The Power of Bicycles
Canada turns 150 this year, but 2017 is also the 200th anniversary of the bicycle. Amazing to think that the bike has been around longer than our own country!
We’ve all felt the power of a bicycle at some point in our lives . . . most likely, many times. The feeling of learning to ride your first bike can never be replaced. I can remember making swooping turns down the road, feeling the flight-like G-forces pressing me into the saddle and then hitting the coaster brake hard, making a long black streak of rubber as I fishtailed along the pavement. Magic! And the freedom!
All of a sudden, an entirely new world opened up for me. I was able to go farther on my neighbourhood adventures, exploring the back lanes and park trails of Coquitlam, B.C. to my heart’s content.
And then there was commerce. With a bike (at the time, a Raleigh five-speed “Chopper”), I was able to make money with a morning paper route. Delivering papers was my ticket to ride, literally. Having pocket money was another form of freedom and gave me the independence that I craved deep down. Being the first person on the road in the early morning was very special, with the city slowly waking up as I rumbled along with 50 heavy papers in my front carrier basket. I sometimes wonder how I kept that bike going with all that weight, up and down those hills with what little power I had developed back then!
Mechanical exploration came next. With my paper-route money, I bought a used 10-speed and slowly reconditioned it in our garage using my dad’s shop tools. A pipe wrench made a mess of the BB lock ring, and a hammer and punch disassembled the tree hub, once I realized it was a left-hand thread! Much to my dismay, I watched what seemed to be a hundred tiny ball bearings bounce across the floor when I took the free hub apart! Using some thread and a lot of grease, I actually put it back together along with most of the parts. Pliers were used to tighten and loosen the spoke nipples to true the rims, and eventually, I taught myself to lace and build my own wheels.
However, adventure was the real reason I was drawn to the bicycle. With the rebuilt 10-speed, there was even more opportunity to venture farther afield. Fortunately, both my parents had been positively affected by bicycles in their youth, growing up in post-war Europe. My mom still had her dad’s cycling logbook of every ride he’d done in the hills around Southern England as a member of the Chichester Wheelers. With their blessing, I added a “rat trap” and some cheap panniers and did some solo trips to the Gulf Islands, camping out and riding on some amazingly difficult hills. What a feeling to be under my own power, riding as fast as I could go, or would dare to when descending with steels rims and center-pull brakes!
Competition was also in my blood. Growing up, I played highschool volleyball as well as hockey and soccer. Due to some fortunate circumstances and amazing volunteers, I was introduced to the local weekly 10-mile time trial, organized by the Vancouver Vets. There, I tested myself weekly and met other junior riders – soon we were training and racing on the track and road, pushing ourselves to new limits.
Camaraderie and teamwork drew me further into the world of bicycles. Working on a Professional cycling team created a level of trust and empowerment that I take with me everywhere I go in my post-racing world. Racing bicycles transformed my life and has given me a multitude of incredible experiences and allowed me to live a truly unique and exhilarating life.
We’ve all felt the power of a bicycle at some point in our lives . . . the magic and the freedom!