By Julie Krienke
DELANO, MN Many of us could not even imagine traveling more than 500 miles on a bicycle, but for John Sweet, superintendent of Delano Schools, biking entails more than simply how far he journeys.
For Sweet, biking provides physical benefits, as well as personal satisfaction.
“It is interesting to see if your training leading up to the ride was effective,” Sweet said. “After it is over, there is satisfaction knowing that you accomplished the ride.”
For these reasons, Sweet journeyed to Colorado for a week-long bike adventure June 13-20.
“It was 540 miles over seven days, covering some difficult mountain passes,” Sweet said. “This was the longest ride in the 25-year history of the ride. Usually, it’s more like 420 miles.”
Throughout his journey, Sweet battled many challenges including the mountainous terrains of the Grand Mesa, Red Mountain, Molas Divide, Coal Bank, and Wolf Creek.
“These become mental, as well as physical issues,” Sweet explained. “Keeping your body properly hydrated and nourished during long mountain rides is the key. Sometimes, in climbing the passes, you take short breaks to take water and stretch.”
Yet, Sweet has discovered that to succeed in biking, one must possess optimism.
“Climbing the higher passes requires a positive attitude,” Sweet said. “You break the day’s ride into segments by focusing on each rest stop.”
It was mostly for health reasons that Sweet decided to get involved in biking and traveled to Colorado for the tour.
“Biking is a physical activity you can do for a long time because there is little stress on joints,” Sweet said. “I also need this for the cardiac health aspects.”
Sweet continues to bike because he greatly enjoys the physical advantages that cycling has on his body.
“My main motivation is for health and fitness,” Sweet said. “Biking has also led me to the weight room, where I work a lot on upper body strength, which relieves shoulder, neck, and back pain on long rides.”
There is no doubt that Sweet enjoys biking, especially when he is able to see a variety of landscapes.
“The ride through the Colorado Monument provides some outstanding scenery,” Sweet said. “Mountain passes, like Grand Mesa and Wolfcreek Pass, are very scenic. There is snow at the top of those passes.”
Sweet was able to travel to Colorado because he is involved in the Ride the Rockies program. He joined this organization five years ago when his brother-in-law inspired him to start biking.
“My brother-in-law started doing this ride about 11 years ago, and I got on beginning in 2005,” Sweet said. “I have just always liked being on the bike.”
According to its website, Ride the Rockies is an annual bicycle excursion that takes nearly 2,000 cyclists on a tour each June. To celebrate 25 years, Ride the Rockie’s journey this year was one of the most challenging and scenic routes.
“This year’s ride began in Grand Junction, CO and ended in Salida, CO,” Sweet said. “I drove to Denver, and then we took a bus with our bikes boxed from Denver to Grand Junction.”
Over the years, Sweet has participated in the Ride the Rockies program with fellow family members. According to Sweet, support from fellow cyclists is important when venturing out into rocky landscape.
“It helps to have a team of people with you to keep motivated and find humor in the physical exertion,” Sweet said.
Sweet has a group of cyclists that he bikes with every year in the Ride the Rockies tour.
According to Sweet, he usually bikes with his brother-in-law. Sweet’s niece, as well as his brother-in-law’s nephew, also ride with them.
Additionally, the team welcomed a new member this year for their Ride the Rockies journey through Colorado.
“For the first time this year, our daughter, Kim Rubenstein, who lives in Bremerton, WA, rode with us.”
During their trek through the mountains of Colorado, Sweet and his teammates biked nearly all day for an entire week.
“Our group typically starts riding before 7 a.m.,” Sweet said. “It depends on the length of the ride each day as to when you get finished. This year, the rides were long, so we usually didn’t get in much before 4 p.m.”
As if biking through the rocky terrain were not enough, Sweet even camped in the mountains during the week of the tour.
“Ride the Rockies provides camping space, usually at the local high school football field or college campus,” Sweet said. “I have camped on many of the high school football fields in Colorado during these rides.”
When Sweet is not traveling the country on his bike, he occupies a great deal of his time serving as superintendent of Delano Schools.
Sweet has lived in Delano for nearly five years with his wife Barb, who is an occupational therapist at Centra Care Health System in St. Cloud.
The couple has two daughters. Rubenstein, who is the local editor of the Kitsap Sun, and Pam Redlinger, who is the band director at Moorhead High School, and she resides in Moorhead.
Sweet greatly enjoys the outdoors, getting involved in water sports, and simply staying active.
“After Ride the Rockies, I get the boat out of storage and try to find people who will drive it while I water ski,” Sweet said. “Much of my spare time is spent in some kind of physical activity.”
Sweet will continue to stay involved in the Ride the Rockies program, and hopefully venture to Colorado on further bike adventures.
“The ride is a challenge that when you finish, you can look back with satisfaction in conquering the miles and mountain passes,” Sweet said.