Jim Feeney, 60: Staying Timeless and Giving Back by Cycling US Perimeter. Again.

“I’m just an average guy,” says humble and big-hearted Jim Feeney three days before his second perimeter bike ride around the continental US encompassing 32 states and 10,130 miles. Chatting with him from New Orleans, LA, the birthplace of the nonprofit SBP and the beginning and end point of his ride,  it’s obvious Jim is passionate about his work with charities and staying timeless through social connections and gratitude.

Q: Jim, you are taking a 5-month bike trip around the perimeter of the US to help build homes for displaced families. How did you get here?

A:  I’d like to say I’m a professional cyclist with a big, impressive cycling background, but I’m not. I’m a guy who started cycling in my mid-20s, doing a few charity event bike rides. I planned my first perimeter bike trip to raise money for local charities in Boston and Rhode Island when I was 33, so that would now be 27 years ago. Two years ago, during COVID, like most people worldwide, my life was on pause, and I wondered what to do next. So at 60,  I decided a good bookend for my life would be to do another perimeter ride to raise awareness and money for SBP and help bring families home after disaster strikes.

Q: The SBP Charity is meaningful to you.  What can you tell us about SBP?

A: In 2009, I read an article about SBP, founded by Liz McCartney and Zach Rosenberg. This couple traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 to help displaced families. After their experience, they packed up their lives in Washington, DC, and moved to New Orleans to start rebuilding homes. They created a nonprofit in St. Bernard Parish (SBP), an area devastated by Katrina. I had never visited New Orleans, so I planned a trip, met Liz and Zach, and became inspired by the work, positive energy, and happiness surrounding these people and this fantastic charity. The mission of SBP is to rebuild homes with resilient and sustainable materials, shrinking the time between disaster and recovery and preventing significant damage from occurring in the future. SBP has restored over 4,000 families to their homes since its founding. Currently, SBP is still working in New Orleans, but they have also expanded to Houston, the Bahamas, and areas of Florida. I can’t speak more highly about the organization and the people who run it and work there. So it was a no-brainer when I decided to do this crazy stunt at 60, which nonprofit I would support.

Q: Giving back is a big motivator for you, and it’s dovetailed into your world of fitness and longevity. If someone struggles to get out of their comfort zone, what motivational tips would you give them to take that step and try something new?

A: I would tell anybody to start with simple, small steps. People say, “Oh, my gosh, you’re making this huge, long-distance trip,” but the way I look at it is I’m really only planning the next couple of days. I have a master plan in terms of routes for every day, a calendar, and knowing exactly where I’m supposed to be. But those are milestones, and I will take it one step at a time. I would challenge anybody to find out what that step looks like for you. It doesn’t have to be public or monumental. You can set your own small milestones to make a difference and make a change. The biggest challenge for most people is the concept of instant gratification or instant results. Results usually don’t happen immediately, so you have to reward yourself for the small milestones. Be happy if you move the bar even just a little bit.   

Q: What is the master plan for this ride?

A: The plan is to ride six days a week, Monday through Saturday, about 75 miles a day. I have the whole route laid out going counterclockwise, starting in New Orleans, but I learned on the last trip that I have to be flexible. That means if there are weather, bike, or body issues along the way,  I will take it easy on that day. I will pull back and then attack it the next day. But if I’m feeling excellent, I might get six days’ worth of riding done in five days, so I will take the weekend off.

Q: Self-care is so critical as we age. We tend to grind without really allowing ourselves the ability to recover, rest, and enjoy the moment.  Was this a consideration when planning your ride?

A: Yes, sometimes your body needs a break. Since I am older and wiser on this trip, I will try to remember this is a fantastic opportunity to see this country up close and personal and take my time with it. If I slow down, I can fully appreciate all the beauty out there. But I am not glossing this over; it won’t be beautiful every minute. However, I can’t rush it. I probably won’t get this opportunity again. I can’t see myself doing this at 75. But who knows?

Q: How have things changed from your first perimeter ride at 33 to this ride at 60?

A: A significant difference this time around came from Peloton and social media. At the beginning stages of this adventure, we had 80 followers on our SBP Perimeter Ride Instagram page, and that was it. My crew reached out to Christine D’Ercole (51), a popular Peloton cycling teacher, to see if I could ride with her in a live class in New York. On Sunday, March 12, she invited me to ride in her hour-long Power Zone endurance class. I was really only expecting to ride and felt very happy for the opportunity, but Christine turned to the camera about 3 minutes into the ride and said, “What would inspire you to ride 10,000 miles?” She then continued to talk about my journey and SBP for the entire class. She shared our Instagram and Twitter handles, and our Instagram just absolutely blew up. Since then, many people in the Peloton community have contacted me wanting to ride with me, offer advice on local routes, or support us in other ways. It’s been amazing. People continue to say, “We have hands on your back. We’re going to help you on this ride,” which I’m absolutely grateful for. I’d love to have fellow cyclists join me on this journey. Don’t worry; I’m 60 and won’t be flying down the road. And if I am cruising too quickly, I will slow down the wheel to take a minute and listen to what people have to say. Many interesting people are out there, and I want to hear their stories.

Q: Christine’s mantra is “I am, I can, I will, I do.” How do you speak to yourself during a ride of this magnitude?

A: I don’t necessarily have a mantra. But I will think about my journey parallel to displaced families on a long journey trying to get home. Their path is not five months like mine. Their way home is a lot longer, sometimes years. When faced with bad weather and headwinds, I will remind myself how often these families have their headwinds and setbacks. Mentally, it’s got to be super tough because while I planned years for this journey, these families have not. They just woke up one day, and their houses were destroyed. And that’s what will drive and inspire me this time. Families are counting on me to continue this journey for them.

What a fantastic story and inspiration for all ages. All of us at Timeless have hands on your back, Jim. Enjoy the ride!

You can virtually follow Jim on the ride on Instagram and Twitter @SBPerimeter. He will be posting regular updates from the road. So if he’s riding near you, come on out and join him or wave hello!

Donate to the SBP Perimeter Ride to help raise $300,000 to build 10 homes for displaced families across the US.

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed.

About the Author

Maggie Chesser
Maggie Chesser has over ten years of experience writing and editing in educational and professional settings throughout the US and Canada. She is currently researching the science behind longevity, including lifestyle best practices for exercise, nutrition, and mental wellness. She resides with her family in colorful Colorado, where she enjoys all things outdoors.

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