- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Mere minutes after an appearance at the Muncie Mini Marathon on Saturday morning, Mayor Dennis Tyler pedals into the Cardinal Greenway Depot parking lot on his red Trek Domane 4.1 Bicycle.

He wears an eye-catching lime green and black cyclist outfit with gray cycling gloves cut off at the knuckles.

From a distance, the slender 71-year-old Tyler looks at least 20 years younger than his actual age, and that doesn’t change any up close.

For the past six months, the Cardinal Greenway has been his home away from his two other homes, City Hall and his actual house. Tyler remains in the 170-pound range, but he has transformed his body. His waist size is down two inches and he has taken an inch off his neck, too.

Tyler took up cycling about six months ago after he won a Trek 7.3 FX Hybrid Bicycle at Rialzo, the annual Meridian Health Services’ charity gala. His wife of 35 years, Vickie, says she told him afterward, “this is a perfect opportunity. Somebody must be telling you something.”

Nearly two years earlier, the mayor underwent surgery prompted by complications from diverticulitis, a condition that affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain.

As he cycles south on the Greenway, Tyler acknowledges diverticulitis put a scare in him and his family. Vickie recalls sitting in IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital with their two children, fearing the worst-case scenario.

“When he got sick, it was just so quick,” she tells The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1p6jnaK ). “Sometimes when someone’s been so healthy that’s the one that something like that happens to.” Tyler pulled through the surgery without any complications, and by the next day, he sat in his hospital bed armed with his iPad and iPhone tending to business.

Diverticulitis put a jolt in Tyler, who acknowledges he put his health on the back burner once he entered the political arena as a state legislator in 2006. Before that, he served 42 years on the Muncie Fire Department and took excellent care of himself, running in his share of marathons and mini-marathons until his knees wore out.

High cholesterol and heart issues took their toll on Tyler after years of neglecting his health. His cholesterol level has improved dramatically and his type 2 Diabetes is under control since a text that went wrong turned out so right for him.

Meridian Services put the Trek up for bidding through text messaging. Tyler says he left his phone and glasses at home. Vickie lent him her phone, and without his glasses to see clearly, Tyler accidentally hit 8 instead of 6. He bid $800 and won the bicycle.

“One of the best mistakes I made,” he says.

Fellow retired firefighter Mike King describes the mayor as fanatical about cycling. The 69-year-old King says, “He knows more about biking than I ever thought of. He knows how it’s supposed to be fitted for him and all that stuff. That’s just Dennis. He’s pretty inquisitive.”

Tyler usually rides with either his wife or King. The mayor says he averages anywhere from 75 to 125 miles a week, depending on his hectic schedule.

A recent outing with King nearly resulted in the mayor crumpled on the side of the Greenway. The men scheduled the ride for 4:30 p.m., but with his schedule overloaded, Tyler pushed the ride back an hour.

King says they left at about 5:45 and set out to ride 25 miles. They rode the last 10 miles in darkness and two other riders coming in the opposite direction nearly ran Tyler off the trail.

“All you could see was 100 yards of leaves. You couldn’t hardly see the trail,” King says. It was one of the dumbest rides I’ve ever done.”

The former firefighters put their cycling prowess to the test earlier this month at the 47th annual Hilly Hundred in southern Indiana.

King participated in 11 previous Hilly Hundreds, but he says the course changed in the 13 years since his last one, and the terrain wore him and Tyler out.

Tyler wrecked on Bean Blossom Hill, with its 22-degree incline, when the rider in front of him crashed, but he escaped without injury. The next day, he lost his breath climbing steep Mount Tabor and walked his bicycle up about a block before resuming the ride.

One of the participants in the Hilly Hundred, Burris High School graduate and Indiana University junior Maddie Borgmann, told her father, Jim Borgmann, she spotted the mayor on the course.

Jim Borgmann shared what his daughter said to Tyler.

“She told him, ‘We saw your mayor. That’s pretty cool. But he sure was going pretty slow,’” Tyler says laughing. He jokes three weeks later he is still recovering physically from the Hilly Hundred.

Still, Tyler feels an incredible sense of accomplishment that he completed the challenging course. Vickie says, “He was so proud of himself. The next comparable thing would be when he accomplishes something with his work. There’s not too many things that get more exciting than that for him.”

As Tyler rides along the Greenway on Saturday morning, politics inevitably come up in discussion.

A man stops him along the Greenway to tell him about a problem with a sidewalk in his neighborhood. The man is picking up debris on the Greenway and is friendly with Tyler as they discuss the issue.

He only recognized the mayor after Tyler took the time to say hello to him in his unmistakable folksy-twang voice. Runners participating in the Muncie Mini Marathon pass Tyler on the Greenway, and they, too, identify the mayor after hearing him say, “Good job.”

Increased foot traffic on the Greenway for the mini marathon takes away from its usual peacefulness, yet Tyler calmly maneuvers his Trek around the runners at a leisurely pace, greeting each with a smile and encouraging words.

Appearances at other social events await and decisions that will impact Muncie residents loom, but on this unseasonably-warm autumn morning, as the leaves crumple under his Trek tires, Tyler is tranquil.

“His whole frame of mind has changed,” Vickie says. “He doesn’t come home quite as stressed. When he does, he’ll go for a bike ride and he’ll come back refreshed.”

___

Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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