As the Tri-City News’ ad-hoc cycling reporter, pretty much any story on two wheels gets sent my way. But not all bikes have just two wheels. Or one rider.
You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can get him on a bike every couple of years.
At 106 years, Don Simpson certainly qualifies as old. In fact, according to Phil Reist, the driver of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “Big Bike,” he’s likely the oldest participant to ever ride the 29-passenger behemoth bicycle that helps raise money and awareness to prevent heart disease.
Simpson was the captain of a contingent of spry seniors from the Mayfair Terrace retirement home in Port Coquitlam who took the Big Bike for a 20-minute spin on the roads around Coquitlam Centre last Friday. It wasn’t his first rodeo, though.
Simpson cycled the Big Bike when he was much younger — two years ago when he was 104. But he also remembers riding his bike as a boy around Vancouver’s Stanley Park and attending the six-day bike races at the old China Creek velodrome.
“That was our stomping ground,” he said.
So when it came time to climb aboard the gargantuan single-geared machine, Simpson knew exactly where he wanted to be. He ignored the requests of a photographer and cameraman to mount an outboard seat so they could get a clear shot of him pedalling, and instead scrambled — slowly, and with a bit of help — to the middle row at the very back. After all, who’s going to argue with someone his age?
And with a few last-minute instructions from Reist, a shake of the maracas and other noisemakers to ensure passersby notice the big bike — like they’re going to miss it? — they were off.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Brian and Barb Corbould, right, lead some of their team members from Mayfair retirement home, in a little warm-up dance prior to embarking on a ride on the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “big bike.”
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The seniors from Mayfair retirement home in Port Coquitlam arrive to ride the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “Big Bike” on roads around Coquitlam Centre last Friday.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Big Bike driver Phil Reist gives the cyclists from Mayfair Terrace retirement home their instructions to stay safe and have fun.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS And they’re off, with an appropriate message as their send-off.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The big bike’s pilot, Phil Reist, awaits his charges from Mayfair Terrace retirement home.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, gives the thumbs up for the big bike to depart.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson gets his photo taken prior to climbing aboard the big bike as captain of a team of seniors from Mayfair retirement home in Port Coquitlam.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, is the team’s captain, and a veteran of riding the big bike. He last did it two years ago, when he was 104.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson is not going to let a photographer and cameraman dictate his place on the big bike so they can get shots of him pedalling. He heads mid-ship.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson isn’t the only centenarian on the big bike team from Mayfair Terrace. Jessie, who’s being escorted to the team photograph, is 103.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, gets a little help climbing aboard the big bike.