He’s on a roll
John Cook, 76, isn't letting the number of his age restrict the miles that he pedals
For some perspective on the physical -- and mental -- capabilities of 76-year-old cyclist John Cook, consider this: Even if he were to ride one mile for every year of his age, he'd still cover only about three-quarters of the 100 miles he pumped out during the Honolulu Century Ride at the end of September.
Cook was one of more than 3,500 riders in the 26th edition of Hawaii's oldest and largest cycling event. And while the HCR is technically a "ride" in which participants pedal at their own pace rather than race, Cook's time of 9 hours, 6 minutes and 31 seconds -- for an average speed better than 10 miles per hour -- is nevertheless a monumental achievement for someone his age.
"I like to ride, and enjoy it," said Cook, who originally is from Fond du Lac, Wis., but has lived full time in Waikiki for the past five years with his wife, Margo. "Last year was my first year, but I hadn't been doing a lot of riding, so I just did 75 miles. But this year, why, I did the whole enchilada. It's good exercise."
Sure, good exercise for some, but pure torture to impossible mission for many others -- and not just those in his demographic. Cook is hardly like most any septuagenarian. The full yet sinewy muscles he's packing on his tanned arms and particularly his legs typically belong to athletes much younger. Same goes for the odometer reading of 4,304.2 total miles on his full-suspension Mongoose mountain bike, which he's been riding on both road and trail tires for eight years.
"I prefer to mountain-bike," explained Cook, "but it's hard to find somebody my age who wants to do it. ... Since I've been here, my road tires have been doing double time. But I still get the best of both worlds."
Cook said a key to his sustained health and fitness is that he has kept active his whole life, from playing football in high school to regularly diving, hiking and kayaking, among other activities, afterward.
A former sailor who built and then sailed and lived -- along with Margo -- on his own boat for many years and long distances, Cook is still a woodworker with his own Honolulu shop, the Master Craftsman.
Cook didn't get heavily into cycling until about 12 years ago, but he simply never viewed entering his golden years as reason to stop challenging himself. His regular routine is a 10-mile ride from his condo to the Kahala Resort and back, three to four times a week. Far from done with cycling events, he hopes to participate in the 50-day, 3,629-mile Across America North ride from Oregon to New Hampshire in the near future.
"I just can't see myself sitting on a front porch in a rocker. I just can't sit around and do nothing," Cook said. "That's why I'm riding a bicycle. And I'm hoping that if people see this, they might say, 'Well, if he can do it, why can't I?'"