Age is Just a Number: Redding Octogenarian Still Tears Up Singletrack

Redding resident Earl Bydalek still rides his mountain bike at age 81.

At 81 years of age, Earl Bydalek hasn’t really grasped the concept of slowing down. Well, maybe just a little.

“I just had a hip replacement at Christmas,” he said. “I’m still riding, but more conservatively.”

Bydalek, who moved to Redding from Nebraska when he was 12 and operated Earl’s Auto Electric for 40 years, bicycles weekly with a Friday morning group that circles the Sacramento River Trail and finishes up with coffee at Breaking New Grounds on Yuba Street.

But his two-wheeled forays extend beyond that. “Right now I’ve been riding off Swasey (Drive), Mule Mountain area,” he said. “The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has done one hell of a job on it.”

Longtime Redding mountain biker and accountant Ron Bresolin Jr. considers Bydalek an inspiration. A Mt. Shasta ski patrolman for at least a decade, Bydalek helped rescue a 12-year-old Bresolin and his 7-year-old brother when they got stuck 30 feet up in a malfunctioning chairlift at the new ski park.

“He’s a legend,” Bresolin said.

Bydalek, who spent four years in the Navy, did ski patrol on weekends for about 30 years. When he started skiing, it was on wooden skis with steel inserts. He wore field boots, digging out the heels to fit the cable bindings. It’s another sport he’s reluctant to relinquish.

“I sorta have retired from skiing because my balance has gone to hell in a handbasket,” he said. “But my child bride of 70 (Linda) wants to ski, so I’m going to give it another go this winter.”

Earl and Linda, who met in a bowling alley, have five children and 12 grandchildren. The Bydaleks were an outdoors family, waterskiing and camping at Lake Shasta, kayaking at Whiskeytown Lake, and playing tennis.

Mountain bikers sustain their share of bumps and bruises. Earl shows a black-and-blue thigh from a fall in 1995.

But mountain biking wasn’t part of Bydalek’s routine until his son Patrick, who worked at The Bike Shop on Bechelli Lane, got him hooked on it about 30 years ago. Store owner Rex Cooper told Bydalek he could purchase his old bike.

And that was it. “It’s just fun,” Bydalek said. “You’re basically in the trees and manzanita.”

He does admit there was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning. “When I first started, it was ‘who fell first, who bled the most,’” he said, recalling a time he ran into manzanita and had to get stitches at urgent care.

For years, Bydalek led and rode with members of weekly Wednesday night and Sunday morning groups, most of whom were 10 to 20 years his junior. Most of their rides were in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

Earl, bottom left, is part of a Friday morning biking group.

“There were two rules when I had that group,” he said. “You had to have a helmet, and I was the tailman. I told them they didn’t have to wait for me.”

Bydalek, who takes spinning classes and “pumps iron” every week at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness Club, hopes to keep mountain biking for a while.

“I just bought a cross-bike, basically a road bike with mountain bike handlebars and stuff,” he said. “There are 30 miles of paved trail going to Shasta Dam, so that’s why I went for a cross bike. I don’t ride the road.”

Though he has served as a course marshal at bike races, Bydalek has never competed in one.

“The only person I compete against is me,” he said. “I figure if I’ve gone up a trail in a certain gear, I’d better be able to do it in that gear again.”

-Photos courtesy of Earl and Linda Bydalek

Click here to read more from Day 1 of the A News Cafe’s “Taken By Two Wheels.”

Candace L. Brown has been a magazine and newspaper journalist since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight. When she first called Earl this summer, he was in the middle of watching Tour de France coverage. Candace lives in Redding and can be reached at candace.freelance@gmail.com.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Candace L. Brown
Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight. She lives in Redding and can be reached at candace.freelance@gmail.com.
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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Sally says:

    Earl – Definitely a person to be admired. You take life for a ride!

  2. Avatar jim Rentschler says:

    What a great story. I hope that I can do the same. What an insperation !!!

  3. Avatar Mark says:

    That's my Dad….amazing

  4. Avatar Lisa Allpress says:

    My Dad too!

  5. Avatar Larry Watson says:

    Earl and Mo Orwig got me started in Mountain Biking some 20 years ago and I still do to this day. Earl is 10 years my senior and I hope to be riding in 10 years. I am one of the regular Friday morning group but apparently not the Friday the picture was taken. Hey Earl how come I'm not in the picture. Ha!

  6. Avatar Nathan says:

    That's my Papa! More glad than ever to be one of "Papa's People"

  7. Avatar Chris Flentye says:

    I've had the privilege to go on many rides with Earl and he is a first class guy.