A Long Ride


Fishers man bikes 2,730 miles on coast-to-coast biking trip

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

We hear the phrase “bucket list” tossed around a lot these days. People have all kinds of things they want to see or do before they die. It might be to visit an iconic site somewhere in the world, or perhaps it’s attending baseball games in every Major League ballpark, or maybe it’s to run the New York Marathon. For Ken Shearer of Fishers, it was biking on a coast-to-coast cycling trip.

Biking is not unusual for Shearer. He’s been doing it for more than 40 years. And not just short rides around the neighborhood like most people either – he rides 30 or 40 miles a day, all year long if the weather permits.

“It was a health thing partly. I was also a runner until about 10 years ago. I kind of did biking and running alternately. I ran the mini numerous times. I ran a marathon over in Terre Haute three times back in the ’80s. Then I just got into the bicycling,” he says.

Shearer, a retired engineer, bought his first real bicycle in 1972 and rode it for 30 years before deciding to trade it in for something lighter. He eventually wound up building his own bike. His first long, organized cycling event was a week-long camping ride in Iowa which he participated in for seven years. After that came rides in Wisconsin, Utah and a rural Indiana route.

And then he was inspired to go even further. He read about a middle school teacher in Los Angeles who got five of his students to do a coast-to-coast ride with him starting in Washington, D.C. It was a grueling ride because they carried their own gear and did their own camping and cooking.

“And they were a bunch of middle school students,” says Shearer who adds, “I thought I’d at least like to try something like that before I go.”

He found lots of choices online but many involved the ride participants doing their own shopping, cooking and camping after a long day of cycling. So Shearer settled on a group called “Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers” who do that work for their riders which allows them to just concentrate on the ride.

So, on March 8 of this year, at the age of 72, Shearer set off for San Diego where he joined up with 41 other riders for a seven-week-long biking adventure that led them through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – ending in St. Augustine on April 28.

Shearer averaged 64 miles per day on his bike. “I only go about 12 to 13 miles an hour. A lot of the people on the tour who have done an awful lot of long, long touring ride much faster. So I was kind of bringing up the rear in a lot of cases. Then they’d party around. I’m not as much of a partier. I enjoy people but I don’t like to just sit around and drink; not that they were obnoxious or anything,” he says.

Along the way, he and about 70 percent of the riders came down with a noro-virus that put him out of commission for a couple of days. But it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the ride.

There was one thing that stands out to him about the trip.

“The people I rode with. The people in the group came from a variety of backgrounds – two countries in addition to the U.S. There was a couple from the Netherlands that came over just to do this. And there was a fella from British Columbia who recently finished a ride from St. Petersburg, Russia to Lisbon,” says Shearer.

He takes his accomplishment in stride.

“People say ‘boy, you’re really something; you can do a cross country’. But let me tell you, after about the first third of the ride it became very routine. It’s like it’s what you do. You get up in the morning, eat and get on your bike, finish, eat again and go to bed. So you don’t even think about it. Of course, it’s more attractive than that because you’re seeing all sorts of different things,” he says and adds “the nice thing about bicycling is that you get a lot closer to things than you can in a car.”

For those of you who need inspiration, Shearer wasn’t the oldest on his bike trip either. There were two 75 year olds and the youngest rider was 56. The most important thing that he got out of the trip, he says, was knowing that he could do it.

“I had grave doubts. It was a bucket list thing,” he said. “I kept thinking: could I really do it? So this proved to me that I could. Just keep plodding along.”

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