Say the words “Gary Crandall” and there’s an immediate association with the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, the nation’s largest mountain bike race.
For 35 years Crandall was director of the annual festival, and he rode in the event. But even as his name is synonymous with the sport of biking, there is irony in the fact that Crandall actually didn’t ride as much as he would have liked.
So when he retired in 2018 as the race director he made up his mind to make a couple of life changes. One was his diet and the other was to ride more.
“I have been in and around the sport of biking for quite a long time because of my profession,” he said. “During that time, I could have ridden my bicycle a lot more. I find it pretty rewarding, now that I am retired, and people ask ‘What are going to do with your free time, and I always said I was going to ride my bikes more — and that turned into a reality.”
Not only is he riding more, as of Friday, July 25, Crandall had ridden 118 consecutive days. Here’s how it began.
For the last four or five years during the month of April, Crandall has participated in a nationwide event called “30 Days of Biking.” The challenge is to ride every day during the month of April and post photos online from the ride as a way of promoting cycling.
In northern Wisconsin, April isn’t exactly the easiest month to have a 30-day biking challenge, when there can be snow on the ground and a definite nip in the air, but Crandall met the challenge and biked every day of the month.
Since April 1, Crandall has been posting photos of himself on Facebook, starting each post with “Day . . .”
The biking challenge ended Sunday, April 31, but Crandall said, “I just kept riding and posting,” he said. “I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do this. I just thought if I could get through April that May would have to be easier.”
The month of May was more accommodating to biking than April, but there were still a few days it rained hard and he could have easily stayed inside and not biked. But Crandall persisted, riding at least 20 minutes every day. His shortest route was riding down his town road to Highway 63 and back, a couple of miles.
He continued to post and add photos and people responded.
“I would see someone at the post office and the person would ask, ‘What day are you on?’” he said.
He biked every day of May.
He biked every day of June.
On July 10 he hit Day 100.
100 days of healthy living
“Well, that’s an even 100 days of consecutive biking that started on April 1,” he wrote on Facebook and posted several photos, including several with friends in front of Tilly’s Pies in Cable.
In his July 10 post, Crandall wrote about how much better he feels because of his diet and bicycling. His only complaint: after losing 50 pounds he doesn’t descend hills as fast as he did when he was heavier.
“Best news . . . I’m within two pounds of actually being the weight it states on my driver’s license,” he wrote.
Crandall said the point of his streak is not that he is going to set any record, but that it represents, along with his diet, a change to a healthier lifestyle.
“I’ve heard for decades the best way to manage Type 2 diabetes is with diet and exercise,” he said. “And you know what, that concept works best when you go on a diet and you exercise.”
Two months before the 30 Days in April bike challenge, he started Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Diet.
“I went from the sausage and cheese guy to the broccoli and cauliflower guy,” he said. “I got rid of all processed meats, most dairy and very little oil and less sodium and eating a lot of fruit and legumes and nuts for essential oils.”
He now brings colorful salads to community meals and people are asking for the recipes.
Because he feels fitter with more energy he often bikes to Cable instead of driving his car.
Recently when he brought in two, 20-pound boxes of cat litter, it hit Crandall that he had lost that much weight plus 10 pounds. He’s wearing clothes from his younger days and buying new belts.
“You are looking good . . . younger” are comments he finds encouraging.
On the community bike rides, no longer is he the last man at the end of the pack; he’s biking closer to the front.
“I’m now riding with people that I would never seen on the rides because they were always ahead of me,” he said. “Some of my faster buddies will turn around and say, ‘Hey you’re riding pretty good.’”
Crandall’s advice for anyone who wants to start a biking streak of his or her own is to find a comfortable bike to ride. He said experts at local bike stores are great at helping people find the best bike.
“You are never too old to bike,” he said. “Start easy. If you have an old bike and you’re not comfortable, get one you are comfortable on. There are so many different types of bikes. There is no reason not to get biking, especially in Hayward, which has such a good bike path.”
The streak is alive
After the 100th day of the streak, Crandall now only posts every five days.
Some Facebook friends are encouraging him to skip a day just so the streak doesn’t become a obsession and he loses the joy of biking. Sometimes he agrees with that sentiment. But then he reconsiders the advice and thinks maybe he’ll just stop posting but keep the streak alive.
“Really getting serious about diet and exercise has made such a huge impact on my life in literally six months,” he said. “I look forward to what will happen with a year.”