LUMBERTON — In the same position as he would watch a football game, and at the same speed you would drive through a parking lot, Will Parker recently set a world record — on a bicycle.
The 17-year-old Lumberton resident completed a 100-mile course to set the first recumbent bicycle record for that distance. As he was still 16, the record is for males under the age of 17.
Will is the son of Maria Parker, who has set records on the recumbent bike herself — once riding for 12 hours straight.
“She’s an inspiration,” Will said. “It made me think this was possible. … It was a personal challenge and I wanted to test myself.”
Will finished the course, which was certified by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association, in 4 hours, 54 minutes and 43 seconds — averaging a little over 20 mph. He rode the Cruzbike Vendetta, a time-trial recumbent bike manufactured by a business his family partly owns.
A recumbent bike puts the rider in a reclining position, taking pressure off the wrists, hands, back and buttocks. Cruzbikes, which are front-wheel drive, can range in price from under $1,000 to more than $4,000, and are available in commuter, racing, road and custom styles. They are sold at www.cruzbike.com.
“The chain leads straight to the front wheel, which allows you to be leaned back and is much more comfortable,” Will said. “That’s the big thing, it’s much more comfortable. But also it’s more aerodynamic. Sitting on a regular bike you are much higher off the ground so you have a lot more wind resistance. … You get a better view of the road because you’re sitting back like you’re in a chair, so you can see very well.”
Since becoming partners in Cruzbike Inc. in 2006, the Parkers have become passionate about the two-wheelers. Different models of the bikes sit and hang in their garage, and an array of helmets and racing gear fills their shelf space. Will, the youngest of the Parkers’ four children, and Maria have taken the bikes for the longest spins.
“I think a lot of people think recumbent bikes are for handicapped people or for people who can’t ride a regular bike, but we wanted to show that they were also very fast and there’s no reason why a healthy person wouldn’t want to ride a bike like this,” Maria said.
Will trained about four days a week for three months, doing 20-mile rides during the week and longer rides on the weekends. The senior at Lumberton High School is no stranger to endurance training, as he also runs cross country.
“I wanted to show that these big mileages, these big numbers, they don’t really mean anything,” Will said. “A hundred miles, a marathon, a half marathon, they’re just numbers and you can train to do them. People often think it’s so far out of their league they can’t handle that.”
The day of the race, he hit the road in White Oak in Bladen County at 6 a.m. The course consisted of five 20-mile loops.
About an hour into the ride, while taking a left-hand turn too fast, he fell off the bike, striking asphalt. Losing only 2 minutes, he jumped back on and continued.
“I was terrified,” Maria said of watching her son ride. “It was much worse than doing the ride myself. Especially when he fell, that was a bad moment for me because I’m his mom. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
A few laps later, a tire blew out, probably a result of the crash. With a support car carrying an official and his mother, Will got back on the road within about 10 minutes.
The two credit his minor injuries to the design of a recumbent bike. Rather than flying over the handlebars, he simply slid out the side of the bike.
Cramps gripped Will’s legs periodically throughout the rest of the ride. Crossing the line in under 5 hours, Will said he “felt great.”
“The hardest part was probably mile 70,” Will said. “The first couple laps, you’re going on adrenaline. I’d never ridden 100 miles before this ride. I’d ridden about 80 … I wasn’t running on adrenaline anymore from the beginning of the ride so that was really hard and it got hot.”
The Parkers, who ride their bikes in races and leisurely around their neighborhood, hope to see the recumbent bike take off in popularity.
“Everyone in this neighborhood probably has two hybrid bikes but you don’t ever see people riding them and the reason is because if you ride a few miles, it hurts,” Maria said. “It’s uncomfortable. If this kind of bike would catch on, everybody would ride their bikes more. And if they rode their bikes more, it would be better for them, better for the environment, better for everybody. That’s kind of the mission.”