Jed Staley peddles his Time road bike into Oceanside Harbor on Feb. 16, the breeze hitting his face, his legs aching and a group of friends cheering him on.
It's been more than 12 hours on this Friday afternoon since Staley left out of the harbor for a 200-mile ride through Orange and San Diego Counties, a volunteer ride of the California Triple Crown, a group that encourages individuals to ride double-century — or 200-mile — bike rides. The long-range ride proved to be an even bigger accomplishment for Staley. It was his 50th time riding such a route.
The Cardiff man's shirt signifies an even bigger achievement. It reads "Team Geezer." Staley is 76 years old, and his success of riding 50 double-century rides means he's being entered into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame.
Staley, who retired in 2010 from a career as a builder of single-family Encinitas homes, first heard about such rides in May 2008, when a group of friends completed a century — or 100-mile — ride.
"I thought, 'Oh my god. That's humanly impossible,'" he recalled. "But they kind of convinced me to give it a try, and I rode 37 miles. I kind of had this epiphany that it's difficult but it's really fulfilling to do it."
Two weeks later, Staley purchased his first road bike and repeatedly added miles to his rides, eventually riding his first century route. On a fateful day in 2012, he met a man in a California Triple Crown jersey.
The man explained to him that he had just completed a 200-mile ride, and Staley became intrigued.
"I was so impressed with this guy," Staley remembered. "He was older, about my age at the time, 69. I got online and learned about this organization and decided I was going to do some training and then go ride a double century the next year. That's what happened."
In 2012, Staley rode his first 200-mile ride. By 2013, he had ridden nine double-century rides.
On Feb. 16, Staley completed his 50th 200-mile ride.
He said he feels accomplished knowing he could complete such a task at his age, but believes people shouldn't feel limited because of such an attribute.
"There's a thing in our culture that sometimes says, 'I'm old. I'm not supposed to do much or I can't do much because that's what I see around me,'" he said. "I really don't think that's true. We don't have to buy into the limits that our culture might teach us. We choose and are responsible for our level of activity, our level of fitness and our level of health. Once we accept that, when we start doing something about it, we get good results."
Staley said most of the riding is mental work. While he can push through the pain and exhaustion — the body's way of saying "no, stop" as he referred to it — he has to work even harder to quiet the stigmas of old age.
"It's difficult physically, of course," he said. "But honestly, I think everybody universally has shared with me that the biggest challenge is the mental part. Number one, wanting to try. Two, believing that you can. And three, staying focused through all the distractions, like wind, pain and exhaustion. All those things are our minds' way of saying, 'No, don't hurt me anymore.' You have to learn to ignore those."
For this most recent double-century ride — which Staley rode with 72-year-old friend Bob Esch for the first 60 miles before being joined by 17 friends for the last 140 miles — the route included more than 10,000 feet of climbing uphill.
Staley said he knew what the road conditions would be like ahead of time and credited experience as a hiker in his younger years as motivation for pushing through.
Still, his trip wasn't met without difficulty. Staley explained that while some riders can go dozens of miles before stopping, he isn't one of those riders. He'll often take a quick break every 25 miles or so, he said.
Cheryl Clint Salerno, a friend of Staley's who helped organize the group of riders that joined him Feb. 16, said she has known Staley for 15 years and looks to him as inspiration.
Clint Salerno said she first rode with Staley years ago on a route along the coast south to the base of Torrey Pines. Staley wasn't able to ride up the hill, but persisted, Clint Salerno remembered. Months later, Staley completed the 40-mile Tour de San Diego and eventually rode as far north as San Clemente and east up to Palomar Mountain. Staley also eventually toured Croatia and France on bike, Clint Salerno said.
"We’ve maintained our friendship because of his positive 'I-can-accomplish-whatever-I-set-my-mind-to' attitude," she said. "Jed’s love for cycling and being outdoors, sharing new areas, combined with his commitment and perseverance on the bike, has inspired so many. It's an amazing feat to have successfully completed 50 double-century rides in the short time that he has."
Staley said he has no other goals set in mind. He only wants to continue riding for as long as he can. He said he's asked friends to notify him if they notice him slowing down or not performing as well as he used to.
"Us geezers just don't have the resilience and the reserves that you do when you're younger," he said.