Tek-Knees Cycling 

Put the metal to the pedal ...


Hunterdon native with two new knees finishes grueling Mount Washington bicycle race

Hunterdon County Democrat By Hunterdon County Democrat
on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM, updated August 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Hunterdon County native Greg Bullock, 54, is believed to be the first bicyclist to ride up Mount Washington in New Hampshire after having both knees replaced.

He was a finisher in a grueling race up “the Rock Pile” on Aug. 16, coming back from the knee surgery that had been done just over two years previously.

Bullock has lived variously in Flemington, Milford and High Bridge. He currently resides in New Egypt. He and his wife own Global Producers Services, an event production company.

Prior to the surgery Bullock was unable to climb the stairs in his home. Simply walking through the grocery store became extremely difficult. His knees had deteriorated to where walking became a painful, miserable experience. Osteoarthritis had taken this cyclist of more than 30 years and left him unable to ride and just barely able to walk.

As an avid cyclist and road-racing fan, Bullock had heard about the ascent of Mount Washington. “I have never been one to take the valley roads around the ridges and peaks, but would be the rider who would make that left turn and climb straight up and over. I love to climb,” he said.

The Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb, an annual race, has been on Bullock’s bucket list for years. “I remember hearing about the climb often among cycling enthusiasts. Setting his sights on the hill climb, in 2005 Bullock and his wife visited the mountain to look at the course. “After seeing the climb in person, I knew it would be very difficult, but if others could do it, so could I,” he said. He trained in the hills for three years, doing consecutive Livestrong Philly 100 miles rides in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to test his climbing legs before signing up for a bicycle hill climb.

He says, “I thought that if I could comfortably climb 10,000 feet in a 100-mile ride, my climbing legs and endurance should be adequate for a hill climb.” Finally in 2010 Bullock completed the Mount Ascutney Hill Climb in Vermont as a final test climb for Mount Washington. But that would be his last season of riding for awhile.

“In late 2010 I just couldn’t ride any more. It felt like a Dixie Cup of sand and gravel was inside my knees. It hurt every time I took a step,” Bullock remembers. After more than 18 months of discomfort, double knee replacements were installed. “There was an immediate difference in my knees. The pain was different. Now, what I was feeling was related to the surgery and not my failed knee joints. I knew I would recover and knew I had to get back on the bike as soon as possible.”

Within six weeks he began to push the pedals again. A few months later, he was doing 20 mile rides relatively pain- free. As time went on, the miles added up and he headed back into the hills. In October 2013 Bullock completed the Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic, 88 miles with more than 6,000 feet of climbing. He was back. “That was the first real test to see how my legs would respond to a lot of climbing. They performed perfectly,” Bullock says.

Between July 2013 through July 2014 Bullock rode more than 7,000 miles and climbed over 300,000 feet preparing to ascend the Rock Pile. This summer he came up to Hunterdon and Warren to train in the hills. “Some of my favorite Hunterdon climbs are Thatchers Hill, Federal Twist, Byram Road, Tumble Falls, in the south. In the north I favor Tunnel Road, and my favorite Hunterdon hill of all is Ludlow Station Road” in Bethlehem Township.

According to the website of the organization that sponsors the race, “The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb and Newton’s Revenge are known as the toughest hillclimbs in the world at 7.6 miles in length, has an average grade of 12 percent with extended sections of 18 percent and the last 50 yards is an amazing 22 percent! Sprint that to the finish!” At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains, and boasts the most extreme weather in the United States, says Bullock.

On the day of the climb, he went from 60-degree sunshine to find at the summit 38 degrees with 45 mph winds. The visibility above 5,000 feet was about 10 feet. This was considered an above-average day at the peak, he says. The auto road ascent is 4,684 feet over just 7.6 miles averaging 12 percent grade, with no level stretches, getting as steep as 22 percent near the top.

Bullock says, “I did not race to the top of Mount Washington; I rode to the top. Crossing the finish line was a win in my book, no matter how many people finished ahead of me ... as long as I crossed the line, I was a winner.”

He checked with two of the race organizers — Kim Hoyt (events and functions director) and John Shifler (media liaison) and “neither can recall anyone prior to my climbing the mountain having double knee replacements. They both gave me the OK to claim I am the ‘first person known to have bicycled up Mount Washington with double knee replacements.’ They also agree that had it been done before, it is highly unlikely the information would have been kept under wraps.”

Bullock hopes that his experience will “give people hope and inspiration on their road to recovery. Just two years ago I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to walk unassisted for the rest of my life, let alone ever ride my bike again. This is proof you can reach your goals if you put in the effort.”

Photos by Leo Kenney Photography

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