Judy Lokey is well known in her adopted home of Montrose, Colorado as the septuagenarian cyclist. But it isn’t her status as a 70-something biker that amazes people, it’s what she has achieved on a bike. It is no exaggeration to say that, relatively speaking, Lokey’s diminutive figure belies a cycling juggernaut.
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Born in Pennsylvania, Lokey moved to Colorado in 1970, fulfilling an ambition she had from a young age. She moved to her current home of Montrose, in the southwest of the state, in 1977. “I always wanted to come to Colorado. I had a friend who would come here to ride horses. It was so... Western, and I thought, I’m going there some day.”
But cycling wouldn’t become part of her life until almost 20 years later when, a year or so after her children graduated from high school, the idea of cycling struck her out of nowhere.
“A local charity called Partners were having a charity bike ride, and I just thought, maybe I’ll try that. And that just got me going. It really just took off from there,” she says.
“Then I did the Courage Classic and got more and more involved with the biking community. Then one day I saw someone wearing a [Ride the Rockies] shirt, and I thought, I’ll give that a try.”
Ride the Rockies is an annual week-long road ride through Colorado every June. Capped at 2,000 riders, the route changes every year. This year the course starts in Alamosa. It's 447 miles and will ascend over 32,000 feet. And Lokey will be at the start line for the 17th time.
“I don’t really remember exactly how it was the first time, but I do remember it was pretty hard,” she says. “Even now, as much as I bike, I don’t like climbing mountains.”
Lokey happily admits that it doesn’t make much sense to keep coming back to a mountain ride if she doesn't like climbing, but she has her reasons. “One, it’s the challenge of it, and two, I love to go downhill, especially when you go for miles and miles,” she says. “I also really like that the route changes every year. It if it was always the same, I probably wouldn’t do it.”
While RTR might be the ride Lokey has done most, it is far from the only endurance ride. In fact, these days Lokey uses riding as an excuse to travel around the country visiting friends and family as well as to get away on holiday.
“I’ve done RAGBRAI in Iowa; Cycle the Erie Canal in New York; Ride Idaho; Skinny Tire in Moab; Iron Horse in Colorado; and WaCanId which starts in Idaho, goes into Washington State, north into Canada and then back down into Idaho; as well as a few others.”
Aside from amazing locations and the sheer obsession of it all, how does Lokey stay motivated to cycle an average of 200 miles a week in the warmer months, particularly at 72 years of age? “I at least want to be around when my grandkids graduate from high school,” she says. And is it working? “I feel stronger now than when I started almost 20 years ago.”
Setting goals for herself is another way she stays motivated. “After passing the 10 ride mark, my goal was to do RTR 15 times. Now it’s to do it 20 times. When I get to 20, if I still feel like doing it, I’ll keep doing it,” she says.
“I also try to cycle more miles than I did last year. I rode 9,500 miles in 2016, but I think I can beat that this year.”
As for the 2017 RTR route, Lokey is excited because it will be stopping in Montrose, her home town, for the first time in years, but she’s also a bit nervous. “I love the route except for day four from Durango to Ridgway. It’s going to be awful,” she says.
That day is undoubtedly the toughest day of the ride – 83 miles with 7,792 feet of elevation gain thanks to three mountain passes over 10,000 feet.
And the future?
“I have no doubt I will reach my goal of doing RTR 20 times. In fact, unless someone runs me down, I plan to keep biking as long as I can.”
And while members of her family aren’t as obsessed with cycling as she is, Lokey would love to pass the Ride the Rockies torch on to her six-year-old granddaughter. “I’d like to take her on my 20th. She will be 10 by then, and I told my son they can SAG [drive the support vehicle], so if she gets tired she can jump in the car.”
If she is anything like her grandmother, that may not be necessary.