July 7, 2020

Mark Lander, 78, bicyclist extraordinaire

By John Guy LaPlante

My dear friend Mark Lander back in Connecticut loves to pedal and pedal.

Sure, it’s not unusual for teenage boys to bicycle right into their 20’s and their 30’s and maybe even their 40’s. And then they run out of gas, so to speak.

Not Mark. He started biking in March, 1991. He remembers it that precisely — with the threat of snow nearly over.

Biking became his big thing. And he’s never stopped except in winter in the early years.

I lived in Connecticut a long time. I remember the winters.

Every time I post a blog, it’s 95 percent guaranteed I will get a comment back from him. I love to see his name in my Inbox. And it will be an interesting, enjoyable comment. He’s a very literate guy. Sometimes Mark will email to tell me the latest news about the town’s Historical Society. He’s a long-time member. He loves to research local history and write about this or that. Always fascinating. But remember. I’m writing this not because of that but for his bicycling. It’s been a Wow! accomplishment. Amazing.

He just sent me big news that I have long awaited. It’s so big that I am going to bold-face it.

Mark has just reached his 100,000th mile on two wheels!

The big moment occurred just as he pulled into his driveway. He celebrated with a cup of coffee.

How about that?

Mark is a retired high school French teacher. He majored in French at the University of Connecticut.

There’s nothing French about him except love of the language and the culture.

Now some details about his thousands of miles of pedaling. He emailed them to me. Really fascinating.

He started biking not as a kid, which you would expect. He started in March, 1991. He took it up as a replacement for running (knees) and power walking (boring).

He was still working at that time.

His early goal was to ride as often, as much and for as long as he could. His schedule limited him to warm weather weekends and school vacations (April – November). By the time he retired in1999, he had reached almost 15,000 miles.

Then he started riding year-round, subject only to weather. 

His new goal:  To ride farther each month than he had in the same month a year earlier. It worked more often than not.

His annual mileage gradually crept up:  2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 (five times), 6,000 (once).

I’d love to know how many hours on his bike seat that 6,000 miles adds up to.

He reached 50,000 in August, 2007. That was worth celebrating. But he didn’t tell me how.

He then determined that 100,000 was possible.

In that time he rode in about 250 towns and14 states plus the District of Columbia.

He pedaled in four countries:  USA, Canada, Holland, and France. Has been to France often.

He has used four primary bikes, each one replaced by an upgrade. His current bike is a hybrid.

I didn’t know what a hybrid is. I looked it up. Seems to be a very strong but very basic and light-weight bike — no fenders or anything like that — with the seat quite a few inches higher than the handlebar. You visualize that?

It made me think of a racing bike more than an over-the-road bike.

I wish I had a photo of him and his bike. I’m sure you’d like to see what he looks like. I’d love to see what he looks like.

He told me he wasn’t up to taking a picture and emailing it to me. I understand that.

He said he survived two crashes but was back on the bike within days, despite injuries.

Best day:  85 miles
Best week:  350 miles
Best month:  802 miles
Best year:  6,100
Longest overall ride:  About 350 miles — from Newport, Vermont, to Connecticut in five days.
Most interesting ride:  The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, 184 miles, paralleling the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. I believe he started in Cumberland.
Worst ride:  20 miles in a blinding rainstorm
His lifetime average:  Approximately 3,400 miles per year. Which is just about what he is biking now.

In his statistics I wish he had given his monthly totals.

His pet peeve:  Drivers and other cyclists who don’t understand the rules of the road as they pertain to cyclists. Plus cyclists who don’t wear helmets.

His future resolve is the same — to keep riding as often as he can, as much as he can, and as long as he can.

He says maybe he’ll switch to a trike. Or a tricycle recumbent.

He is well aware that I, a two-wheel biker into my 70’s, pedal my wonderful trike through the neighborhood every fair afternoon. Especially now in these days of Covid-19. The fresh air and the exercise are wonderful.

Then he surprised me:  Maybe he’ll get an e-bike somewhere “down the road.”

That’s a bike with an electric assist. You can turn it on to ease the pedaling.

I say to him, “Go for it, Mark!”

That’s the smart thing to do for an old guy starting his second 100,000 miles on two wheels in not so flat Connecticut.

I consider his accomplishment inspirational. Might spur other older men to take up cycling to stay fit. Yes, sir.

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