the next intersection and down to the corner and back. I kept extending it until finally I was doing probably five or six miles. I started upgrading bicycles, and riding became easier. I ended up with a 15-speed with very low gearing that allows me to go up any of the hills.
I got to where I was doing 50 miles in one day. I thought it was pretty extraordinary at the time. The first time I rode a hundred miles was about four years ago.
Once one has been over a demanding route, the second time over it is much less difficult. It has to do with the gain in physical ability and the psychology; knowing that, “Hey, I can handle it.”
Group riding is much more gratifying than solo riding in that you have the reinforcements. You have the support. I’m active in the Los Angeles Wheelmen, and we have a small group that’s identified as the Griffith Park bunch. We’re mostly retirees. We meet on Wednesdays and Sundays at Traveltown, and then we make rides from there and return.
Last Sunday, I rode a club event from Malibu to Camarillo and then to Oxnard and made a loop back to Camarillo again and then returned to Malibu, which was 105 miles. That’s the most difficult that I’ve done so far.
It’s a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a macho thing in that you say, “Hey, how many great-grandpas out there are doing a hundred miles a day on a bicycle?”