7-year-old put adults to shame when they tried passing him in grueling bike ride

Ryder Murphy, 7, shown during the STP Bicycle Classic.
Ryder Murphy, 7, shown during the STP Bicycle Classic. Courtesy

He did it for the cheers. All 2,090 of them.

Also, for the candy.

Ryder Murphy, 7, doesn’t know if he’s the youngest rider to complete all 203 miles of the STP Bicycle Classic.

All he knows is that it was fun.

The Gig Harbor kid, along with his father Tom, 44, spent Saturday and Sunday riding in the Northwest’s largest two-day bicycling event. The STP route takes riders from Seattle to Portland.

Ryder is clear on what he enjoyed the most.

“Going through the finish line and hearing everyone screaming and cheering for me,” he said Sunday night.

It wasn’t just at Sunday’s finish line near downtown Portland where he was cheered. It was all along the route.

“I was basically counting the whole time,” Ryder said. “It was hard keeping track.”

The pair left Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle at 5:15 a.m. Saturday.

The one or two-day ride (your choice) has attracted up to 10,000 riders in the past.

Ryder’s biggest challenge was a long uphill stretch on 72nd Street East near Puyallup. Riders simply call it “The Hill.”

Murphy said he motivated his son to complete the arduous climb with the boy’s favorite candy. Ryder could have a handful of blue Sour Punch straws if he could make it up the hill without stopping.

He did.

In fact, Ryder’s sole complaint during the whole trip was cold fingertips the first few miles of Sunday’s ride.

He even forgot to ask his dad for the candy when they made camp in Chehalis on Saturday night after 105 miles of riding.

Murphy had ridden the race in 2013, just as Ryder was learning to ride a bike. Before he turned 4, Ryder took a 14-mile bike ride with his parents around Gig Harbor.

Since then Ryder has become an avid cyclist but the most he had ridden in one day was 72 miles, Jennifer Murphy said.

“I knew he had the stamina and endurance,” Murphy said.

What he wasn’t sure of was whether Ryder had the emotional endurance. The ride uses public roads and riders must share them with cars and other cyclists and endure the occasional pothole.

“I said Ryder, if you want to do it just let me know,” Murphy recalled.

They registered in February.

Murphy didn’t know if Ryder could make the entire 105-mile leg on Saturday so he carried their camping gear on his bike, rather than give it to STP support crews who would normally take it to the ride’s camping spot in Chehalis.

“I was hedging my bets,” Murphy said. “Just in case we didn’t make it.”

Ryder’s mom, Jennifer, followed in a vehicle with a bike tow in case it was needed

It was not.

Ryder took nothing with him: no toys, games or distractions. He was concerned about adding extra weight to his father’s bike.

“I didn’t want to make my dad’s biking wheels run out of air,” he explained.

Murphy was riding a touring bike and Ryder was on a Specialized mountain bike with 20-inch wheels, six gears and road tires instead of knobbies.

It should be noted that Ryder was not named for any anticipated career in cycling.

“We heard that question a lot over the last few days,” Murphy said. “We just liked the name.”

On Sunday, at the 170 mile mark, Ryder really hit his stride, achieving 16 to 20 miles per hour.

It happened when a group of riders tried to pass him.

He sped up in response.

“I felt bad for those riders, shamed by a 7-year-old,” Murphy said.

Ryder became a celebrity of sorts among his fellow riders.

“They were supportive and cheered him on the entire way,” Jennifer Murphy said. “Many said he was inspiration for them and their families.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor