Bicyclist Duane Cutting, 96, 'an inspiration' to community

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, October 14, 2013

DELAVAN--Duane Cutting doesn't think he's doing anything special when he pedals to places far and near.

In fact, he sounds almost apologetic when he tallies up the distance he has gone on his bike.

“I'll be lucky if I get 400 miles outside this year,” he said. “The world is full of bicyclists who go much farther than I do.”

Sure, lots of riders lap up more miles in a season than Duane, but not too many were born in 1917.

At 96, Duane has been biking for decades.

The Delavan man stands in his garage, near two 40-year-old Peugeot bikes hanging on the wall. He and his wife, Helen, used to ride them regularly.

“For years and years, the French were the only ones who made light bikes,” Duane said. “Now, everyone does. The Peugeot was the first good road bike, and they are still making them.”

In 1973, he paid $230 each for the bikes, which was a chunk of change back then.

For years, Duane pedaled the Peugeot. Now, he cruises along on a Giant, but he insists the Peugeot still works fine. Duane and Helen, 90, made road trips together until Helen stopped riding.

“We usually had a destination in mind, like Janesville, Burlington or Wheaton, Ill.,” Helen recalls.

Duane stepped up the pace when he retired from selling cars in Delavan.

At the peak of his cycling days, he rode about 2,200 miles a year.

“I don't have many aches or pains,” he said. “I have a strong feeling that riding contributes to my good health.”

Deanne Eccles-Rotar doesn't know Duane, but she praises exercise, such as biking, for both physical and mental health.

“It helps maintain joint motion, muscle strength and overall energy levels,” said Eccles-Rotar, a doctor in sports medicine at Dean Clinic Janesville East. “I think exercise is the fountain of youth.”

Regular exercise improves mental functioning, and studies show that it reduces the risk of and delays the onset of dementia in people older than 65, she said.

To get started, Eccles-Rotar suggests finding something you love and can stick with through the years, much like Duane has.

“Start slowly, with maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and do it at a moderate level of exertion," Eccles-Rotar said. "Doing short durations of activity multiple times a day can be as effective as doing a whole 30-minute session at once.”

Duane said this summer was his last season on the road.  

“I think it's prudent to stop at my age because my balance isn't what it used to be,” he explained.

He set up an exercise bike in an airy room of his home, where he works out daily. A note with the word “exercise” is attached to the bike as a reminder to get moving. Duane acknowledges riding indoors is not as much fun.

“As long as you can, it's best to ride outdoors,” Duane said. “It sharpens your balance. If you don't keep moving, it's easy to lose your flexibility.”

A former neighbor calls Duane one of his heroes.

Ed Siert, 72, of Delavan rides about 2,000 miles a year.

“Bicycling is the one thing I can do that doesn't hurt,” he said. “I almost feel like I am 25 when I'm on a bike.”

Ed figures he'd be lucky if he gets close to 96 and is still biking.

“To Duane, it is no big deal that he is still riding,” Ed said. “He is a humble and unassuming man. But he is an inspiration to many in our community.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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