No Excuses! How a Tenacious 66-Year-Old Achieved His 5,458-Mile Cycling Goal

Posted 02/23/15 by David Ira Kagan in Success Stories

David Ira Kagan immediately after achieving his 2014 goal of riding 5,458 miles | Photo courtesy David Ira Kagan

With the New Year just past us and Heart Month (February) upon us, we thought this post by contributor David Ira Kagan was very appropriate.

For some of us, the cold reality of winter is enough to stop us in our tracks…curtailing our grand plans to get out on the trail and be more physically active. But not so for Kagan, who, despite numerous health issues and some sporadic East Coast weather—managed to achieve his 2014 biking goal of 5,458 miles.

And as you’ll learn in this blog, there were lots of challenges…and lots of rewards. 

I did it. I met my goal for the year.

On Dec. 22, 2014, I completed a 12-mile bicycle ride—a final excursion that brought my mileage for the year to 5,458, one more mile than I pedaled back in 2010.

Pine Creek Rail Trail | Photo by David Ira Kagan

On this very cold and windy outing—I cycled the final 12 miles on the Pine Creek Rail Trail, which is readily accessible from my home in Torbert Village a few miles above the Jersey Shore. I went north six miles to a bench between the villages of Ramsey and Waterville before turning around for the home-stretch ride. It was exhilarating, with the anticipation of reaching my goal growing stronger with each revolution of the wheels.

I must have looked a sight, but it didn’t matter; I was the only person crazy enough to be out on the trail that day...unless you count the birds, and perhaps a bear or deer, for which I was probably a rare winter’s day vision: woolen socks, thermal-wear under long pants, two long-sleeved shirts, two sweatshirts, a windbreaker, two pairs of gloves and a woolen cap.

Take that, winter!

I was smiling and proud as I reeled off those last few miles. I counted down—three, two, one—flying down past Camp Kline and a harvested corn field, on the Torbert Village bridge over Pine Creek, and then a final 200 yards down Torbert Lane, reaching exactly 5,458 miles at my doorstep.

Type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, a “frozen” right shoulder, spinal stenosis, degenerative-disc disease, a degree of arthritis—despite these health issues, I managed to turn the wheels of my bicycle more than 4 million times this year. And I’m sure that my health is the better for it. I did not have a single cold all year long! And, although I am 66 years old, I feel like I’m in my 20s when I’m out on the trail!

What memories from my year of cycling…most of it on the rail-trail in all kinds of weather.

A beautiful summer day, the temperature in the mid-70s, when I rode 90 miles from my house to just above a trail called the Turkey Path (five miles below Darling Run) and back.

The not-so-beautiful days: pedaling 20 miles through a torrential downpour from Cedar Run to Waterville; being caught in a lightning storm just a mile from home; cycling through a snow squall between Torbert Village and Jersey Shore.

Two bear cubs on the Pine Creek Rail Trail | Screen capture from a video by David Ira Kagan

The exhilarating moments: soaring at 20 miles per hour, with a lovely tailwind, through the Pine Creek Gorge toward Blackwell. Seeing—and filming—a black bear and two cubs crossing the trail just above Dry Run Comfort Station a couple miles below Jersey Mills. Spotting a rattlesnake on top of a copperhead just behind me at a bench. Drinking Yuengling lager and wolfing down a Reuben sandwich at the Waterville Tavern, after a hard day’s ride.

I’m convinced that setting goals in life is important. Even more important is striving hard to reach those goals—overcoming the inevitable obstacles and setbacks, and not giving up. And most rewarding, of course: the moment when those goals are attained. The moral of my story: Don’t allow excuses to keep you from trying!

For 2015, I have set a new goal for myself. I expect to cycle at least 5,459 miles this year…one more than last year.

Call them goals or New Year’s resolutions; but whatever, make them—and commit yourself to fulfilling them! Strive daily toward a goal that gives meaning to the hours of your life.

See you out on the Pine Creek Rail Trail!

On Feb. 23, Dave gave us an update. He said: "After today’s ride (my wife and I have been out in Palm Springs, Calif., since Jan. 2), I now have cycled almost 900 miles so far in 2015, way ahead of last year’s record-breaking pace!" 

Way to go, Dave!

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