For decades, Steve Fishbaugh was a jogger, but by the time he hit his mid-50s, he started getting cramps in his calves, and the running had to stop.
But at age 58, Fishbaugh got the notion that if he couldn’t run, he could ride a bike – for the first time since he was a child.
And so he did, starting out on the Rivergreenway, riding about 15 miles every other day.
Being a corporate pilot, accustomed to keeping detailed logbooks of his time in the air, he did the same thing with his leisurely bicycle rides. The idea, at first, at least, was to track his miles so he could determine how long a chain lasts and other technical issues.
In time, Fishbaugh rode more, settling on riding up to 35 miles every other day. He even rode in winter if it wasn’t too icy, and then he discovered tires with little suction cups on them that prevented slipping on ice.
Now he had no excuse not to ride.
He discovered something else: Other people on bikes.
People were coming from out of town to ride the paths, he said. He ran into one woman on what he recognized as a rented bike. She was here on business from Minneapolis, a place full of bike fanatics who ride when bears sleep, and even she pronounced the local bikeways good.
Even more significant, Fishbaugh, who would hop on his bike to go get coffee and sometimes take side trips on the greenway through neighborhoods far from home, discovered he was racking up the miles. One year, he realized that in a single month during the summer he had ridden his bike 1,100 miles.
That’s the payoff for keeping a detailed cycling log.
Late last month, Fishbaugh, who is now 63 and retired, realized he had hit a significant milestone. From the time he started riding at 58 to the last week of last month, Fishbaugh had pedaled 25,000 miles, almost all of it on the Rivergreenway.
By any measure, that’s a lot of miles: once around the earth, more than eight times across the country, or a dozen trips to Florida and back.
Dawn Ritchie, the Rivergreenway’s manager for the city, said she’s heard of people who put in 3,000 or 4,000 miles a year on bikes, with a lot of those miles being ridden on the greenway. But the 25,000 figure over the course of five years surprised her.
Fishbaugh, though, suggests he’s far from alone. There are plenty of people out there, cranking out miles every day. The only difference is that some of the other riders don’t keep a detailed logbook.
Fishbaugh isn’t finished, either. Now, he says, his goal is to hit 50,000 miles by his 70th birthday, and 100,000 miles by his 80th birthday.
It’s not an unrealistic goal. Plenty of people stay engaged in serious cycling until their 80s, so a few miles a day should be no problem.
The real question is not how long Fishbaugh will last, but how long his bike will.