By Nancy Tannler
Just as we are waking up, we sometimes catch a glimpse of our neighbor Larry Kirby returning from his daily exercise – riding his elliptical bike. On February 24 of this year, he hit 24,901 miles. In other words, he rode around the world. Kirby has been riding for 2,031 days logging 2,084 hours. Way to go Larry!
Larry is the fourth of six children who grew up in Fossil, Oregon. His parents were from Hood River where is mother’s family were some of the first pioneers. When he was a baby, his dad got transferred to Fossil. They thought it would only be for a year, but the place got a hold on them and they ended up staying for forty years.
“Fossil was a great place to grow up in,” Kirby said. That’s where he got his first refurbished bike with a brand new seatcover he thought was “pretty cool”. The town and the country were his to explore and he did just that until high school when riding bikes wasn’t so cool.
His older brothers both went to Mt. Angel seminary for high school partly because the local priest of their parish was a recruiter for the seminary. The brothers both told Larry he would like it there since he was the intellectual type, so he ended up attending Mt. Angel too.
Cycling with a friend in 1982, they decided to go on a bike trip from the Dalles to Bend across the Cascades, to Lincoln City, up the coast to Astoria, west on Highway 30 and across the St. John’s Bridge.
“We rode 700 miles and if I wasn’t in shape at the start of the ride, I sure was by the end,” he beamed. What made the journey even more amazing than all the sights he said, was that he travelled it all on his own steam.
From that point on, Kirby became a devotee of the sport and participated in the first ever Cycle Oregon from Salem to Brookings.
“That event has come a long way since the intial one in 1988.” These days they have vans to haul the gear, and help for stragglers to make their destination before nightfall – and, they provide meals.
Another big ride he did was the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) from Banff to Jasper. “This had the most breathtaking scenery and very wide shoulders for safety,” Kirby said.
In 1997 he did another Cycle Oregon, but by the time he got back, he realized that cycling wasn’t that much fun for him anymore. The hunched over position for riding was uncomfortable and so were the seats. He stopped biking and became a gym member, which wasn’t exactly his idea of fun.
Then one day he happened across an advertisement for an elliptical bike that was coming to the area for demonstrations. He showed up at Exercise Equipment NW in Delta Park and, after a few spins around the parking lot, he was sold and riding was fun again.
He started saving up and in the Spring of 2012, Kirby bought an Elliptigo. It weighs 44 pounds, and the company says it requires 33% more effort than a regular bike, so riding one makes for a demanding workout.
He received a wake-up call around that time about the family genes when his brother went in for a quadruple by-pass surgery.
“This made me pay attention and gave me the motivation to do something,” Kirby said.
The first time out he made it a couple of miles and it was after work and there were a dozen reasons not to go.
“I am not a morning person, but that was really the only time I had to ride consistently,” he said. It took about six months for him to get into shape and start a new routine, but he was determined. Now the only thing that prevents his early morning bike rides is really inclement weather or travel.
“This time is generally peaceful; I can work things out in my mind while the sun rises and the city wakes up,” Kirby said.
While riding six to twenty-five miles a day he has seen coyote, bald eagles and deer, lost forty pounds and still eats the food he likes with a few extra helpings of fruit for the road.