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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Getting older is like riding a bike

Mar 31, 2024 06:42PM ● By Heidi Pool

Most of us, at one time or another, have thought, “I’m too old to do that.” However, last summer, two inspiring local senior cyclists proved age is no barrier when it comes to conquering physical challenges. 

For Fruita’s Mike Perry and Laurie Brandt from Montrose, cycling is not just a way to reach their personal goals but is also a way to give back to their communities.


Mike Perry of Fruita

Perry, 78, finally fulfilled a goal he’d set for himself more than 20 years ago by completing a cross-country cycling journey in June 2023. 

He and his wife Sandy were living in Oregon at the time. His inspiration stemmed from a local husband-and-wife team who had recently completed a coast-to-coast ride. 

“I told Sandy that was something I really wanted to do,” he said. 

So Perry tuned up his first-generation mountain bike, tricked it out with spiffy road tires, and began his journey by symbolically dipping his rear wheel into the Pacific Ocean. He stopped 250 miles later in Arlington, Oregon. 

“At that point, I’d been asked to resume my previous position as executive director of Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, so I had to shelve the project for a while,” said Perry.

After retiring from the museum in 2013, Perry resumed his ride of a lifetime by cycling 1,500 miles from Arlington to Kremmling, Colorado, towing a trailer filled with camping gear behind his bike. 

During that leg of his journey, Perry faced some formidable challenges in Idaho, including five flat tires on a short, debris-strewn section of I-84 near Boise, followed by a middle-of-the-night drenching from a high-pressure sprinkler while camping at the county fairgrounds in Shoshone. 

In 2020, he met up with the staff of Eureka! McConnell Science Museum. Together, they cooked up an idea for Perry to resume his ride as a fundraiser for the museum, which was called, “Mike on a Bike.” He began collecting pledges starting as low as a penny per mile. 

That year, Perry and his daughter Allyson Willoughby, cycled across Nebraska, raising $10,000 for the museum. In 2021, he traversed Iowa and Wisconsin solo, with Sandy piloting the support and gear (SAG) wagon. 

Thankfully, by then, his camping days were behind him. 

“We’d graduated to motels by then,” he said. 

His trek in 2021 resulted in an additional $27,000 raised for the museum.

The fifth leg of his adventure unfolded in 2022, as Perry cycled from New Buffalo, Michigan, to Niagara Falls in New York. Accompanied by Willoughby and his other daughter, Adrienne Hartly, he raised another $25,000. 

Perry completed the final leg of his journey in 2023, from Tonawanda, New York, to Battery Park, where he plunged his front tire triumphantly into the Atlantic Ocean amid cheers from his fellow riders—Chris Brown of Brown Cycles, former dinosaur museum co-workers Nita Kroninger and Brenda Sabo, as well as his daughters—and his SAG crew, which, of course, included Sandy. 

In total, Perry pedaled an impressive 3,310 miles, and his extraordinary effort yielded $88,550 in donations for Eureka’s scholarship fund. This fund helps underserved youth participate in the museum’s programs and science camps. 

“It’s one thing to have a goal, but doing it for the kids made it a win-win opportunity,” he said.

What’s next for Perry?

“It’s Sandy’s turn to choose the adventure,” he said. 


Brandt began bicycle racing as a young girl growing up in the San Diego area, where she’d pedal furiously while attempting to outrun the bus to school. 

Laurie Brandt of Montrose. Photo by Mike Anderson Photography

Now 62, Brandt is still racing—professionally—and earned her third masters division title at the USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championship in Pennsylvania last July.

Her professional mountain biking career took off in the early ’90s, racing full-time from 1992 to 1996. 

“I decided to try it for five years to see if I could make a living,” said Brandt. 

Her decision paid off handsomely, as she consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for all five years. She even emerged victorious four times at the grueling Leadville Trail 100 MTB, conquering over 2,000 feet of climbing. 

“I held the Leadville women’s record for 13 years, which is pretty [remarkable] considering the changes in bicycle technology that occurred during that period of time,” she said.

After 1996, Brandt paused her racing pursuits to focus on her career as a geologist and raise her two daughters, Abby and Paige, both of whom also became involved in mountain bike racing in high school. 

In 2017, when Paige expressed her desire to compete in the national championship, Brandt decided to join her. She placed first in her age division, a feat she repeated in 2018. An injury sidelined her the next year and the pandemic thwarted the 2020 race. In 2021, she placed second, and another injury prevented her from competing in 2022.

Healthy and hungry for another victory, Brandt traveled to Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania for Nationals last July. 

“I felt the course would suit me well because it’s very technical,” she said. “It’s you against the mountain; utilizing your skills to negotiate the terrain, climb, descend and [steer] over obstacles.” 

Placing first in her age division for a third time meant another coveted gold medal for Brandt. 

“Competition always brings me to a higher level than I can do on my own and I find that very fulfilling,” she said. “I’m not as fast and strong as I was, but I still love pushing myself, and trying to be as fit as I can be given my age.”

Cycling feeds Brandt’s soul, no matter what kind of bike she’s riding. She dedicates about half of her training time to a road bike, and does bikejoring to condition both herself and her dogs for winter skijoring competitions.  

“It’s fun to mix it up,” she said. “I enjoy riding my mountain bike on trails in the quiet outdoors, especially when I’m exploring new trails. I also enjoy riding on the country roads around Montrose. I think we have some of the best road biking in all of Western Colorado. Give me any bike and I’m happy!”


Brandt does bikejoring to condition both herself and her dogs for winter skijoring competitions.

Brandt generously shares her passion for mountain biking by teaching clinics through Montrose Recreation District (MRD). 

“The ages of participants ranges from 16 to 68, which is very cool,” she said. “It tells me people of all ages are interested in learning to mountain bike. It’s not just for youngsters.”

However, she still finds joy in teaching kids. In 2022, she collaborated with MRD to start a cycling program for middle schoolers. She has also been a coach for Montrose High School’s Mountain Bike Team. 

“I love seeing kids on bikes. They’re our future trail builders and advocates for the sport,” she said. “I’m riding with kids who are one-third to one-quarter my age, so I know I’m doing pretty good regarding my health and fitness.”

Perry and Brandt’s stories are powerful reminders that staying active can lead to a richer, more rewarding life, regardless of age.

“I see these older folks on the Riverfront
Trail who are even older than I am, and they inspire me!” said Perry. “Anybody that’ll get on their bike or hike and keep pushing themselves, that’s what keeps them young—and out of the hospital.”

Upcoming Mountain Bike Clinics

Brandt is offering a series of mountain biking clinics in Montrose this summer, open to both men and women.

  • Coed Clinic: April 28
  • Women’s Clinic: May 19
  • Coed Clinic: June 23

Each clinic runs from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Participants will start on the grass, focusing on balance and bike handling skills, before heading to local trails on Sunset Mesa to apply what they’ve learned.

To register, visit or call 970-249-7705.