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High temps, high miles no problem for bikersDad, daughter team up for 317-mile Michigander Bicycle Tour

by Susan Bromley

July 27, 2011

Devyn Ryan, 12, and her dad, Jim Ryan, with a friend on the 20th Annual Michigander Bicycle Tour. Photo provided.
Devyn Ryan was single-minded when she was biking more than 300 miles in temperatures that shot up to 100 degrees. She thought of one thing and one thing only: Crossing the finish line.

"I didnt say it out loud, but it was so hot and we still had more than halfway to go," said the 12-year-old who will be a seventh grader at Brandon Middle School this fall. "I just thought about crossing the finish line and how happy and proud I would be, so I just kept going."

Devyn and her father, Jim Ryan, 46, were among the approximately 200-300 participants in the 20th Annual Michigander Bicycle Tour. The 317-mile tour began in South Haven July 17 and ended there July 22, with stops in Plainwell, Vermontville, Lowell, Ravenna, and Holland.

Jim Ryan has been participating in the tour, organized by the non-profit Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, for the past four years. The location of the tour changes yearly and all proceeds from the tour are used to improve or create new bike paths in Michigan.

Devyn joined her dad this year because "it sounded like fun." The Brandon Township residents each got a new bike— a K2 for Devyn, which is a cross between a road bike and mountain bike, and a Trek for Jim, which is also a hybrid. They started training around June 17, right after school let out for the summer, biking about 8 miles three or four days a week.

Their first day on the tour, however, they did seven times that amount, biking 57 miles. The second and third days they would do even more— 60 miles each day. The fourth day had the most mileage—62. It wasn't until the fifth and sixth days that the mileage finally decreased, to 48 and 42 miles, respectively.

Besides the high mileage, they were also contending with high temperatures— 90 degrees or better for the first four days, then roughly 100 degrees for the fifth day. On the sixth day, it finally cooled down, but mostly due to a downpour of rain that lasted all day.

"We tried going faster to get it over with," said Jim. "The last day was a torrential downpour the whole day and was cold. It was real hot the rest of the week."

The bicyclists set up camp each day at various school grounds and rose each day around 5 or 6 a.m. to get an early start.

"At the beginning it was pretty easy, but the last 10 to15 miles at the end of each day was the hardest, hottest part of the day," said Devyn. "It got a lot harder and I was tired out by then. My wrists hurt because you're leaning over."

"And your seat hurt," added Jim, who has a sister who lives in South Haven and who offered to pick them up if the tour got too difficult to complete, but father and daughter stuck it out. Jim noted that mental toughness pushed them through. During the ride, he thought only of ways to encourage Devyn.

"I told her how proud she would be of herself," Jim said. "Other people will be proud of you, but when you are proud of yourself, that's real nice."

They rode on trails through woods and occasionally traveled roads to get to the trails. Along the way, they saw lots of farms, horses, and a donkey, as well as several small towns as they rode up hill and down. Finally, they saw the finish line.

"We could see the school, and we knew we'd made it," said Devyn. "I was happy because I was able to do all of it. They had really loud music playing and people cheer for you and clap. I was proud and happy when I crossed it."

Devyn and Jim plan to bike the tour together again next year, too.