Just Keep Pedaling: How This 91-Year-Old Became a Record-Breaking Cyclist
Biking in the Beginning
“I saw a very small, fixed gear two-wheel bike; I’m sure it was the cheapest thing,” Grove recalls.
He was about 6 years old and his father, a barber during the Great Depression, was making just enough to buy it for him at $1.25.
“On the way home I got on it and my dad gave me a push and I went riding down the road. It was a natural ability to balance, I guess. That’s the very first thing I remember.”
After then, he always had a bike, even into his teenage years.
“Bicycles were important things,” he says. “I rode it to work on my paper route, six days a week. I had 160 customers. Rain or shine, I didn’t care, I pedaled the papers every day.”
At 19 he put his bike away, joined the U.S. Navy and became a member of the Navy’s band as a solo saxophonist. He toured and performed with the band in Washington D.C. until he retired in his 40s, moving back to Indiana to settle into family life. It was then he got back into biking, starting with his first lightweight bike, a Schwinn Super Sport.
Riding as a Passion
“There was a chance for me to ride with a group,” he shares. “All these guys were teenagers or in their early 20s and I was about 40 years old. They were a bunch of tough guys, and it was really good training for somebody my age. Not knowing anything about it, I joined some races and had fun. For several years, I rode to keep myself in condition.”
While he was still riding as a hobby, Grove still made sure he challenged himself. Every year, he made a pact to ride his birthday mileage.
“If I was turning 70, I would ride 70 miles in a day,” he says. “For anybody to do anything and do it well, you have to have goals.”
This drive to do more is what pushed him to look into expert training. When Grove turned 80, he bought a racing bike and signed up for a bike camp in Pennsylvania organized by professional bikers.
“I walked in the place, and there were all these younger guys,” he remembers. “I think they were surprised. It was a real extensive riding and training program. They taught us how to ride down mountains, how to corner, how to do all those things you’d need to know.”
Even with intense week-long training, Grove excelled.
“It didn’t take long for me to be incorporated into the group because I wasn’t what they expected an 80-year-old to be,” he said.
From there, he asked for additional training and, with his coaches, decided he could tackle major races. To run his first official race, he met up with an old friend and coach, Bruce Gordon.
“He [Gordon] talked me into doing the nationals, and that was a real eye-opener,” he says. “It was 105 degrees. I entered the 20K time trial, about a 13-mile ride, and I remember getting on the line and the first half was a climb. I saw all kinds of guys who couldn’t handle it, but I can handle the heat. So, I took off and went, passed all the guys in my age group and I got my first national record for a 20K time trial. I beat my age group and the age group below me. That set me up for knowing I could do this.”
Just Keep Pedaling
Since then, he’s continued to ride and break records. The August after his 91st birthday, he broke the record for Best Hour Performance at the Colorado Springs Velodrome with a distance of 21.44 miles, but he says the records and awards aren’t what keeps him riding.
“It’s about the accomplishment,” he reveals. “It’s personal for me. I give all my shirts and medals to the grandchildren and people who want them because I’ve got tons of them.”
He also credits the support of his coaches and family, alongside his life’s philosophy, with keeping him young enough to bike competitively.
“Number one, I hang out with younger people; number two, I just keep pedaling,” he says.
“As you get older, your world closes down. You can’t let that happen. Look around, live in the present. Do things, meet people, get out, stay alive, eat right. The main thing is you’ve got to want to do something, and you’ve got to set your goals.”
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