Cyclist of the Month: Charles Ruthford, Father of Giants

Between 5’ 11” and 6’ 9,” the Ruthford family of six is hard to miss. If you’re lucky – you could join a 28 mile per hour pace line behind these true giants of cycling.

Age: 56
Occupation: ethics program developer, Boeing
Hometown: Seattle
Alma Mater: University of Washington, Stanford
Degrees: BA in Mathematics, MS in Management
Commute: 44 miles round trip from Maple Valley to Boeing Field

How did you begin commuting 44 miles per day?!
I started biking in January last year to train for the 2005 RAW (Ride Around Washington). I purchased an indoor trainer for winter training, and started outdoor bike commuting in April.

How is your commute accepted at Boeing?
Eight or nine of us in our building commute now. We ride two to four days per week. Sometimes we meet up and add some social miles to our commutes.

Boeing provides covered bike racks, exercise facility with lockers and showers; flex-time. There’s a strong health & fitness organization that promotes exercise. For example, they contract with the Mayo Clinic to deliver advice to employees. Boeing recognizes that good health contributes to lower medical premiums and less stress in the workplace.

What changes have you noticed?
I lost 35 pounds! I’m in shape like I haven’t been in 25 years; I’m much happier.

Why RAW?
My son, Eric (26), rode RAW twice; he convinced me to do it. This year, my other son, Patrick (17), rode with us; in 2007, we hope Jeffrey (20) will join us. My daughter, Julia (30), doesn’t really bike, but she windsurfs.

What was your favorite part of RAW?
Riding into Ellensburg, we caught a 30 mile per hour tailwind where we didn’t pedal for ten miles, going 28 miles per hour! Overall, the sense of accomplishment felt wonderful.

Our size does give us an advantage; riding RAW, folks loved to draft with us…there was always an endless line of takers. I’m 6’ 7” and my wife, Jane, is 5’ 11.” Eric is 6’ 9,” Patrick is 6’ 7,” and Jeffrey is 6’ 5.”

What unique challenges do you face?
None of us can fit into cycling shoes, so we use baskets or Power Grips with regular sneakers. Finding jerseys that fit, of course, is also a challenge.

Nine years ago, Eric’s first mountain bike was custom built from the frame up.
Now, all of us have custom Surly bikes with strong, 36-spoke wheels. Patrick and I bought the largest frames available.

Any recommendations for bike manufacturers?
We recognize that we’re a small part of the cycling population, but it should be easier to order large-sized frames that are not as expensive as full-custom.

What’s your involvement in Cascade?
We have a family membership. We joined for the events. Jane was the lunch lady on RAW; she’s just starting to cycle. I’ve also volunteered to sit on the 2007 RAW Committee.

Any other volunteer or community activities?
Our family participates in the Cedar River Naturalist Program. Each October/November, we do interpretive talks along the Cedar River – helping the City of Renton, City of Seattle, and Friends of Cedar River to protect salmon and salmon habitat.

What other events do you have planned?
We’re talking about doing the [Group Health] Seattle To Portland or RSVP next year. One of these summers, we’d like to do RAMROD.

Look for the Ruthfords on RAW 2007, scheduled for August 10 – 14!

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