The wooden pads on the back of the trailer attached to the e-bike are more than shoes – they symbolize the rider’s country of origin.
And hooves hike 3,400 miles with it.
Gregory Maassen, originally from the Netherlands, rides an electric bike from Washington, DC, to San Francisco, California to raise money for the Chicago-based Peripheral Neuropathy Foundation. It is a non-profit organization that provides research and awareness of the neurological disease that affects 30 million people in the United States.
By Wednesday afternoon, he had raised $20,000.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by those I’ve met so far,” Maassen said while eating a Primanti Bros. sandwich. Monday. “When I tell them why I’m doing this, they say they have it, or they know someone who has it. People donated to me right there when they heard my story.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Gregory Maassen checks out his e-bike before leaving the Primanti Bros. in the Waterfont in Homestead on April 11. He was on his way to San Francisco, California from Washington, DC for a 3,400 mile journey.
The story began when Maassen, who lives in Washington, DC, fell ill while working in Africa.
He has worked in multimedia, strategic digital marketing and video. He has worked at the IFC/World Bank and most recently as an implementing partner at the United States Agency for International Development, traveling to Armenia, Southern Africa, Afghanistan, Russia, Iraq, in Macedonia and Jordan.
He was diagnosed in 2019 with peripheral neuropathy and couldn’t keep a full-time job.
He used exercise to manage his symptoms and not have to take medication, and it also made him feel better physically and mentally.
“This trip is a bit like a midlife crisis,” said the 54-year-old, who has been training for a year. “Some guys buy motorcycles, I bought an electric bike.”
He bought a Riese & Muller model made in Germany. Maassen began his journey on April 2. He is believed to be the first person to ride a solo electric bike 3,400 miles across the United States along the Lincoln Highway.
The journey is divided into 10 segments with over 60 stops.
He estimates it will take about four months.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Gregory Maassen waves goodbye as he climbs the Great Allegheny Passage at Waterfont in Homestead on April 11. He stopped in Pittsburgh on his way to San Francisco, California from Washington, DC, a trip of 3,400 miles.
He left Pittsburgh for Monaca, Beaver County. He left on Tuesday.
Maassen pedals where possible to preserve the power of the bike. It has two batteries. He and the bike weigh 416 pounds together. It has tires similar to motor vehicles. It is equipped with sealant to repair them.
It can reach speeds of 5 miles per hour on inclines and 35-40 mph on flat surfaces.
“I know I ride my bike solo, but I don’t ride my bike alone,” he said. “I have all these people I cycle for who are with me. I am here to support all those who struggle every day in this battle. They all have a story to tell. »
Lou Mazawey, president of the foundation, said via email that Maassen inspires everyone through his commitment to raising awareness for this often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed condition. It’s difficult to treat and incurable, Mazawey said.
“Gregory’s unprecedented e-bike tour is raising awareness about peripheral neuropathy across the country and the need for increased research funding for this debilitating condition,” Mazawey said.
Maassen created the route he rides, which consists mainly of trails and country roads.
“I want to stay on quiet roads,” he said. “It’s not a race.”
It burns an average of 4,500 calories per day. He typically runs 55 miles a day for 7-7.5 hours. He has built-in rest days and carries two smartphones.
The bicycle saddle is made of leather. He changes his layers of clothing every day, wearing waterproof items from LL Bean and The North Face and Adidas shoes.
He has stayed in campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and homes where people put him up.
Maassen drinks from a blue tube attached to a CamelBak, which he refills along the way.
He chose the route to honor President Eisenhower, who oversaw the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II. The ride is a tribute to the friendship between the Dutch and the Americans.
He is recording the highlights of the trip for a future documentary about his travels. Seeing America is an added bonus for the trek across the country.
“It takes a lot of discipline,” he said. “I avoid any assistance because I have a code of honor to walk every mile.”
He said he likes riding in the dark because people can see him more easily. It has an orange flag and an orange storage bin – the national color of the Netherlands.
He plans to find a job once the trip is over. He hasn’t thought about how he will get home. His wife, Janet, who is supporting his trip, met him last weekend.
When he left Primanti’s on Monday, he took a pizza to take away – the waitress suggested it.
Maassen said he plans to visit Pittsburgh again. He put the pizza in a bag on his bike.
He made sure the wooden shoes were secure.
“A friend suggested I bring them, and I think I could do the whole trip in these shoes if it wasn’t raining because when they get wet they slip off the pedals,” Maassen said. “But I could wear them for the last 20 miles to San Francisco.”
People can donate here.