Tuft Enough

How I Ended Up in this Crazy Sport

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY SVEIN TUFT

At this mo­ment, I’m cur­rently stuck in the sec­ond week of the Giro. Lately, as I’ve been mulling over how I ended up in this crazy sport, I’ve de­cided to share a story of my ear­lier years of wan­der­ing.

I was 20 years old and work­ing the sum­mer hay-bal­ing and stack­ing rail­way ties. The work was spo­radic, which al­lowed my friends and I to chase our real pas­sion at the time. Moun­tain climb­ing. We would go on week­long ex­pe­di­tions into the Coast Range of Bri­tish Columbia. These were for­ma­tive years for me and I learned a lot about my­self, but never had any di­rec­tion. Life was about sav­ing money and go­ing on trips un­til you ran out of coin, then start­ing this process over again. Cars were al­ways nec­es­sary (to get to the moun­tains), but a mas­sive ex­pense when mak­ing only a small amount of cash here and there. This is why I de­cided to try trav­el­ing by bike. This way, my only ex­pense was food for fuel.

I made my way down to the lo­cal Value Vil­lage (a sec­ond­hand-goods store) and bought a sweet Nishiki 10-speed. I knew noth­ing about bikes at the time, but this one seemed like it would do the trick. Lit­tle did I know it would soon teach me each and ev­ery de­tail about bi­cy­cles and how to re­pair them.

My first planned trip was from Lan­g­ley to Bella Coola. A 2,000-kilo­me­tre re­turn trip is a pretty big un­der­tak­ing for some­one who has never done a day of tour­ing in his life! Leav­ing in late Septem­ber was a con­flu­ence of poor tim­ing and lo­gis­tics. Head­ing north in Septem­ber is a recipe for some in­ter­est­ing weather, which I was about to dis­cover first­hand.

I welded up a heavy-duty steel trailer for my dog and some ex­tra sup­plies. I hit the road and im­me­di­ately fell in love with the free­dom of trav­el­ing by bike. Ev­ery­thing I owned was with me, and I could stop any­where I pleased. Func­tion­ing on limited funds, I was liv­ing off of rice and oats and buy­ing some late-sea­son corn from road­side stands. The first days were in­cred­i­ble, un­til fa­tigue and sore­ness started set­ting in. I had no clue how to bal­ance out my ef­forts and would just ride as hard as I could un­til I couldn’t any­more.

The Nishiki did well the first week, but I don’t think it was made for tour­ing and pulling a 100-pound trailer con­stantly. The first thing that went was the rear wheel, and a slew of me­chan­i­cal fail­ures fol­lowed suit. Needless to say, I learned some Bike Me­chan­ics 101 on the side of the high­way with a cold north wind a blowin’. It was re­ally the school of hard knocks out there.

The icy fall weather am­pli­fied the stress on my body. Hav­ing never rid­den more than 50 kilo­me­tres in a day be­fore, the 100+ kilo­me­tres a day I was at­tempt­ing was tak­ing its toll. Then, at night, the tem­per­a­ture would drop to well be­low zero. I had en­tered an en­tirely new world, one of suf­fer­ing day in and day out on a bike. Lit­tle did I know that years later I would be do­ing this for a job!

Aside from the me­chan­i­cal prob­lems, ev­ery­thing started rolling along fairly smoothly. My body quickly adapted and I was be­com­ing hooked on smash­ing my­self for eight hours a day. Then one day on my way back from Bella Coola, I made a grave mis­take. On a long climb, I bungeed (at­tached) my jacket to the trailer that had my wal­let in it. As I was set­ting up camp later in the evening (100 kilo­me­tres down the road), I re­al­ized the jacket was gone! Where it had come off I did not know. There was not much money left in my wal­let, but enough to make it home. I de­cided to cut my losses and con­tinue on. I re­sorted to pick­ing up cans and bot­tles on the side of the road for the coin re­turns. I was amazed at the gold mine lin­ing the ditches of Bri­tish Columbia’s high­ways. By the time I rolled into Williams Lake, B.C., I had two garbage bags full and made enough money to fund the rest of my trip home – al­beit not the finest cui­sine, but food was sim­ply calories at this point.

I re­mem­ber be­ing on the fi­nal stretch, 100 kilo­me­tres from home. Rid­ing into a block head­wind, I com­pletely cracked. I must have been quite a sight, cook­ing beans in the me­dian of High­way 1, won­der­ing how I was go­ing to make it home. I got my sec­ond wind and forged on. Av­er­ag­ing 15 kilo­me­tres an hour into the pow­er­ful head­wind, I was creep­ing. I made it to my fa­ther’s house that evening. Look­ing like a ghost, I walked right past him, went to the fridge, guz­zled a gal­lon of orange juice and went straight into su­gar shock. Af­ter re­count­ing the sto­ries from my trip, I fell into one of the deep­est sleeps I can re­mem­ber.

This set the tone for years of life on the road to come. I re­al­ized any­thing was pos­si­ble.

Young Tuft on his 2,000km re­turn trip from Lan­g­ley to Bella Coola

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