When the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) rolls around in July, Omahan Jane Reuss will saddle up with her Team Angry mates for the 15th consecutive year.
Reuss has cycled since childhood. Back then she would traverse the Interstate to Council Bluffs to get her Gitano serviced. Nowadays, she treks 80 miles on a single ride. She and her husband, Jerry, a retired Omaha firefighter, keep a getaway cabin in North Bend, Nebraska. The ride there takes four-and-a-half hours, but Reuss says it’s a breeze.
Getting on a bike and going somewhere, anywhere, is her therapy.
“I just love it. It’s like my time. Nobody can ask me anything,” Reuss says. “I don’t have to do anything except ride my bike, listen to music, or a book on tape. It’s time off from my normal routine.”
Reuss also golfs, swims, skis, and works out at the gym. Jerry joins her on shorter rides, and the pair play sand volleyball together.
“There are some mornings when I think I should just sleep in,” she says. “But I don’t know who I am if I can’t be active.”
Though she used to run, rollerblade, and even compete in women’s triathlons, she prefers cycling now.
“It’s a great, stress-free activity for any age, especially as you get older,” Reuss says. “I’m seriously more comfortable on my bike than anywhere else.”
For years she’s commanded the road atop a Greg LeMond road model bicycle she’s affectionately dubbed “Old Blue.”
Reuss can’t wait to do the week-long RAGBRAI again with riders she considers family.
“We do feel a real camaraderie. We do a lot of bike rides during the year away from RAGBRAI. We’ve gotten to be good friends,” Reuss says.
Then there’s the folks she encounters along the way.
“I love meeting people. The townsfolk are great,” Reuss says. “It’s a big party for them. They love us because we spend money.”
She and fellow team members stay with host families while completing the 460-plus mile route.
Beyond the social aspects, Reuss enjoys testing her limits.
“I love the physicality of it. I love that I can do that,” Reuss says. “I love the sense of community and accomplishment.”
Not everything’s ideal. She’s waited out tornados in barns, slept in tight quarters on hard floors, and taken communal showers in school gyms. On one ride she took a hard fall that left her with a broken rib and punctured lung. After treatment, Reuss kept riding.
Reuss says she relishes challenges. Projects fill her garage and house.
“Thank goodness Jerry doesn’t mind,” she says. “He’s very supportive.”
In addition to bicycling, Reuss creates sculptures, often bicycle-themed, and works part-time at the Saddlebrook Branch of the Omaha Public Library. She sells her art at the Garden Gallery in Elkhorn, and even has a new commission to make a metal eagle for Eagle Run Golf Course.
In July, Reuss will be all geared up in jersey and gloves with a headband reading, “Not a sagger.” Once again she will ride from sunrise to sundown atop “Old Blue,” passing more than 400 miles of the Grant Wood landscapes called Iowa.
“I’m determined to do all the miles.”