FARMINGTON Tommy Roberts rides the stationary bicycle alone and without music.

The 62-year-old began cycling in April 2002, and, a year later, after participating in the week-long 473-mile "Ride the Rockies," he knew he needed to get stronger, mainly in his legs. So he bought a gym membership a decade ago and has since lifted weights and spun as many as four days a week for almost two hours on a bicycle at Special K Fitness.

"People ask me how I can do these monotonous kinds of exercises," he said earlier this month, looking down between the bike's handlebars at a digital screen, as his feet pumped around and around. He said the data on that screen — revolutions per minute, distance cycled, calories burned, watts turned — are what drive him.

Tommy Roberts
Tommy Roberts ( Courtesy of Tommy Roberts )

Some days, the candidate seeking reelection for his second four-year term as mayor has to force himself into the saddle, he said. But the challenge is good for him, he said. Challenges, after all, are mostly why he is running for reelection, he has said.

"Once I started I became hooked on it," he said. "(I'm) probably a little bit compulsive about exercise. When I start I stick with it and force myself to do more."

In the summer and when it is not windy, he often leaves the rubber-matted gym and cycles by himself as many as 200 miles a week on pavement.

When spinning his pedals, he is a self-proclaimed loner.

He was alone, he said, when he received the wound that left a long, white scar on his forearm. He earned it almost four years ago competing in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, a 50-mile road bike race from Durango to Silverton, Colo.

He was only two-and-a-half miles south of Silverton, and he was cornering fast down the tight switchbacks on Molas Pass. He wanted to beat his previous time, 3 hours and 3 minutes. He knew he was close. He could see the finish line.

Then he hit buckled pavement, and his bike began shaking under his legs.

It is a helpless feeling to know that for those few seconds before impact you cannot control your life, he said.

He was going too fast, he remembers thinking. "What will happen when I fall?" "Will I be seriously hurt?" "Am I going to die?"

He had to act. He leaned and crashed onto his side and rolled over his bars and slid on his face into the side of the road against the mountain.

Crumpled there, he assessed himself. His neck hurt. His helmet had cracked. Could he move? Was it bad? He willed his legs to life, and then his arms. Rock shards from the cliffs above had sliced his arms, legs and face open, and he was bleeding. But he said he knew then he was OK.

Afterwards, he said, he looked funny bandaged in council meetings.

"All these scars on my arms and hands are cuts from falls," he said, sweat now beading at his temples.

He had been spinning for 13 minutes, and he was pedaling 93 to 94 revolutions per minute. He was settled in, he said, and he talked easily.

He is an athlete, he said, and he has been nearly his entire life. His father enrolled him and his three brothers into baseball and basketball when they were children, and he shot hoops from his sophomore to senior year for the University of New Mexico Lobos, then picked up tennis and golf and running to maintain his fitness until he couldn't anymore.

He was in top condition four years ago, but, since then, he had ankle surgery that ended his ability to run and play basketball. Doctors, to remedy the arthritis numerous sprained ankles caused, fused and pinned together his ankle. He caries a long scar for that, too.

Now, he said, he just maintains his fitness.

It releases the stress that builds up from his job as an oil and gas attorney and mayor, he said. He'll work up to 45 hours a week between the two jobs, but he can temporarily leave his office, his desk and all that responsibility for the bike.

"He rides and sweats all over that little bike," said Joan Manchester, a physical therapy assistant at the gym.

She stood in front or Roberts, glancing over her shoulder at an older patient side-stepping up a treadmill.

She said Roberts is vigilant with his cardio.

"To me, this is Tommy Roberts," she said, "and then I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, the mayor.' To me he's just one of the guys."

Roberts has now been cycling for 32 minutes and his revolutions per minute were pushing 98. He may peak at 100, he said, between breaths, but only for a few strokes.

He dropped his head, sweat shining on his forehead. Veins in his temples bulged. He wasn't talking anymore; he was watching the steady readout of numbers on the screen between the handlebars.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.