“Bubble time.” “Hammer the grammar.” “Circle, bubble, quick check.” “OK, cowboy.”
These popular phrases may ring a bell to numerous current and former high school students.
Many people know John Baylor for creating “OnToCollege” ACT and SAT prep courses, writing several books, hosting the OTC Show and being the voice of University of Nebraska volleyball.
What they may not realize is that Baylor also has a passion for bike riding.
While riding in this year’s Tour de Nebraska, Baylor said a teacher and a student recognized him in Royal. He said it’s very gratifying when people recognize him because he is trying to leave an impact.
“When I’m recognized, it suggests I’m making a difference in the lives of the school and perhaps the lives of their own family members, perhaps themselves,” Baylor said.
This is his third time riding in the tour with his two children, Antonia, 14, and Cameron, 12. Baylor is also a five-time participant in RAGBRAI, which is a bike ride across Iowa.
Baylor said he loves small towns in northeast Nebraska and when he saw the route, he wanted to make sure he and his children got signed up.
On Wednesday, they rode for 51 miles and stopped in Neligh and stayed the night in the Neligh-Oakdale High School gym.
During the day’s trip, Baylor said he rode on a tandem bike with his son, while his daughter rode on his other tandem bike with his brother, James. On Thursday, they switched, and Baylor rode with his daughter.
Baylor said he enjoys riding on a tandem bike because he is better able to converse with his children, and they help encourage him to keep pedaling.
“They’re critical because my energy level wanes a little, and they’ll say, ‘Help! Hill!’ and jump right in,” he said. “And, sometimes they’ll notice that I’m fading and they’ll say, ‘Come on, dad.’”
Riding with his children helps strengthen their relationship, Baylor said.
“It just deepens my connection with my children, and it lets me see them grow before my eyes and it builds their character,” he said.
Baylor is proud of Antonia and Cameron for coming along, and he said they draw attention from many parents on the tour.
“To have kids who are up for this kind of an expedition is something that makes me very proud,” he said. “In fact, I have at least two parents a day on this ride ask me, ‘How old is your child?’”
While his work as an ACT instructor and sports broadcaster is important, Baylor said he is ardent about spending time with his wife, Susan, and kids. Together, his family will ride bikes at least once a week for a minimum of 25 miles.
Through his lifetime of biking, he said it not only brings his family together, but also builds friendships from shared challenges.
“I particularly love these trips that are organized, which allow me to bring my family,” he said. “Because to me, deep friendships and relationships are typically the product of shared challenge. And, this is a challenge.”
His love for biking goes back to when he was in high school and would ride his bike as an escape.
“I remember in high school, when I would just need to get away, I would always choose my yellow Schwinn 1974-ish 10 Speed, and I would go about 12 miles one direction and about 12 miles back,” Baylor said.
He also didn’t get a car until he was 25, so biking was his main form of transportation, he said.
According to Baylor, riding a bike provides a feeling of liberation and doesn’t take as much of a toll on the body.
“A bike doesn’t hurt your knees and lets you go so quickly and see so much,” Baylor said. “And you can pretty much go as fast as you can. So, I love it.”
In addition to keeping him in shape, he said rides like Tour de Nebraska are a great way to get to know people in their purest form.
“There’s just great comradery on these rides because everyone is kind of stripped down to just their basic bike-riding selves,” Baylor said. “No one’s driving any fancy cars and no one’s living in a fancy house.”
Along with providing friendship and conversation, he said participants are also encouraging in helping him keep in shape.
“The other 500 riders, they kind of propel you. And, you just can’t imagine not continuing,” Baylor said. “So, it’s a great way to get in shape.”
During his time in Antelope County, he said he ate terrific meals at the American Legion, relished playing tag with his family on the Antelope County Courthouse lawn and appreciated services N-O provided.
“Neligh-Oakdale High School has fabulous air conditioning and showers, so that is critical when judging each of these overnight towns,” Baylor said. “It has been a great visit to Neligh and greater Antelope County.”
Since he grew up in Lincoln, Baylor said he didn’t have much experience with small towns before teaching ACT prep courses in towns throughout the state.
“I really started to realize, ‘Wow, these are cool places to go on bike rides, to go play golf, to go fishing, to go hunting,” he said.
Baylor appreciates the beauty of Nebraska and its small towns and said he thinks the tour is a great way to bring more people in to see the state.
“I think it’s great for the state because the more people see, especially outer Nebraska, the more they’re going to realize this is absolutely one of the most beautiful states in the country,” Baylor said.