Finishing the Grueling Bike Race My Dad Created

My father founded the notorious 120-mile Triple Bypass bike ride in Colorado. After a few failed attempts, I set out to finally complete it.

From Outside Magazine
By Nate Dern

A young boy is prone to thinking that his father is the toughest man on earth. “My dad could beat up your dad!” is the clichéd taunt, but there’s sometimes a truth in the conviction behind it.

“My dad could beat up your dad!”

“My dad could bend a steel bar!”

“My dad could ride a bicycle 120 miles covering 11,000 feet of elevation gain at altitudes that give visitors acute mountain sickness and then do it all again the next day!”

I don’t think I ever actually sneered that last phrase aloud on the schoolyard, but it was true about my father.

When I was three years old, my dad, Michael, organized a bike ride near our house in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains called the Triple Bypass. It was named for the three mountain passes it climbed: Juniper Pass (on Mount Evans, a 14er), Loveland Pass (the Continental Divide), and Vail Pass, totaling 10,990 feet of climbing over 120 miles. He served as the chairman for the ride for the first two years, starting in 1989. In the words of former club president Carol Mickelberg in an article in the local Canyon Courier: “It’s all Michael Dern’s fault…It was an awesome challenge with a great name. He had us all sold on it before anyone had ever done the ride.” My mom, who has completed the ride several times herself, had this quote printed on T-shirts she made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ride, five years ago.

In the three decades of its existence, the ride has taken on a life of its own, with more than 3,000 riders each year generating over $2.2 million in donations for nonprofits like the Special Olympics. And thanks to the passage of time, more recent articles about the ride in larger papers like the Denver Post don’t mention my father’s name.

My first two attempts to complete the ride were thwarted—once in 2012 by my own fitness level, resulting in a DNF around mile 60, and once in 2017 by wildfires that caused the ride to be canceled the night before. This past July was my third attempt. My father, who is 63, was watching from the side of the road.

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