At 93 Phyllis Harmon was recently inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, CA. She was recognized for her significant contributions to the sport of cycling in the United States. In 1937, at the age of 19, Harmon, an avid cyclist, was instrumental in resurrecting the League of American Bicyclists (formerly the League of American Wheelmen), the oldest bicycling organization in the United States. The League of American Bicyclists currently has 300,000+ members and is the leading advocacy group for cyclists. From 1939 to 1972, Harmon volunteered selflessly for the League of American Wheelmen, serving as treasurer, executive vice president, historian, office manager, and writer, editor and publisher of the “L.A.W. Bulletin.”
In 1979, Harmon received the coveted Paul Dudley White Award and in 1985, her enthusiasm, vast knowledge, and dedication to bicycling prompted the League of American Bicyclists to establish the Phyllis Harmon Volunteer of the Year Award to recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to bicycling. Patrick J. McCormick, Communications Director for the League of American Bicyclists calls Harmon “a combination of Lance Armstrong, the Energizer Bunny, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Winston Churchill, all rolled up into one indomitable spirit.”
Harmon has never been one to settle for complacency. She continually challenged herself and others to go the extra mile and seized all opportunities to hit the open road. In 1970, after raising six children, she moved to Wheeling, IL where she immediately went to work. She founded the Wheeling Wheelmen and organized, promoted, and participated in the Harmon Hundred, a yearly event that continues to this day.
In bicycling circles, a “century” is a one day, one hundred mile bike ride. At fifty, Harmon resumed the work out, completing a “century” in a little over seven hours. She did it again at fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven, two days in a row at sixty, and again at seventy-four. At sixty-four, she led a three-week bicycle tour across New Zealand and her enthusiasm was so contagious that she was able to recruit cyclists from all over the country to join her on a total of seven New Zealand tours, the latest at age eighty-three.
At sixty-seven, she boarded a plane to Germany for a two-week bicycle tour of Luxembourg and France. She celebrated her seventieth birthday tow-gliding in Arizona and her seventy-fifth soaring over Phoenix in a hot air balloon. At seventy-three she spent six weeks riding her bicycle across the United States, from Los Angeles to Boston.
Bicycle racing always had a special place in Harmon’s heart, but she never considered participating in a race until her seventy-third year when, on a whim, she decided to compete in Illinois’ and Arizona’s Senior Olympics. She surprised no one more than herself when she brought home three gold medals and one bronze in the five and ten mile bicycle races.
At seventy-four, she arrived at the Yoplait Challenge on her fully loaded touring bike to discover that all the other racers were riding stripped-down racing bikes. She competed anyway in the thirty-two mile race, won the event, and brought home the yellow jersey.
Harmon is intent on maintaining an active mind, an active spirit, and an active body and will challenge any preconceived impressions of the elderly. She does not consider herself an athlete. She has never worked out, trained, or even warmed up – She just goes – living life to the fullest.
The Boulder Cycling Club strives to make cycling a lifelong recreation. As we like to say: “The century that really counts is the one that you spend enjoying cycling!”