SuperGerd! 90 Years Young and a Double Centurion (twice)

In my "decade from across the dining room table" as a former Bike Friday customer evangelist, I met so many extraordinary cyclists and adventurers that made my modest job feel like the best job in the world. Newly-nonagenerian Gerd Rosenblatt, an acclaimed former UC Berkeley physics professor certainly hasn't let the passing decades get in the way of HIS physics (watch him tackle this hill at age 74.5). I had the pleasure of crossing the country with him on an 80-120 miles-a-day Route 66 trip with PACTOUR in 2006. While I now grumble if the mileage creeps north of 50, he's just kept piling on his odometer. Below is his personal account of his most impressive feat to date: a double century (that's 200 miles folks) at the ripe young age of 90. Go Gerd! 


Grand Tour Lowland Double Century

Cycling Report – Gerd Rosenblatt – 90th Birthday Ride

June 24, 2023


This is a report on the double century that I rode with my long-time friend and cycling partner, Lori Cherry, to celebrate – and as a challenge for – my July 6 90th birthday twelve days following the ride.

My first double century was twenty years ago, in June 2003, a personal challenge for my then upcoming 70th birthday. It had 10,200’ of climbing and I completed it in 14:03 on my two-wheeled bike. I was the oldest rider (although riders in their 70s had completed other double centuries) – and have been the oldest rider on every double century and every timed bicycle event I have entered since. I went on to complete 38 double centuries on my road bike in the decade of my 70s and another eight in the decade of my 80s. Fracturing my pelvis on my 77th birthday forced me to switch to a racing recumbent tricycle with much slower climbing and overall speeds about 75% of what I could do on a two-wheeler. My 2014 Grand Tour was the first time a rider over 80 had completed a California double century and, as far as I know, there hasn’t been another rider over 80 since to attempt or complete a California double century. My last California Triple Crown (three California official double centuries completed in a calendar year) was in 2015. Before this year, my most recent double century was in 2019.

Sometime in 2022 someone asked Lori if she would ever ride another double century and she said, no, she was through with that. I interrupted and said, “I’m wondering if we should try to complete a double to make me a rider who did a double at 90. I think I might be able to do it.” Lori, being Lori, immediately liked the idea and started planning.

We chose the Grand Tour Lowland Double Century for the same reasons we had ridden it during my previous double rides over the past decade. It has the least climbing of any of the double centuries on the California Triple Crown calendar and it occurs at a time of year when the days are longest, minimizing the night-time riding for a slow cyclist.

Our preparation consisted of signing up for three century rides, none of which I completed because of our wet and cold spring, a week of cycling in Solvang, which was mostly rained out, and four days of Sierra to the Sea the Sunday through Wednesday before Saturday’s Grand Tour. Unlike in 2019, the 225 miles of Sierra to the Sea went well.

I don’t know if it helped cycling preparation, but on May 21, Lori again paced our “Science is Not a Liberal Conspiracy” group on a fast walk of the 12 km San Francisco Bay to Breakers foot race, beating our best time at 1:54, placing me eighth in the 80+ group of runners.

The ride

Friday, June 23, Sue and I drove down to Port Hueneme, south of Ventura, to meet Lori at the ride start hotel. The route was unchanged from the last time we rode this double century in 2019. The 2019 route had eliminated 34 scenic, hilly, traffic-filled coastal miles from Malibu to Port Hueneme, replacing them with a somewhat confusing, less scenic but less climbing, loop inland and back at the beginning and eliminating some climbs in the final segment. The figure above shows the route (taken from my Garmin GPS) with the various rest-stops indicated by the small circles.

Saturday, Lori and I were up at 2:50 and had a bite to eat in the motel room. This year the organizers allowed slow riders to start at 3:30, ahead of the normal 4-5 AM start, and we did that along with 4 or 5 other riders. Our experience is that night riding with lights is a lot easier and safer in the wee hours of the morning than right after sunset at night, so we were glad to have that almost 40-minute jump on our 2019 4:08 AM start. The temperature was cool, and I had on knee warmers, arm warmers, a vest, a cycling undershirt, and a light wind jacket, in addition to cycling shorts and jersey. The cool weather and the early start both helped us have a good day.

The first 40-mile inland loop is shown in the figure at the bottom of the preceding page. The route follows the lower, more eastern part of the figure eight first and then returns on the more western part of the loops, going back to the start hotel for the first rest stop. We arrived at the hotel at 6:40 having averaged 12.6 mph, the same as in 2019, but much slower than my 2015 speed.

The second 25-mile leg, unchanged from previous Grand Tours, goes further inland to Moorpark, climbing 1,000’, at first going back out on the same roads we had just used to return to Port Hueneme. Near the end of this leg, we started being passed by riders who had started later. Many took cellphone photos of us as they passed. We averaged 12.4 compared to 11.6 in 2019 and arrived at the Moorpark rest stop at 9 AM, almost an hour ahead of 2019. This year, as in 2019, the organizers did not put arrows on the road or supply GPS coordinates to download into cyclo-computers or cell phones. There was only an exemplary paper route sheet, with clear italic descriptions and hints at all the tricky places.


After Moorpark, on 24-mile leg 3, the route heads back towards Ventura and the coast. We were often passed by a large group of cheerful Filipinos that we would then catch up to again when they paused to regroup (cf. photo taken at 10:05 AM). Lori and I arrived at rest stop #3 just after 11 AM, averaging 13.3 mph on segment 3, our fastest segment. There were still plenty of riders at the rest stop, reassuring after our 2019 almost dead-last arrival.

The 23 miles from Ventura inland to the lunch stop in Ojai at mile 114 contain the most significant sustained climb of the route, ascending 800’ (cf. elevation profile on next page). The cool day helped, and I was fine (unlike2019 when I struggled on this section). We arrived at lunch at 1:10 PM, averaging 11.8 mph on the segment. This placed us 1:40 ahead of 2019 and only 20 minutes behind 2015, thanks to the early start. There were still other riders at the lunch stop, primarily from the slower and more demanding Highland Route.

After lunch the route goes downhill 15 miles back to Ventura and then starts a 15-mile flat section heading northwest along the coast to the last rest stop, #5, at Rincon Point some miles below Carpinteria. The first and last parts of the coast section are on bike paths. The first one used to be rough and somewhat broken up, but it has been repaved since we were last here. The last bike-path section is right next to Hwy 101 and nicely completely protected from the highway. We pulled into the rest stop at 3:55 PM, 2:15 ahead of 2019, averaging 12.5 mph on that section (almost as good as our12.6 mph average in 2015). The headwind as we went up the coast was lighter than normal which helped. The day had remained cool and the only layer I had removed was my wind jacket. From Ventura on, we were on an out-and-back part of the route and saw many riders heading the other way, some 40 miles ahead of us.

After some drink and food at Rincon Point, we had a further 7.5 miles, with a 200’ nuisance “bump” ca. mile 147, on our way to the turn-around, mile 152, at “Tinker’s Burgers” in Summerland at 4:45 PM. The right photo was taken 10 minutes after we turned around. We stopped briefly at the Rincon Point rest stop on our way back to finish some no-longer-hot Ramen we had left there. We had 39, mostly flat, miles to go back to Port Hueneme from the turnaround. We started to hope that we might be able to finish in daylight, with me guessing that sunset was ca. 8:30.

Ira Kucheck, one of the Grand Tour organizers, when we stopped again at Rincon Point on the way back. 

 Me on the bike path heading southeast from Rincon Point at 6 PM

I was getting tired but knew we could finish. We hustled as well as I could those last 39 miles, racing the sun, ending up with a 13.1 mph average on that final flat section. We didn’t stop and arrived at the finish at 8:10 PM. 16 hours, 41 minutes. The sun set at 8:11 PM.

There was a crowd of 100-200 cyclists welcoming us at THE FINISH. The Los Angeles Wheelmen, the ride organizers, had publicized my effort to do the double century for my 90th birthday. The organizers were great to us. Leading the welcoming group were our friends, Craig, Cathy, and Kevin, who – being fast as the wind and riding together – had finished hours before. Cathy had convinced Craig to come out of double-century retirement to cheer me on. (Thanks, Cathy and Craig.)


The age record for completing a California Double Century has been extended from someone in their 80s to someone of racing age 90. The table below compares this year’s ride with our previous rides of the Grand Tour Double Century. Based upon 2019, Lori and I anticipated a ride taking probably 18:30 and possibly up to 20:00 hours. We were delighted to do significantly better than that. Obviously, as expected, I have slowed down these past 10 years, but, more importantly, it was a good day! We were lucky. It was a cool day. There was no rain. The wind was light. I didn’t have any cramps or hydration issues. No intestinal or stomach problems. No hot foot or other biomechanical issues. We didn’t have any flats or other mechanical issues and, as I’ll explain in an addendum, that was really lucky.


For those interested in statistical details, here is a comparison of this year’s Grand Tour with 2019:

After riding essentially the same as in 2019 for the first four hours, we started to pull away this year and continued to improve on 2019 every hour after that.


As I found out two weeks later, I was very lucky not to have had a flat on the Grand Tour. I had two flats in my rear tire shortly before the double for which I was unable to determine the cause. They looked as if they might be “pinch flats” from the tube being caught by the rim when hitting a pothole. To avoid problems, I put new tires and tubes on all three wheels for the Grand Tour. Only 20 bicycle miles after completing the Grand Tour I started a week-long 400-mile bicycle tour in Oregon. The first day in Oregon I had a flat in my rear tire, cause undetermined even though a good mechanic and I tried to figure it out. We put in a new tube. The next day I had another flat in my rear tire. I realized that we had to figure this out and was sagged 5 miles up the road to a mechanic. He took everything off the wheel, investigated thoroughly and found that the rim tape covering the spoke holes on my rear wheel had shifted exposing a spoke hole, causing the tube to slowly wear a hole at that point. Replacing the rim tape solved the problem. I do not know if the rim tape had already shifted when we rode the Grand Tour, but it seems likely. Lucky indeed.


Q:  Gerd, what do you think is the single most important factor that enables you to perform such great endurance feats at the ripe young age of 90? 

There are 3 factors: luck, genetics, lifestyle, probably in that order of importance. 

What do you eat on a daily basis - tell us how you fuel your body? I remember once I asked you about potato chips and acrylamides, and you said "sure, if you eat a Costco-size packet every day…." Is it about moderation or dietary awareness, or something else? 

I don’t think it is dietary awareness.  Moderation, yes.  I eat 3 meals a day, almost never eat or drink outside of meal time, and rarely eat out (where you have less control over portion size and ingredients).

How about fuel for your mind - does a certain mental state contribute? What’s you daily state of mind - any daily practices or tips to share?

GERD: Don’t think mental state is involved. I do keep mentally active at home and the University.

As a scientist specializing in thermodynamics, do you think about fitness and bike performance in a scientific way or is that “work?”

I do NOT think about fitness or diet scientifically.  Have never had a coach or trainer or belonged to a gym.  I do have two habits that I think help me: 

1)  I exercise constantly as part of daily life.  Never drive where I can walk.  Use stairs instead of elevator. Walk to a colleague’s office rather than picking up the phone. Etc.

2)  I do 30 minutes of exercise every morning right as I get out of bed when I am home. This is a mixture of stretching, calisthenics, weights, and cardio that I have developed over the years, sometimes with orthopedic advice. It includes 50 sit-ups and 40-50 pushups. It also includes 60 seconds of running in place followed by 60 seconds of jumping jacks that get my heart rate above 160. 

I do think about my equipment scientifically, always putting a wide range of gears on my bike, for example.  I know aero trumps weight for most people under most conditions but because I am very small and light I pay attention to the weight of my equipment. 

Q:  Lori has been your biking buddy on these endeavors for the longest time  - what role does she play - does she help “oil the chain” and keep you going? Or is it the other way around? Or does your wife Susan do most of the cheerleading? 

This is a perceptive question.  I would not do these rides at my age on the trike without Lori riding with me. She stays with me, talks to me, paces me, motivates me, keeps me on the route, ensures we stay safe, helps with mechanical or bio mechanical problems. When you are on a trike you do not ride at the same speeds in the same places as a two wheeler, you cannot draft as effectively, you provide no draft to others. In consequence, if Lori is not there, I ride completely by myself for the entire day.  Lori is an excellent cyclist, a good friend, a cheerful companion. Susan is great support and cheerleader. 

BONUS QUESTION: Share any favorite products, rituals or lucky charms (come on, I’m a
 scientist - GR) 

GERD: As luck plays such a huge role in what we can do when, I recommend not thinking about what you can do at 90.  Think about next year and what you can do then.

Thank you Gerd - your words might help us to be more like you when we are 90! - Lynette Chiang

More SuperGerd!



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