Welcome to our bi-monthly contribution from The Bikesmith, Jim Steffen. Twice a month he’ll highlight a local bike enthusiast and get their perspective on riding in Memphis. Leave your nominations in the comments.
Is there any Memphis biker that has more heart than Gary Zyriek? Gary dug deep and rode over 400 miles in 24 hours for the St. Jude Ride. And if that wasn’t enough he was also the highest single fundraiser, raising more than $2800 for the St. Jude kids. I feel honored and inspired to know him and wish he weren’t so funny, so I that could have one thing that I am better at than he is.
There have been rumors about me being a cyborg, but nothing has been confirmed yet. However, I am known to walk around and set off metal detectors wherever I go, so it’s possible. A moderate amount of insanity is involved in doing a 24 hour race. To do this race solo you have to focus more on strategy, mental fortitude, and proper planning than absolute fitness. If you fuel and pace yourself properly you can ride forever, as long as you refuse to quit.
How do you train for something like the St. Jude Ride?
Although it may seem intimidating, training for a 24 hour race only requires 1-2 really long rides per week. I started training 12 weeks out from the event where my long ride started at 3 hours (57 miles). My longest ride 10 weeks later was 8 hours or about 150 miles.
I would say the hardest single week is where I had to stack a 6 hour Saturday ride against a 4 hour Sunday ride.
Otherwise, the rides followed a formula of “long ride Saturday; not so long Sunday.”
However, the longer rides were the ones that proved to be most fun because I plotted out maps to see just where I could explore. I took backroads to Grand Junction, TN (home of the National Bird Dog Museum), found out that Michigan City, MS only looks big on a map, and discovered that in some places the Tennessee-Mississippi state line is just a white stripe painted in the road. I made friends on the roadside and at gas stations from Moscow to Somerville. The adventures made me feel like a kid when they discover the freedom a bike offers.
I know you have an awesome cheering section. At the St. Jude Ride, I saw your wife hand you a bottle and you grab it without stopping. Does your family know you are a cyborg?
They don’t buy my cyborg claims. I’ve asked them to call me The Terminator for years but they only laugh at me.
You learn the tricks to saving energy such as grabbing bottles without slowing down. There is also “relieving” yourself off the bike but that requires a little more dexterity.
I had an incredible support team – my wife, Lisa. She’s a one-person army. She stayed awake with me the full 24 hours to make sure I was eating, drinking, and regularly changing into clean, dry clothes. She played the role of equipment manager, cheerleader, and food caterer. Without her support and encouragement, I would not even consider taking on this event!
You also were the highest single-participant fundraiser for the St. Jude Ride. How did you get interested in helping the kids of St. Jude?
One summer, during college, I rode nearly 4,000 miles across the United States – San Francisco, CA to Charleston, SC – to raise money and awareness for severely handicapped children. Riding for a cause is something that brings me tremendous happiness. I love Memphis and St. Jude is a significant part of what makes Memphis special. When Danny Thomas said “no child should die in the dawn of life”, that touched me. If there is anything I can do so that a child defeats cancer I will put everything I can into it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin biking in Memphis and doesn’t know where to start?
The Memphis cycling community is a supportive and inclusive group. I point new riders to The Memphis Hightailers (Tulio Bertorini, president). They have a diverse group of riders, promote organized cycling events, and also have many group rides that are great for riders of all levels.
Josh Jacobs (fellow 24 hour rider and manager of Peddler Bike Shop – Southaven) loves to help cyclists. He leads MTB rides, trips to the Tanglefoot Trail, and has even started Tuesday/Thursday indoor trainer rides at the Southaven Peddler location. Ask him about the “disco lights intervals.”
Once you’re ready for some fast riding or trying your hand at racing you have to contact Dale Sanford or Bryant Funston with the BPC Cycling Team.
And finally, can you teach me how to ride a wheelie?
Absolutely! However, my wheelies are a tad unorthodox. I do mine over the front wheel and they usually end with a face plant. I’m getting a mountain bike so you’ll have lots of opportunities to witness this feat.