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Rindge's 'Night Rider'

John Whiting started riding his bicycle for physical fitness in his late 60s, and it’s changed his life

  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.
  • John Whiting of Rindge fell in love with bicycling late in life, and it's improved both his spirits and his health.

If you see a man riding his bicycle around Rindge at nighttime, chances are it’s John Whiting. Whiting, who’s known in some circles as “Rindge’s Night Rider,” loves taking late night trips around town. If you ask him, though, his darkest hours are behind him – and bicycling is the reason why.

A few years ago, Whiting was battling depression and loneliness, living with some extra weight and pains in his body.

“I was in dire straits,” Whiting said. Look at pictures from that time, he said, “and you’d see a fat man.”

Whiting decided to order a bicycle from Amazon. The big brown truck showed up and dropped it off; Whiting assembled it, hopped on and started riding. Two and a half years later, he’s a changed man.

“Today, I’m living a pain free life,” Whiting said. “I can walk uphill, my back doesn’t hurt and I can see my toes again.”

Well, he didn’t say “toes,” but you get the idea. Whiting said he’s dropped about 50 pounds since he started riding. He started out by riding up to the nearby cemetery and riding laps around it, “day and/or night.” After a while, he realized that his body was changing.

“I just started acquiring some legs,” Whiting said, “I was having some difficulty with my legs turning to rubber on the hills, but by the second year, I started noticing on the hills – where’s the rubber?! And I thought: ‘Well, this is interesting!’ By the third year, absolutely no rubber.”

From there, Whiting started tackling tougher rides, including a stretch of Route 119 between Fogg’s Mini Mart and Main Street in Rindge that he dubbed “Humper Hill.”

“For three years I was afraid of that hill,” Whiting said. This summer, he rode down to the Rindge farmers market, loaded up his saddlebags with fresh vegetables and headed back up Humper Hill. To his surprise, he made it up the hill and back to his house.

“And the next trip up the hill was even another mile per hour faster and up a gear, and the same deal with the third trip up the hill,” Whiting said.

Whiting harnessed the power of Google Maps to locate area rail trails and bike paths and rode them to his heart’s content, both day and night.

He has an excellent lamp for his night rides, Whiting said. “I can see every pebble, grain of sand, crack in the road, drainage grate, everything on low power with that light. If there was a bear on the trail 100 yards out, I could see it.” (He admitted that if that happened, he’d definitely grant the right of way to the bear.)

Whiting recalled one late-night trip to the store this summer where he stopped under a streetlight to adjust his groceries. When he looked up, he was face to face with Rindge police chief Frank Morrill. who understandably was interested to know why Whiting was out and about so late. Whiting explained about his newfound love of cycling, and Morrill responded by giving Whiting a “police escort” home. He’d later gift Whiting a neon-green reflector vest to keep him safe on night rides.

“Now every time (the police) see me, they give me a little flash of the blue lights!” Whiting said.

Whiting kept expanding his radius and finding more and more bike paths to ride. He’s now ridden paths on both sides of the state and some in Massachusetts, and he’s got his sights set on a lofty goal: a nearly 400-mile bike trip along the Erie Canal that he’s planning for next summer.

“If I could do it by July 7, I could say I did it when I was 70 years old,” Whiting joked. “And I’m not a fanatic! I’m riding across Pennsylvania and dealing with mountains, I’m not riding on a crosscountry trip, I’m not riding to Florida. This is going to be the one-time, biggest bicycling adventure in my life, and that’s going to be it, and I’m happy with that.”

For now, Whiting is waiting out the winter season; his bike is waiting with him, parked right in the living room, ready to get back out on the road. He’ll be back out there come spring, and he’s hoping to find some like-minded cyclists to ride with on the area’s many bike paths.

“If this inspired someone who was in dire straits as I was not long ago to make a change in their life for the better? Oh, that’s an even a more beautiful thing, knowing that possibly you can affect the life of another in a positive way. That’s pretty much my goal in life, is just to touch the lives of others in a positive way.”

(To contact Whiting about starting a riding group, email j.yting43@gmail.com.)

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