Michael Gach started riding bicycles as a 3-year-old growing up on a farm in Missouri.

Accustomed to wide-open spaces, he loved the freedom and fresh air that cycling provided him. One day when he was 16, Gach did an impromptu 102-mile ride on his Schwinn 8-speed wearing jeans and a long-sleeve shirt.

Now 63, the Naperville resident hasn’t let age — or the coronavirus pandemic — stop him from his favorite form of exercise.

Gach was set to participate for the ninth straight year in RAGBRAI, a weeklong bike ride across Iowa. It is billed as the oldest, largest and longest bike ride in the world, with 15,000 riders taking part.

Cyclists begin in Le Mars on the western end of Iowa and average around 65 miles per day until arriving in Clinton. The race, held annually in late July, was canceled this year because of the pandemic.

So Gach called up friends Steve Schmeider and Tom Quevillon.

“I always take that week off, so I said I’m going to re-create the ride,” Gach said. “They said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I said, ‘Maybe,’ and they said, ‘OK.’ ”

The trio rode together in the 2018 RAGBRAI and did so again during seven daily rides through the western suburbs.

“They put the routes together, and I kept us going and motivated,” Gach said. “Steve and I did the whole thing, while Tom rode the first four days, then rode three days in Michigan on a family trip.”

Gach coined the adventure NAGBRAT, for Naperville Area Greater Bike Ride Around Town. The rides totaled 447 miles, including a pair of 85-mile round trips to Crystal Lake along the Fox River Trail.

Aside from four storm-related stops on the first day, Gach and his buddies had ideal weather.

“It was great because all three of us were smart about it,” Gach said. “We’d always take a mask and ate at restaurants outside.

“We felt it was great to be able to have the ability to do it, especially going around all the little towns we did. Exercise is one of the key things for building your immunity.”






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