- Written by Lori Van Ingen Lori Van Ingen
Recreational bicycling has become a way of life for Marilyn and Barry Gelsinger.
“What I like most (about cycling) is the exercise and association with other people,” 74-year-old Barry said.
Marilyn, 71, said bicycling helps her “relieve stress. I always feel better when I’m out in the fresh air.”
“It’s a lot more enjoyable (to bike ride along trails and open roads) than to go to a gym and ride a stationary bike,” Barry said.
When Barry retired in 1995, the Gelsingers would ride once in a while to get some aerobic exercise. Barry began bicycling in earnest in 1996 after he had a quadruple heart bypass.
They started cycling on mountain bikes, averaging 10-12 miles per hour. They rode along numerous trails, such as Pine Creek Rail Trail and Valley Forge Rail Trail. Because they were riding on rough roads, they had to look out for rocks, Marilyn said.
By 1997, the couple joined an area bicycle club and soon found they loved peddling out on the open country roads, trading their mountain bikes for road bikes, the lightweight type used during the Tour de France.
The Gelsingers carry a GPS specifically for bicycling. That way, if they get separated from their group of cyclists, they can always find their way back, Marilyn said.
They also carry a bike computer that shows how many miles they’ve traveled, how fast they are going, and their average speed.
When they first joined the bike club, Barry would ride around the area 20 miles a day, five days a week. Since Marilyn was still working, she would join him on the weekends for another 20-mile ride.
Now, they ride by themselves five days a week for a breakfast ride and with the bike club on weekends. The couple will sometimes get in 17 miles before the actual club ride begins, clocking 40-70 miles total on Wednesdays alone.
Socializing also was a big reason they joined the bike club and have continued to enjoy it. The organization has grown from 400 to more than 650 members from neighboring counties.
“There’s always someone to ride with,” Barry said.
And, Marilyn added, “We ride to eat. We always wind up eating somewhere.”
That was particularly true of the Apple Butter Ride they participated in at Liverpool, Perry County, which culminated in a potpie supper, cake, and pie.
The Gelsingers enjoyed riding with the bike club so much that Barry became the club’s president from 1998 to 2003. During those years, Barry would take rides with all classes of bicyclists, from the very slow to the very fast riders.
Besides the local rides, the bicycle club has organized rides to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Before 9/11, you could ride through the academy,” Marilyn said.
The club members also participated in the Seagull Century Ride, traveling 100 miles in one day to Salisbury, Maryland, and the Shoofly Classic in Oley, Berks County.
The Gelsingers have taken part in rides throughout the United States, too. They were among 25,000 riders to participate in the Five Boro Bike Tour, riding across all the bridges in New York City, and the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
In early 2000, they rode across the country from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida, with six other members of the bike club. They averaged 68 miles per day on the six-week journey.
“A support vehicle, a 15-passenger van, drove with us so that we could have snacks, or if we were tired we could go on the van,” Marilyn said.
In 2001, the Gelsingers also were supposed to participate in a ride with then-Gov. Ridge, who is a bicyclist, but President Bush called Ridge up to head Homeland Security at that time. So in 2002, Gov. Mark Schweiker and his daughter rode with them.
Bicycling has become so ingrained in the Gelsingers’ everyday lives that each year when they winter in Yuma, Arizona, they make sure their bikes come along with them as they have joined the Foothills Bicycle Club there, too.
One unforgettable ride with that bike club was when Barry traveled from International Falls, Minnesota, to San Luis, Mexico—2,300 miles—in just 35 days.
“We had no side vehicle. We carried everything with us,” Barry said. “We started with seven people and ended with five.”
In 2002, the pair completed 108-mile Tour de Tucson in less than nine hours, earning them a silver medal in the competition. And a bicycling excursion through California took them across San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
“The bike lane had a fence separating the bike riders from the lanes of traffic, so we felt comfortable riding our bikes,” Gelsinger said. “At the top of the bridge it got very windy, but the view was great!”
The Gelsingers crossed the Atlantic with members of the bicycle club in 2007 for a bike tour through Holland and Belgium.
“We were impressed with the huge number of bicyclists in Amsterdam,” Marilyn said. “We saw a parking garage that held 5,000 bikes!”
Another memorable ride was through Cuba, from Havana to the western tip of the country. Barry’s parents had taken him on vacation to Cuba in 1953, and he always wanted to go back.
“When (President) Obama opened relations with Cuba again, I wanted to do a bike trip there,” he said.
Marilyn vividly recalls how “terrible the roads were. They were full of potholes. You had to keep looking at the road so you wouldn’t get a flat tire.”
But, she continued, the Cuban people were very friendly and they enjoyed talking with them.
The Gelsingers plan to continue cycling locally and across the country and would encourage anyone of any age to start cycling.
But, they advised, new cyclists should always wear a helmet—and they should take a bike course, which trains new cyclists how to ride in traffic safely.