Senior cyclist's passion is long-distance riding

Sunday, June 12, 2011 | 5:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Wearing a bright yellow bicycle jersey, tight black shorts and the number 246 on his chest, Columbia resident Dan Clinkinbeard arrived back at Hatton McCredie Elementary School, the starting point of the cycling events at this weekend's Missouri State Senior Games. Still catching his breath after a 10-kilometer time trial, he loaded his bike into his white pickup truck.

Clinkinbeard, who competed in the 60-to-64 age division Sunday, said the short-distance racing featured in competition at the senior games doesn’t play to his strengths.

“This is fast,” Clinkinbeard said. “This is hard on me because I have to go anaerobic, and I don’t train to go anaerobic very often. But I can ride a long way easy.”

While he comes to the senior games to race annually, Clinkinbeard’s real passion is long-distance riding. Since he began cycling about 30 years ago, Clinkinbeard has been across the world on his bike, including much of the United States, Italy and Canada.

“When you bike Highway 101 and through Redwood Forest and Rocky Mountains and Glacier Park, you see beautiful country on a bike,” he said. “Now when you’re whizzing by in a car at 65 mph, you think you see it, but you don’t.”

In 2008, Clinkinbeard and a friend rode the Pony Express Trail from Sacramento, Calif., to St. Joseph in 15 days at a rate of 150 miles per day. The trek was different than some of Clinkinbeard’s other rides because it included the luxury of pit stops at motels. The friend he rode the Pony Express with did not subscribe to Clinkinbeard’s unorthodox rest locations.

“What I usually do is I ride on until I get sleepy, and I keep a little emergency blanket with me,” Clinkinbeard explained. “And what I normally do, is I get into a little town, and I find the post office at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I go into the post office and I sleep until six o’clock. Then I get up and go.”

Clinkinbeard said he doesn't limit himself to post offices. When he traveled along a trail from Kansas City to St. Louis in 26 hours, he slept for three hours at a laundromat in Hermann.

In addition to the enjoyment and excitement of riding, Clinkinbeard appreciates the physical effects of cycling on his body. He called cycling his "Fountain of Youth."

“I was about 30 years old, and one day I couldn’t buckle my pants,” Clinkinbeard said. “And I decided I’m going to have to change my lifestyle or buy new pants. We’re going to get old and going to die, but it’s quality of life.”

Clinkinbeard took two bronze medals at this year’s Senior Games and called his effort “decent.” With short-distance racing behind him for another year, Clinkinbeard is looking forward to his next long-distance expedition.

“Some people like to go fast and win and beat people,” Clinkinbeard said. “When you get over 30 and 40, you just want to have a good time, and that’s what I try to do.”

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