WASHINGTON—Retiree Bill Cook is ready to sit back, put up his feet—and pedal 3,300 miles.
That'll start Thursday, when Cook, 70, settles onto his recumbent bike and rides 78 miles east from Seattle to Easton, Wash. Nearly seven weeks later, if all goes well, he'll end the longest bike ride of his life in Washington, D.C.
Cook, whose beefy arms and legs reflect a year's training, is the second oldest rider in the Adventure Cycling Association's 30th anniversary cross-country tour: The oldest is 73. Cook also is the only one of the 41 riders who's making the trip on a recumbent bike.
They'll camp out most nights and spend the rest in college dorms along a northerly route across the United States. Support vans will motor along with the bikers, carrying their gear and meals.
A veteran reporter and amateur videographer, Cook will document his trip on a Knight Ridder Web log combining video, audio and text, at http://washingtonbureau.typepad.com/bikeblog.
The tour will go through 12 states: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Cook, who designed bikes for fun while he worked for Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, designed the one he'll ride. It has a low-slung full seat with a back support at the rear of the bike, the pedals out in front and seat-high. The handlebars are between his legs.
While hard-core "roadies" often scorn recumbent bikes, Cook said, they're a lot more comfortable than traditional ones.
"We're seeing a growing number of people interested in recumbents," especially among older riders, said Jim Sayer, the executive director of the cycling association.
Recumbents are more aerodynamic than traditional bikes, Cook said. That should serve him well on the longest leg—a 120.1-mile stretch from Thompson Falls to Missoula, Mont., where late-July temperatures can top 100 degrees.
He expects his Pennsylvania days to be the most grueling, because the state's many hills come after weeks of mostly flat terrain. Hills are especially hard for recumbent riders, since their weight is toward the back and they can't stand on the pedals for extra oomph. Recumbents also generally weigh eight to 10 pounds more than regular road bikes, Cook said.
They cost more, too: His self-produced Dakota model starts at $1,995, whereas he estimates that a "pretty good" road bike sells for $1,000 to $1,500.
On the plus side, recumbents improve a rider's perspective, Sayer said.
"When you're on a regular bike, you look forward and down," he said. "On a recumbent, you recline and take in the big picture."
Cook plans to do just that—then share the pictures with the world.
For Cook's itinerary, go to:
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060620 BIKETOUR
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