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Lyon alum commemorates birthday with 80-mile bike ride

Not everyone celebrates turning 80 with an 80-mile bike ride, but for Lyon alumnus Larry Bentley, birthday bike rides have become a tradition.

While Bentley has always liked to stay active, he didn’t develop his passion for biking until 1985, when he broke his knee in a motorcycle accident.

“I used to run marathons. I ran about 12 to 14 marathons in my life, including the Boston Marathon twice,” Bentley said.

He enjoyed training every day in preparation for his next race but had to stop after his knee injury.

“The doctor said they had to piece my knee back together,” he added. “He told me it would be fine for running across the parking lot but I would never run another marathon.”

The doctor said biking, however, would be good for his knee.

“So I hobbled into a bike shop on the way home and bought a bicycle!”

Bentley has been riding bikes ever since. He said he isn’t sure where he gets his passion for staying active.

He said, laughing, “after breaking my knee, my first thought was ‘I can’t just sit around.’”

He now rides with a group of friends every Monday and Wednesday.

“We meet at 4:30 p.m. and do it all winter and summer. We’ve developed a camaraderie along with it. That’s the glue that holds the biking group together,” he said. “When you get texts that one or two guys are committed, the others think ‘Wow, they’re going to ride in this weather. Hell, I guess I will, too.’”

Bentley began a tradition of commemorating his birthdays with rides, but wasn’t sure if he would be able to this year after having open-heart surgery last November.

“I had to wait a couple of weeks to let everything heal,” he said. “Usually, I ride anywhere from 40 to 60 miles a week, but it took me a while to get back into the routine. I’m still improving and gaining progress.”

He and a friend departed from Marshall’s Dry Goods on Oct. 13 and rode to Tuckerman and back, a total of 80 miles.

After the ride was over, he showered and took his wife out to eat.

“I was dog-tired but not hurting anywhere. That’s the beauty of pacing yourself.”

Bentley continued, “Some days, the last thing you want to do is get on a bicycle. But after doing 20 miles, you feel better than you felt all day long. The lift it gives you is worth the pain.”

Bentley’s athleticism is what brought him to Batesville in the first place. He was recruited from Missouri to play basketball at Lyon College, then Arkansas College, in 1958.

“I played for a little over a year,” he said. “I was wanting to get a coveted degree in physical education. [Lyon] didn’t offer it at the time, so, after two years, I transferred.”

Although Bentley didn’t graduate from Lyon, the College had a huge impact on his life. It was where he met his wife, Martha Bentley.

“We had a dance in the Scot Shop,” he said, laughing. “We even had a band. The girls asked guys to this dance. Martha went with an old friend, and I went with a girl who invited me.”

“My date didn’t dance, and neither did Martha’s. She came over and asked me to dance, and we’ve basically been dancing ever since!”

Bentley graduated from college in 1962 and taught for seven years before getting out of education. He and his son bought Marshall’s Dry Goods in Batesville in 1984 and currently have 28 employees.

“I love Batesville. I don’t have any designs to live anywhere else.”