DEL MAR — Pierre Godefroy bought a bike at a garage sale 17 years ago.
It’s safe to say it was the start of a journey.
Then nothing but a hobby, he cruised around his neighborhood on the used hybrid bike. Five-mile rides turned into 15 a few years later. And this past September during a two-week trip, he found himself cycling 50 miles a day across France — no problem.
“Now, I go out and 25 miles is considered a pretty short ride,” Godefroy said. “I never thought that would be the case when I started.”
At the age of 80, Godefroy bikes more than 100 miles a week. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recognized his commitment to cycling and community service with a proclamation last month. Going forward, May 15 is officially “Pierre Godefroy Day” in San Diego.
Godefroy, who lives in Del Mar with his wife, began cycling for the health benefits. More importantly, the hobby also helped ease his transition from two major stages of his life.
Born in Boston, he graduated from Boston College in the mid-1950s. Upon getting his cap and gown, he served in the Navy for more than two decades — a career that included commanding the USS Lynde McCormick. Following that, he owned a carwash and auto parts store, among other jobs. He retired in the mid-1990s, but the change proved a bit difficult at first.
“As you get older and you retire from the workplace, it’s harder to meet people and make good friends,” Godefroy said. “You feel cutoff from the rest of the world.”
Yet thanks to group rides with the San Diego Bicycle Club and the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA bike group, he soon found himself with new friends.
“Now my social circle is people I bike with,” Godefroy said. “And I feel blessed to have met them.”
Steve Bartram, who biked with him through France, said that Godefroy “is a leader in many ways.
“He’ll lead the group when biking and at the same time he’s heavily involved in the community,” Bartram said.
Godefroy said that perhaps more than other activities, bicycling promotes a sense of camaraderie. He couldn’t put his finger on why exactly that is, but believes it’s a phenomenon worth noting.
“I think a lot of people meet their good friends through bicycling; I don’t feel unique in that regard,” Godefroy said. “You start talking about your bikes. Before you know it, you’re good friends.”
If buying the used bike kickstarted his love of cycling, he became hooked on the sport after giving his son’s triathlon road bike a spin five years later.
“That thing would just go when you pushed down on the pedal,” Godefroy said. “I viewed bikes as something of a toy before that. No more. I decided I had to get one.”
With his evolving view of bikes, he’s also taken up cycling maintenance — what he called “almost another hobby itself.”
When he’s not on his bike, he’s also an active member of St. James Parish in Solana Beach. Through the church, he volunteers time serving meals with programs like Bread of Life and has helped build homes in Tijuana, Mexico.
He said Rancho Santa Fe is his favorite place to ride in the county because of fewer stop signs and less traffic. Other than that area, he especially enjoys pedaling through Encinitas due to the scenery and restaurants on the route.
Next up, he’ll complete the 70-mile Los Angeles River Ride.
As for the proclamation, he said: “I had no inkling that would happen.”
Upon being surprised by friends and family, he was presented with the proclamation May 15 at Encinitas’ St. Tropez Café.
“I was very touched by it,” Godefroy said.
“I feel like I’m healthy and in a good place right now,” he added. “I owe a lot of that to biking.”