Despite age and disabilities, 86 year-old still likes to ride a bike for enjoyment

Josh Jeppson is the spotter for his grandfather Roland while Gordon heads to Nibley on a tandem bicycle Wednesday morning.

Roland Jeppson, 86, is trying for another 1,000 miles this cycling season. For Roland, a season depends on the weather from when it warms up until it cools off. He made his 1,000-mile goal last year, despite injuries he received in a truck-bicycle collision in June 2016.

Roland Jeppson shows he made his last years goal of 1,000 miles of cycling for the season despite his challenges.

Up until the collision, his goal was 3,000 miles a summer; that is the distance between Florida and California.

For a number of years my goal has been to ride at least 3,000 miles during the summer,” Jeppson said. “In 2015, I had ridden 3,300 miles in Cache Valley, plus about 350 miles in St George.”

After the accident, healing was slow. He became dependent on others for everything.

“The accident turned me into something like a newborn infant, dependent on someone else to take care of my every need,” Jeppson said. “A tube was placed though my nose, bypassing my stomach into my small intestine to provide a baby type food.”

In time, the retired Utah State University engineering professor healed enough to get around with a walker, but not enough to get on a bicycle.

Not only was Jeppson an avid cyclist, all of his nine children are also bicycle enthusiasts. All but one have ridden in LOTOJA more than one time. One son has done it as many as 10 times.

Gordon Jeppson’s second of his nine children, who tries to do 100 miles a week, wondered if he couldn’t figure out a way to get his father on the back of a tandem bike which was collecting dust in his garage.

Roland Jeppson gets ready to have the tandem bicycle rolled under him without a seat so he can ride with the help of his son Gordon. Grandson Josh Jeppson keeps the bike stable.

“We bought the tandem bike when I got married,” Gordon said. “Cathy, my wife, and I rode it until we started having children.”

It really came in handy when he started to use it with his dad.

After removing the seat and some other adjustments, including a special pedal for the leg that has no strength, Roland Jeppson was on the bike, and he rode it just fine.

“If he has two hands on the handlebars and can sit in the seat, he has three points of contact,” Gordon said. “I usually try do 10 to 15 miles on my own and another 10 to 15 with my dad on the tandem.”

Getting dad on the bike was a birthday present from some of my siblings,” he said. “Some didn’t want me to do it, but we got him on the bike, and got going with a brother running beside to make sure he didn’t fall off. The whole family was there and we did one lap around the subdivision.”

The first year they worked up to a mile, and by the end of last year they clocked 1,000 miles for the summer.

Gordon Jeppsen gives instruction to his son Josh to get everything ready for Roland to dismount the bicycle.

“He calls me every morning to see if we are going,” Gordon said. “I think he really enjoys it.”

“It’s not hard at all to take an hour out of the day and go for a ride with him.

“It’s been a good thing,” Gordon said. “I’ve had a chance to talk to him and get to get to know him a little better.”

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  • Theron Jeppson August 22, 2019 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Thanks for writing and sharing this story. This is my Dad. He is an inspiration. Despite the challenges he has faced the last few years, he continues to find joy in the simple things and moves forward with such a positive attitude. My Mom is an inspiration too. She has given countless hours of love, service, and support. To me Roland and MaryAnna Jeppson are two of the best people you’ll find and a great example of how to live right and be happy with and make the best of what life hands you.

  • Jeanette Christenson August 22, 2019 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Super article. Roland is a terrific example of beating the odds and continuing to grow and work out. He is amazing along with his wife and wonderful family. Thanks for writing a great article.

  • Janet Wilcox August 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm Reply

    We need more stories like this in the news, that illustrate what people with an indomitable spirit can do, no matter what life deals them. Just surviving this horrible accident was a miracle in itself, but to know he is back on a bike again, is truly an extra blessing.

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