Ride Lumos Stories #2 - Defying Age on Two Wheels: Lynn Salvo's Inspiring Journey

The oldest woman to cycle across the United States of America! That's just the first of many records set by Lynn Salvo, who at that point in time, was 67 years old. Our second #RideLumos story features Lynn, an avid long-distance cyclist who's showing the world that age is truly just a number. Read on to learn more about how Lynn got into cycling, her tips on load management, and what continues to drive her today.

Read on to learn more about how Lynn got into cycling, her tips on load management, and what continues to drive her on today.

Before diving into the story, we'd love to hear more of your stories, so please apply here to inspire other riders. Don't be shy!

It's amazing what the human body is capable of. I started at 50, and found my way to cycling through running and swimming injuries, and I've never looked back since.

Lynn looking at the camera
Colorado during first record-setting ride, 2016

Lynn, thanks for taking the time to share your story. To get started, I'd love to hear about how you got into cycling.

I was about to turn 50 at the turn of the millennium, starting to put on some weight, and realised I needed to do something different. I started with running, running up a street corner, lasting a quarter mile before thinking to myself, 'This is bad'. However, I was running 5 miles after 6 weeks. It's amazing how the body can adapt once you start. A couple of years later, I completed my first marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. I pushed myself too much and ran instead of taking breaks, resulting in injuries. My coach at that time suggested cross-training and I started cycling with an old beater bike, and swimming too, when I wasn't a swimmer at all. Fast-forward, I got more injuries from running, and messed up my rotator cuffs from swimming, leaving biking to compensate for the other two.

Making that change from cycling to long-distance cycling is still a huge change for most people - what got you into long-distance cycling?

This came about once I retired in 2014. I'm a big project person and needed a new big project. I had been reading about people cycling across the USA, and I thought to myself that surely it was impossible. At the same time, while I was amping up my mileage on the bike, I was introduced to a group setting out to achieve long-distance rides. I've heard that the last woman got "fired" from the group for being unable to catch up, and I told myself that I did not want to be that woman, and trained like crazy.

After more rides, I realized how much I really loved that kind of travelling, and I wanted to try out the same rides I thought were impossible for me. I checked with Guinness World Records, and they replied that it would be a new entry into the Book of Records if I did it. I tried it in 2015 but had to leave for a few days for a family matter, but I came back and finished with a group. I then completed my ocean-to-ocean route in 2016, which got me my first Guinness World Record after completing the ride coast to coast.

That's the first of many record-breaking rides - what other routes did you finish and what were some of your more memorable moments?

In 2018, I became the oldest woman to cross Canada by bike at 68 years old, and it was a truly freezing ride where I had kind friends who took me into their homes because I was hypothermic, and had to get into the showers right after getting off the bike, just so I could properly function after.

I followed on with a 3rd record by cycling across the USA from North to South by the time I was 72 going on to 73. This was part of my ride from Canada to Mexico, and it was by far the toughest ride I experienced because while it was just over 2,000 miles, it was over 100,000 feet of climbing. There was a big ride almost every day, and some days, there was more than one big climb. I even had to cycle on gravel and through the hills, as bikes weren't allowed on some highways, with deer flies constantly bugging me as they would swarm the moment I stopped.

My most recent record was achieved in 2022, drawing the largest GPS via a bike as an individual. I decided to go with a peace sign, starting from Wichita, and it being the centre of the peace sign. Why a peace sign? This ride was in memory of my brother, John Thomas West, and for all people like him. John, 28 at that time, was unfortunately killed in 1970, when his F-4 Phantom crashed in Laos.

I also understand that you're preparing for another ride similar to your first - why is that so?

To keep it short, the World Ultra Cycling Association now operates the Guinness World Record for biking-related records. My first record has been broken, and I'd like to give it another go to claim the title. What will be different, however, is that it will be a completely different geographical territory. I'll be starting the first part of my ride from the Pacific to Nebraska, with the support of friends who will then cycle back south to Wichita, while I carry on. I'm expecting a very scenic ride, following the trail of the Great American Rail Trail. My friend planned out the first part of this ride where it's going to be a bit more of a gravel ride, and it's a paved ride after we part ways.

There were and are so many types of rides, and so many paths travelled. Was there any special equipment or gear required?

I started cycling with a skinny tire bike, maybe for the first two rides but moved to 32-millimetre tires by the time I started riding in Canada as they were gravel capable. The bike I'm using now is a trusty old Cannondale Synapse with my Di2 shifters, which according to my Strava has clocked over 22,000 miles. I spent literally 18 hours with my bike mechanic, went over it all, and it now functions like a new bike in preparation for my upcoming ride. Very recently, of course, the Lumos Ultra. I can't tell you how many people have said "wow", and that they can see the helmet from far away. I'm just so happy because I now have a great helmet to keep me visible at all times. According to my bike mechanic, I also need to take good care of my legs, and my Shimano S-Phyre has been doing just that.

It's been truly inspiring speaking to you, and I'm sure this will inspire many others who will read about your story. To cap it off, what advice would you give aspiring riders, or even riders looking to push their rides up a notch?

The biggest advice I can give is similar to what I mentioned at the start of this interview - start. It's amazing what the human body is capable of. Find your resources, ask people questions and you'll get your answers. I started at 50 and found my way to cycling through running and swimming injuries, and I've never looked back since.

Lynn would like to give a shoutout to all her past, present, and future rides to:

  1. Jenn Weiss (her niece, Danielle, was interviewed by Lumos when she had a cracked helmet) showed me her helmet and sent me links to Lumos.
  2. Boomer Cabarle who showed me the Kickstarter helmet he got from Lumos.
  3. Les Welch of East Coast Bicycle Academy - my amazing bike mechanic and first bike coach.
  4. Jill, my younger coach
  5. My beloved SAGs (Support and Gear Group) on this upcoming trip:
    1. Darryl Spangler
    2. Sandra West (my sister-in-law)
    3. Michael West (my brother)
    4. Susie Schmitt (who has SAGged for me more than anyone else)
    5. Giampaolo Salvo (my son)
    6. Giovanni Salvo (my husband, who sag with my son for the final week to the finish)
    7. Mary Ellsworth and Mary Davies, who sagged the Pacific Coast trip
  6. My co-cyclists, including Callyn Worcester, who turned our entire complex ride into a single spreadsheet.
  7. Also, co-cyclists, Kay Spangler, Kathleen Bauer, Randi Korn, author David Goodrich, Jan, and hopefully John Brittain.
  8. From previous rides: Lynn Schoenfelder, Kurt VanGelder, and Brenda Mueller.
  9. Most importantly, in memory of my brother, John, whose loss in war made me a peace activist and inspired me to ride a continent-sized peace sign that covered 14,500 miles and took six years.

This is not a complete list but a placeholder as my gratitude to these people is flowing out right now.

Lynn is our second #RideLumos rider, and was preparing for her next long ride at the time of our interview, and is currently less than two weeks into her next record breaking journey. To read more about Lynn's journey, click the button below.

Lynn, we wish you all the best. Move smart, and stay safe.

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