STP Story: The 56-year-old tagalong

Life-long cyclists Stephen and Neil Wilkinson would be attached at the hip if it wasn’t for the wind resistance. 

These Utah-born brothers have logged some serious miles together, starting at a remarkably young age. They tackled their first long-distance ride when Stephen was 28 and Neil was just 14. Stephen wanted to challenge himself to make the 311-mile ride from Bountiful, Utah to their family cabin in West Yellowstone in just three days. But young Neil was not about to be left out. 

Their father had passed away five years earlier, leaving Stephen (the oldest), Neil (the youngest) and seven siblings in between. 

“[Stephen] became like a father to me,” said Neil. “He always looked out for me.”  

So when Stephen announced the triple-century, Neil begged for permission to go along. After proving himself on a test ride, Neil and his 10-speed Raleigh earned a place on the trip. 

Be careful what you wish for.

“After about 50 miles I was complaining pretty good,” said Neil. The rain and wind soon set in, and at 75 mile mark, they had to stop for an hour, laid out on a church lawn. While most older brothers would be irked by a tagalong sibling slowing them down, Stephen was different. 

“Look at my back wheel,” he urged his little brother. “Just concentrate on my back wheel and we’ll make it.” And they did, all the way to their first night’s stop at the Idaho border. 

“The next morning I knew I could do anything,” Neil said. The Wilkinsons made it the rest of the way to the family cabin over the next two days. 

Neil (left) and Stephen (right) Wilkinson

Neil (left) and Stephen (right) Wilkinson 
 
So how did two Utah boys end up riding from Seattle to Portland? “I blame Stephen for that,” said Neil. 

Decades later, Stephen rode his first Group Health STP, and just like when he was 14, Neil followed suit.

This year Stephen and Neil, now 70 and 56, respectively, rode in their fourth STP (all one-day rides, no less). STP 2014 was special, though, because they rode with their families--12 cyclists in all--sponsored by Wagner Paint Sprayers, Neil’s son’s company. It was an opportunity for these brothers to pass on the love of cycling to their kids, to lead the way and cheer on the next generation, just like Stephen did for Neil on the road to Yellowstone. 

The Group Health STP is one event with 10,000 stories. Thank you, Stephen and Neil, for sharing yours with us.