Saltwater Portrait

Mike Tyler: A man of passions

Cyclist is devoted to advocacy for sport
April 23, 2013

A lot could be written about the life and times of Mike Tyler.

A man of many passions, Tyler is one of the most recognized cyclists in the Cape Region. He also works behind the scenes as one of the area's most dedicated cycling advocates. He's not only chairman of the Lewes Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, he's also active in Sussex Cyclists and the Delaware Bike Council.

Under Tyler's leadership, Lewes has been named a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists. He was also instrumental in offering summer bike safety checkpoints in key cycling areas in the Cape Region.

During National Bike Month each May, Tyler coordinates the Ride of Silence to honor those killed or injured while riding and also leads Lewes' bike ride to work. Lewes has been Tyler's adopted home now for more than 20 years.

Mike Tyler's perfect world

In Tyler's utopia, people would not only bike for recreation but also bike to shop and work. Tyler does his part by organizing events, speaking out when necessary and leading by example.

He has to be smiling on spring and summer weekends with the streets and roads in and around Lewes filled with cyclists. “There is no doubt Lewes has become a cycling destination and it's thanks to the Junction and Breakwater Trail,” Tyler said. “I'd like to see businesses in Lewes cater more to cyclists.”

The popular trail links Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. State officials have announced plans for more trail extensions and even a trail from Lewes to Georgetown.

It's not always been that way. Tyler says it was a major victory when Lewes officials installed the first bike rack on Second Street. “That was a giant leap,” he said. “Now racks are all over the place.”

He said the Lewes Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is getting more active promoting safe cycling in Lewes at events such as Lewes Night Out and the Historic Lewes Farmers Market.

This summer, the Lewes police bike patrol is scheduled to hand out “tickets” for free ice cream treats to children under 18 who are obeying state law and wearing helmets, Tyler said.

If it has anything to do with a bicycle, Tyler has an opinion about it, and he's not afraid to stand up and express it. Sometimes, people don't want to hear what he has to say, but he is usually not far off the mark.

And he doesn't stay quiet for long. As Sussex Cyclists' advocacy director, he has been on a campaign to get the attention of state transportation officials regarding what the cycling organization deems are unsafe cycling conditions in the Route 1 corridor.

He's also a stickler for the rules of the road and is not afraid to tactfully confront those who blatantly ignore the rules, especially those who ride on the wrong side of the road. “That gives all of us a bad name,” he said. In his perfect world, town police would stop cyclists breaking the law and educate them.

The life of a cyclist

Riding a bicycle is second nature to Tyler, but he is quick to put it into perspective. “I ride to live; I don't live to ride,” he says. As an insulin-dependent diabetic, those words ring truer than most realize.

Amazingly, he's been in the saddle enough to circle the Earth nearly 10 times with about 200,000 miles under his belt. He figures he averages about 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year.

Over the years, he's also done his fair share of running, completing 20 Caesar Rodney half marathons in a row. Now, it's just about the bicycle.

Tyler, 70, has spent most of his life riding on two wheels. When he worked for DuPont in New Castle County, he biked back and forth 14 miles to work most days. That was back in 1974 on a $40, 10-speed he bought at a garage sale. “People who biked back in those days were considered weirdos,” he said with a laugh.

Not afraid of challenge, Tyler said that first day of riding he had to stop and walk up a hill leading to the plant. He didn't walk the second day, and he has never looked back in his pursuit to stay in shape.

Tyler likes a challenge and has ridden many 100-mile century rides. His first, completed on a 10-speed with toe clips, took him more than seven hours to complete.

His riding has improved somewhat; he has finished the first 100 miles of the Tour of the Scioto River Valley in Ohio in 4 hours, 45 minutes. He drafted part of the ride behind Lon Haldeman, co-founder and two-time winner of the Race Across America. Tyler woke up the next day and rode back to the starting point, completing two century rides back to back.

Tyler can hold his own with just about any cyclist in the area. “I'm not Mr. Fast, but I can still ride strong with guys in their 40s. I know how to suck a wheel,” he said.

He also enjoys the camaraderie out on the road: there is a special bond among athletes who share the same passion.

Couple operates bed and breakfast

Tyler and his wife, Hope, moved to Lewes in 1992 after he took an early retirement option at the age of 49. For 10 years, the couple operated a successful bed and breakfast on Kings Highway across the street from the library. After a story in Time magazine featured the couple and their bed and breakfast, the phone rang off the hook, Tyler said.

They eventually sold the house so they could spend more time with their grandchildren.

Tyler and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in May 2012 with a family trip to Hawaii, which included the couple's three children, their spouses and seven grandchildren.

Tyler's advocacy has always been more than cycling. He was the voice for the Citizen's Coalition from its founding in 2000 to its dissolution in 2012. As the front man for the organization, he took local and county officials to task on many projects over the years.

And for more more than two decades, Tyler has helped coordinate Lewes' British Motorcar Show, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, at the Lewes Historical Society Complex. It's not unusual to see Mike and Hope touring in their restored 1962 Austin Healey 3000. That's another of Tyler's passions, which is a story for another day.

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