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Cycling 200 miles across four counties in five days is impressive. It’s even more impressive when you are just a fourth grader.
At 9 years old, Egan Little is the youngest biker on the 2018 Tour de Nebraska.
This is Little’s first time experiencing a bike tour, as he rode on a tandem bicycle with his mother, Sarah, who has been on RAGBRAI, but never before on Tour de Nebraska. Egan’s father, Lance, is also on the tour.
The three of them traveled from their hometown, Claremont, California, and drove for 16 hours to Colorado and another eight hours to Plainview, where they arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the first day of the 31st annual tour, they biked for 51 miles from Plainview to Neligh, where they stayed the night in the Neligh-Oakdale High School gym.
Also on the trip with them were Lance’s cousins James and John Baylor and John’s children, Antonia and Cameron.
Riding a tandem bike is fairly new to Little, as he started learning this spring. However, he first started learning how to ride a bike when he was about 3 years old.
“I think I just started when I was about 3 or something because I had a balance bike, and that was really nice,” Little said. “And then, I kind of moved on to – well, I never went to training wheels.”
His mother said that when his twin sister, Julia, started riding her bike, Egan immediately followed, and then his older sister, Carrie Anne, decided to join.
“We put his pedals on, and in an hour – less than an hour, 10 minutes – he was riding across the grass at the park,” Sarah said.
This fall, Little will be in fourth grade at Sycamore Elementary School, and since they live about 3 miles from the building, his mother decided they would ride bikes to school together. Little said he’s excited that he can now also ride his bike to his friend’s house.
Little and his sisters’ passion for biking was inspired by an equal enthusiasm from their parents.
His father got into biking when he was 22 or 23 and hopped on a bike for 1,000 miles to get in shape for ski season, Sarah said. When she was a teenager, she developed a love for biking by going with her father. During her junior year of college, Sarah said she rode for 650 miles from Beverly State Beach Park in Oregon to the Golden Gate Bridge.
When Little started to learn how to ride a tandem bike, he said it was different because since the pedals are linked, and they have to decide together where and how fast they travel.
“You don’t have control of where you’re going, and you aren’t usually the person who’s controlling what speed you’re going at,” Little said. “And, you’re not shifting the gears at all. So, it’s kind of just pedalling with the other person.”
During Tour de Nebraska, Little rode on the back of the tandem, while his mother took over the front and navigated.
His mother said she first heard of the tour through John Baylor when he called Lance about it and said he couldn’t make it to RAGBRAI, but could do Tour de Nebraska.
Little enjoyed the first day of the tour, but said the first 10 miles and the final stretch, as well as a flat tire at the end provided some difficulties.
“It felt good. It’s just the first 10 miles or so were a bit hard because I didn’t have enough calories in me and it was raining pretty hard,” he said. “And when I took my jacket off, my windbreaker, the water had all stuck to my windbreaker and it was sticking to my skin.”
According to Little, during the last portion of the ride to Neligh, the shoulder was narrow to bike on and the rumble bars took up a lot of room.
“There was like 2 inches of the road without actual bumps,” he said.
For Little, this is the first time that he remembers being in Nebraska, and he said he appreciates its open space.
“I really think it’s nice because where we live, it’s not really open. And when one town ends, there’s immediately another town,” Little said. “And with Nebraska, it’s just, like, a 10-mile pause between a town.”
The only downside that he sees to the state is the odor that the cows leave.
“The only really negative part is I like the animals, but the cows, they have a lot of manure,” Little said.
His mother said she has been to Nebraska seven or eight times and that its nature is stunning.
“I think it’s beautiful,” Sarah said. “It’s really nice to be out in the countryside and to be driving by farms and not seeing cars everywhere, and houses everywhere and buildings everywhere, but to see the birds flying around and the trees. I love it.”
During the last 10 miles, she said they had a companion from Omaha who talked about his trip to Montana and Wyoming. Little said they kept a moderate speed, which allowed them to have brief conversations with other bikers.
“A lot of the time, we had a moderate pace with other people, and we had a short conversation with them where we would go ahead or they would go ahead. And, that was nice,” Little said.
He said he had a good conversation with another participant who talked with him about her favorite bike company in Arkansas.
“It’s just fun to meet other people, and it’s fun to see the different types of bikes and see what people have to say about bikes,” Little said.
Once they complete Tour de Nebraska, the family is hoping to get two more tandem bikes and train to do RAGBRAI together next summer with the additions of Little’s aunt and sisters.