Bikes: A Steady Stream of Freedom

Warning: It’s raining here so I’m feeling philosophical.

I am in the Viktor Frankl camp when it comes to the meaning of life. If I read his seminal book on the subject correctly, the search for meaning from ‘outside’ is useless because it is we who must determine what has meaning to our lives, not someone else telling you what it is supposed to be.

On this wet Sunday I choose the bike.

Growing up roaming the fields and forests of small town Canada gifted me with a longing for freedom, travel and adventure. We lived at the end of one branch of the Canadian railway network, which I always looked at as a starting point, longing to slap a sack on my back and start walking down the line (with one train a day I would be safe from getting run over). I was too young to know where it went, but I knew it was somewhere new.

Fields, forest

Fields, forest

I had a bike when I lived in Quebec, but with one road going through town and a self-regulated boundary on my movements (it didn’t come from my mother, who rarely knew where I was, she admits) I don’t think it opened up any major horizons for me. It did, however, improve my dexterity and bravery, with the homemade BMX (before BMX was invented) circuit at my friend Scott’s place and the Evel Knievel bike jump we rigged up using an old door from the barn. It also taught me how to take a fall, which has come in handy recently.

When I moved to the Big City in 1978 my mom bought me a ‘ten speed’. There were few open roads in Toronto, but I found adventure on that thing anyway, traveling huge distances to far-away places (probably 10 blocks, maybe one borough over) until I think it was stolen (then I became a pinball wizard, which is another story for another blog). I remember the feeling of not only the freedom, but also the joy of being ‘self-propelled’ in my movements. I learned early on that there are not many more satisfying feelings than that of moving through the world on your own steam.

Fast forward to my move from the nest to Vancouver in 1991 and I entered into the world of mountain bikes. Well, mountain bikes were what people were riding in the 90s, and usually only on the road, but it was a bike and I used it the same way I did when I was a kid in Toronto – to escape the mundane and explore my little world around ‘Van’.  The most exotic trip I took on my Kona was a ride along Zero Avenue, jumping the ditch (and the border) on the south side of the road to eat my sandwich, nervously and illegally, in the U.S.

My wanderlust was on EPO when I lived in Vancouver and I couldn’t wait to leave, after making the decision to quit everything and travel to Asia. Once I had enough money to do that I was gone and suddenly my horizons exploded. I landed in Australia along the way, and in 1996 I bought a used mountain bike in Adelaide and cycled across the country, all by my lonesome. There it is below, loaded up with 3 huge water bottles (4 more liters in a bladder on the back rack), back panniers filled with clothes, a tent and cooking gear, with my sleeping bag strapped to my handlebars. To top it off, I put tri bars on a mountain bike. Function over form in those days.

This massive ride (3300 km) acted in the same way a big race or a climb of Mont Ventoux can – it upped my game in terms of what I could achieve and definitely with respect to the distances I thought I could do on a bike. That long, lonely ride will stay with me forever, I imagine. I can still smell the kangaroo carcasses today….

tropic-of-capricorn1

When I finally ran out of money in 1997 I moved to Japan, got a job, and bought another bike. This one, which I put thought into for the first time, remains one of my most cherished. The Maruishi Emperor is a classic steel touring bike, which by that time, I knew I wanted to be doing. And I did. While I lived in Kawasaki I did tours, either alone, with Shoko or buddies from Tokyo, to Hokkaido, various spots on Honshu, Canada and, my first bike trip in France (And second, too).

me-and-the-emperor

I lived in Japan nearly a decade, so obviously there was more than one bike in my life there. The 2nd one I bought was full of rookie errors, like getting it a size too small and the wrong gearing for touring. Still, I did plenty of riding on the Cannondale, most of which was in Japan, but I did take it to Australia again and a big trip through northern Europe with my buddy, Nigel. Here we are in Holland, smiling because I had just seen my first of many signs with the word ‘fahrt’ on it.

cannondale

Below is the first photo of the Bianchi, taken at the end of 2010. The bike is still gracing the corner of my living room today and has become my go-to for rainy days and trainer sessions.

The Infinito heralded a new era in my riding and suddenly I was ‘training’, with ‘objectives’, rather than ‘riding’, for ‘fun’. Its practical function became enhanced, no question, but the adventure continued…just faster.

bianchi

Which brings us to the Colnago, a bike I’m still fitting into, but one that holds a lot of promise in its carbon fibers. And the meaning? Well, the story has just started with this one, but I’m confident that the adventure will continue. Anyway, when you spend this much money on a bike, you better believe there’ll be some meaning!

IMG_3831

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21 thoughts on “Bikes: A Steady Stream of Freedom

  1. Very fun to read, and gets me thinking, especially about the upping one’s game part. As for me, it’s snowing outside again, so I’m feeling … stuck inside, on the trainer.

  2. Ah yes, there were many fahrts on that trip – and some seriously Bad Kreuznach, as I recall…

    A great read, Gerry. Nice to see the whole family of bikes in one post!

  3. Hello Gerry,it’s a shame that you cannot bottle and sell some of your get up and go, i think it would be a popular product.

    • Andrew, I appreciate that. I think it sounds more impressive than the reality, though, but maybe that’s because I always think I should do more.

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