Cycling – the human machine

It’s not often I get a request to post something that I wrote a long time ago, and in this case it’s the second request for the same story, I wasn’t even sure when I wrote this, it was that long ago… it took a while to find it as it dates back to 2005. I’ll try to replace the photo with a higher res version if I can find the original. Cycling has always been a passion of mine, one I have not been able to enjoy much over the past 5 years due to an accident which resulted in a broken collar bone, but each year I manage to get out on my bike more and more and I’m hoping this year will be a good year for cycling. As I mention at the end of this story, I still hope to one day ride The Camino de Santiago in the north of Spain… soon, I hope!

Thank you to those that requested I repost this, I’m glad you remembered it… it was a nice read for me as well!

lorne atkinson 720Cycling – the human machine

It is difficult to lay aside a confirmed passion. ~ Caius Valerius Catullus (87-54 B.C.)

As I put my bike away for the winter, I put away a confirmed passion!

Do you remember learning to ride your first bike? Remember the mustangs with the banana seats, the extra long front forks and the huge “sissy bar” on the back! What I remember to this day is what I think of as my first real bike. Lorne Atkinson, a friend of my Dad’s and a Canadian Olympic Cyclist in 1948, had 10 bikes custom built for his cycling team back in 1972. Just as they were completed, Lorne discovered that a new bike had been built with a lighter alloy. To make a long story short my Dad ended up buying one of those ten custom “Lorne Atkinson” bikes, and that was my first experience with what I call a real bike. I only wish that as a kid I had a greater appreciation for things, and maybe I would still have that bike. I’m sure back then my Dad never realized how much enjoyment I got out of that bike! Cycling has been a passion for me ever since first climbing up on that fine tuned machine.

I’ve been asked if I cycle for leisure or for exercise, and I’ve answered – both! When my bike has just been tuned up, my seat adjusted just right, and I head out for a ride, I sometimes find it hard to turn around and go home. What other exercise can be that much fun, I mean, when was the last time you couldn’t stop doing sit-ups? So… what is it about cycling? What is it about this simple two wheeled device that is so exhilarating? I think that that’s just it… it’s not a complicated piece of machinery that’s propelling you these long distances, it’s just two wheels, some gears and you, providing all the power. Truly a human machine! I recently came across a statement from another cyclist, and I couldn’t have put it better, so I’ll just quote him. “Cycling is one place where you can intimately meet the laws of physics and turn them to your advantage.” Cycling allows you complete freedom and control. Riding the long open road, the wind in your hair, the sun at your back… baring your soul to the elements, your mind freed so that your passion, if you will, will “elevate the mind to great things”. When you find you’re in your groove and everything is just right, you begin to wonder how much further you can go, what’s your limit, physically and mentally, and can you transcend it.

One summer a few years ago I took a trip down into Southern Ontario for some serious cycling. I trained for about 4 weeks, putting in more time riding than I normally would, in the end getting up to about 3 rides a day and clocking up 1000km in all. On the trip itself, I drove from Ottawa to Stratford, and using the Wildwood Conservation Area as base camp I cycled about 500km over 5 days. My cycling took me through Stratford, St. Marys, London, Dorchester, Kitchener, Waterloo, Woodstock and Cambridge. My original plans had included Niagara and the Lake Erie shoreline as well, but due to the weather, I didn’t fancy riding through floods in Niagara or setting up and taking down a wet tent every night, I stayed close to my base camp at Wildwood. The weather around Stratford stayed quite nice, for the most part. This was a wonderful trip and a much needed “me time”!


This is a screen capture of a page from a web site I created after I had done quite a few different Bike Tours on my own, Ottawa, Southern Ontario, the Finger Lakes Region of New York State and Philadelphia. This page is part of my Straford ride.

After my Southern Ontario Tour, I did another in the Finger Lakes District of New York State and yet another in and around Philadelphia. Last year when I was on Salt Spring I was riding every day, mostly on Salt Spring, but on weekends I’d rid to the souther end of the island and catch th ferry to Swartz Bay and then cycle in to Victoria, that was an exhilarating ride! I’ve started thinking about doing another trip… a much longer one! Money and time permitting I would like to do The Camino de Santiago in the north of Spain. This is an 800km pilgrimage that has been walked for thousands of years! I’m hoping it will take a little less for me on my bike! Being overseas, I’d have to rent a bike, which I’m not too sure about. Having a strange bike under you for a long ride could be trouble. You tend to get used to your bike, it’s almost like an extension of yourself. Could you imagine touching down at an airport somewhere and the first thing you do is rent some legs!

So… any other cyclists out there? Has anyone walked or cycled the Camino de Santiago?

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to smile, it looks good on you!

November 12, 2005

Photo ©1999 Cycling outside Stratford, Ontario


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