It’s safe to say that most 8-year-olds have never thought about riding their bikes more than 200 miles in two days. But Jaanya Teli didn’t just think about it – she signed up for the Seattle to Portland Bike (STP) Ride, trained for it, and then she accomplished it. What’s more, she would consider riding it again.
“It’s fun, and I like nature,” said Jaanya, who will be in the third grade at Creekside Elementary this fall. “I’m an outdoor person, so I like to do outdoor things.”
The STP is organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle, and is the largest multi-day bicycle event in the Northwest, according to their website. As many as 8,000 people have participated per year. This summer’s ride happened on July 16 and 17.
During the pandemic, and particularly while school buildings were closed, Jaanya and her family rode their bikes together almost every evening around the Sammamish area. “We had to do something to get through COVID,” said Jaanya’s dad, Parthik Teli, who was also her riding partner during STP. Jaanya’s parents had each completed the STP in prior years, and when Parthik signed up for this year’s ride, Jaanya told them that she wanted to tackle it, too.
“I thought it would be fun. I like challenges, and I thought it would be challenging so I wanted to try it,” said Jaanya.
A bit dubious at first, Jaanya’s parents helped her plan some practice rides – first eight miles, then 12. Pretty soon they tried biking from Marymoor Park in Redmond to the University of Washington, a 35-mile jaunt. At some point, they said they realized that not only did Jaanya really want to participate, but that she was truly willing put in the training and the work to prepare. Without fail, they rode together through rainstorms and sunshine. It meant missing fun events such as movie nights, and even her best friend’s birthday party.
Jaanya and her dad tackled long training rides and huge inclines together.
“There are hills that are mentally torturing,” Parthik said. Jaanya agreed: “It’s like it never ends.”
Between March and July, Jaanya completed 20 rides for a total of 1,200 miles and 47,000 feet of elevation gain, Parthik said. In June, she participated in the “Flying Wheels” event, riding 70 miles in one day.
As part of her training and participating in the STP, Jaanya raised money for Asha for Education, a nonprofit organization that helps people in need in India with education. Her goal was to raise $850, and her total currently sits at $1,642.
Jaanya transitioned to new bikes several times throughout the training process as rides grew longer, steeper, and more demanding. She learned how to fall, and how to get back up and keep riding. Jaanya and her dad created a playlist with about 80 songs, some in English and some in Hindi, which they could play via a speaker on Jaanya’s bike. Of those, her favorite song to ride to is “5 Seconds of Summer” by Young Blood.
Jaanya’s favorite view along the STP route was the vista from the bridge over the Columbia River as she entered Oregon from Washington. The snack that kept her going was gummies, although she says the sandwiches they packed (mayo, cucumber and parmesan cheese) helped, too. When Jaanya isn’t riding her bike, she likes playing basketball, and at school, she loves playing tag and reading.
Asked if she ever gets whiny while riding her bike, Jaanya said no. We asked the same question about her dad; Jaanya smiled and said “Sometimes,” but she may have been joking. However, she said she does get nervous on occasion. When bike lanes are skinny or nonexistent, or when the traffic zooms past her, she said she sometimes feels unsafe. But, Parthik always rides behind her to help with visibility and safety.
At the end of the two days and more than 200 miles, they approached the finish line. Over the event speakers, the announcer called out Jaanya’s name. “I was proud of myself, and really happy,” she said. In a video Parthik recorded, Jaanya crosses the finish and throws one arm up in the air in celebration.
“I could barely stop because there were so many people. There were a lot of high-fives, so I tried to give them all.”
In Jaanya’s family, her nickname is “Nanu,” which means “little” in Gujarati. And, while she may always be Nanu to her family, Jaanya now has one very big accomplishment to her name.
KOIN 6 News piece
Photo courtesy of Teli family.