Former RAAM record-holder Paul Solon, 57, aims to break record

When it comes to long-distance cycling, few if any riders can turn the cranks as strong and as long as Paul Solon.

Though only three years from 60, Solon’s passion for the sport and his ability to ride at the limits of human endurance has not begun to wane.

In fact, the former Race Across America (RAAM) record-holder (LA to NY in 8 days, 8 hours; since broken) is more committed than ever and, he claims, as fit and capable as ever to establish new records.

Back in the U.S. after 10 years living and riding in Europe — including setting the record for racing across Europe (Norway to Sicily) and for racing the length of Italy — the former attorney from Marin County plans to begin in October with an attempt to shatter the record for time trialing the length of California, nonstop, from the Oregon border to Mexico.

The current record is 62 hours. Solon hopes to roll his front wheel up to Tijuana in around 55 hours or so.

“What’s it like being an elite athlete at 57 years old going after world records?” I ask him, reaching him on the phone while on a road trip through Colorado and New Mexico to survey high-altitude towns to plunk down for the winter to train after his California record attempt. He wants to attempt to reclaim his RAAM record at next year’s race, held in June.

“I don’t event think about it,” says Solon, driving his van/race-support vehicle through Colorado. “I feel like I’m getting better every year. I started late in cycling, at 34, and each year I’ve gotten better.

“If you start competing when you’re in your teens, it’s much harder to still be at it at 57 or 58 and not be burned out,” he adds. “A big part of training is how you feel mentally. If you don’t feel fresh and enthusiastic, you can’t stay motivated day in and day out.”

How do you balance work and training?

“I’m sponsored to a limited extent. I stopped working as a lawyer (about 11 years ago) and that made everything much easier. But I’m constantly looking for sponsors … I live a frugal lifestyle but I’m not suffering.

Solon’s route down California, approximately 900 miles, will follow Interstate 5. He’ll be riding on the highway much of the way, where allowed, except for a zone 30-40 miles north and south of Sacramento. After riding up the Grapevine, he’ll exit at Magic Mountain and ride secondary roads from there to the border.

The toughest part?

“For me it’s always getting to the starting line,” he says. “Once the race starts I’m in my element. … As far as the ride, the last 100 miles is always the hardest. You’re counting down every mile in your head and it’s always a bit of a guess knowing exactly how far the finish is.”

Will you sleep at all?

“No, I prefer not to, unless absolutely necessary … because you never know how you’re going to feel when you wake up.”

That’s a veteran talking … Good luck and rest up, Paul!

—Pete Gauvin