For Siouxland resident Justin Jongerius, being around a bike, whether it was motorcycles or dirt bikes, they were always a part of his life.
“I’ve raced motorcycles since I was a kid. I never took the training part of that seriously, and relied on natural ability, as opposed to putting in work on a bicycle or by other means. That will always be a regret of mine. Then I got into my 30’s, and suddenly saw myself trying to outrun Father Time in staying healthy,” commented Justin.
A couple of his very good friends were into bicycling seriously. Justin himself hadn’t been on a bicycle since his BMX racing days. His two friends loaned him a bike and suggested he try it out.
“My buddy, Todd, loaned me his Specialized bike to practice riding on; and then another friend also loaned me his bike, which was a LaPierre. It was 2015. I was used to racing around a track on a bike and maybe riding up and down the neighborhood on one. I’d never ridden for distances of 50 to 100 miles before, let alone for my health and well-being,” he reminisced.
Justin isn’t one for doing anything half-heartedly and jumped in with both feet. He started riding more each day and increasing the distance.
“I want people to know that committing to cycling literally changed my life!
Goals and ambitions make me more accountable, the health benefits are obvious, and I completely enjoy it, which leads to a happier existence (for me). I think everyone who can, should try it, even on a local trail level. Not everyone has to go out and pound the miles. Just commuting or enjoying a few miles of the trail every once in a while can be huge for a variety of reasons,” shared Justin.
“My first real distance ride happened on the 4th of July weekend in 2015. The two friends who had loaned me the bikes asked me to join them. I was riding Todd’s Specialized bike at the time. We went 20 miles. The effort in riding in a group was cool, and the freedom of being on the road. It has a nomadic tribal feeling to it. You learn the tricks of drafting when you ride in a group. Somebody will lead for a while, and then you change positions. It’s more of moving as a mass and not just as a rider,” stated Justin.
From that point on, he was hooked. He continued riding as much as he could on his own time.
“Those same two buddies of mine and I were out one night at the bar, and they said why don’t you ride the first day of Ragbrai with us tomorrow? I rode from the starting point at LeMars to Spencer and absolutely loved it. I hated that I could only ride that day due to work commitments,” said Justin.
That was the only year he rode only one day. To date, he tries to ride in at least two, if not three, longer-distance rides each year.
He returned those borrowed bikes to his friends in 2015 and bought his first bike: a carbon-fiber bike with disk brakes and electronic shifting.
“Aside from the year of COVID (2020), I try to ride in half of Ragbrai each year. I lay out my calendar for the year and schedule three to four days to ride Ragbrai, and then those same two buddies and I go to Okoboji and ride for a day,” said Justin.
Now, at that time, the ride in Okoboji is for fun. They have traditional stops planned on their routes, with favorite haunts to stop and eat at and visit.
“That last day in Okoboji is a tradition for us now. It’s a way to enjoy the last day before we have to get back home and return to reality,” said Justin.
However, their Okoboji route closely follows the Campus Ride, another distance ride they plan and attend each year. The Campus Ride is neither a race nor a test of stamina. It is intended that all participants ride at their own pace and safely and responsibly. It is a bike ride around the Lake in a day, in three heats: the Quarter Century ride (25 miles), the Half-Century ride (50 miles), or the Century Ride (100 miles).
“We usually try to do the Half-Century ride, but then get so into it that we go at least 70 miles,” said Justin.
It is an annual event they plan and attend each year. This year it took place on June 24th and started at Florence Park in Milford, IA.
“Then last year, we did something EPIC and did the Triple ByPass in Evergreen, Colorado,” said Justin.
This route is over three mountain passes from Evergreen to Vail, boasting high-altitude riding with white glove treatment: closed roads, on-course support, and well-stocked aid stations. This is not a route for the faint-hearted.
“We did 6.5 hours in one day and rode 110 miles. It was incredible,” said Justin. This will be an event to remain on the annual calendar.
Although Justin looks forward to his annual long-distance rides, cycling is a way of life for him now.
“I love to ride for a variety of reasons that center around personal goals, physical fitness, and mental health. It’s a way to challenge myself, set goals, and strive to improve. It’s obviously an extremely healthy activity from a fitness perspective and a great escape from the ‘noise’ and daily trials and tribulations of a sometimes stressful lifestyle. There’s also a gratifying social aspect when riding in groups or with friends. It’s tribal in a sense and not something everyone will put in the effort to participate in. It’s one of those ‘if it were easy, everybody would be doing it’ scenarios,” shared Justin.
Runners talk about experiencing a runner’s high when out in their element, genuinely hitting their stride. Justin compared it to cycling in this way.
“The perspective of viewing your local area or other environments from the seat of a bicycle . . . it’s something that can’t be replicated in a vehicle. It’s an amazing experience! You feel more, see more, breathe in the air . . . etc. riding in the mountains was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and I cannot wait to do it again. Similarly, events like RAGBRAI give you an entirely different experience than traveling by any other means would provide.”
Justin does advise making safety one of your highest priorities when hitting the road on a bicycle.
“Iowa has already done an incredible job with road sign placement, creating awareness, and installing trail systems in different areas. The Plywood Trail is currently in progress, and when that’s finished, it will be a huge benefit to cyclists that want to ride that Sioux City to LeMars corridor ‘safely.’ Cyclists must also bear the responsibility of safety—ride ‘aware’ at all times. Pay attention to your surroundings, and if possible, ride in groups whenever you can. Be visible is the best advice I can give,” stated Justin.
By Amy Buster