Last Saturday, June 26th, the city of Brest on the Brittany coast played host to Le Grande Départ, as 23 teams of eight riders began racing the 108th Tour de France. That's 184 riders, with anywhere from fifteen to twenty support staff per team, plus numerous race organizers, volunteers, and media from around the world. That's a lot of people gathered together for a bike ride. When you add in the eleven to twelve million fans that gather along the roads that wind through the picturesque towns, golden countrysides, and towering mountain passes to cheer on their favorites, the number of people gathered for the event nears a third of Canada's population. This is a true testament to cycling's power to bring people together, even before adding the estimated 2.6 billion watching around the globe.
That is, however, an extreme example. Most of cycling's connections are made much more simply, between far smaller groups of people, with far lower stakes, if any stakes at all. These smaller connections, however, will likely have a much larger impact on those of us who get caught up in them. Likewise, you do not need to visit another continent to find them, although for this story we will, or at least one of us will.
Brady Windsor is one of my colleagues here at Western Cycle, many of you probably know him. He is eighteen years old, has been representing Team Sask on the road since 2018, and he has type one diabetes. While being diabetic is in itself not at all uncommon, having type one diabetes is considerably more so. But as 300,000 Canadians live with it, chances are we all know someone with the condition. So in the grand scheme of things, it's not all that uncommon either. Becoming an elite athlete while living with type one? That is uncommon, and that is the road that Brady found himself on. Finding advice regarding training and nutrition from those with real-world experience would need to be sought out. Brady went looking for some in 2016 and found Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company that not only specializes in diabetes treatment but has the world's only all diabetic pro cycling team. Aside from the pro-continental and development teams, there were thousands of athletes just like Brady, a community of riders coming together with common goals, to both find for themselves, and offer to others, the support, and advice needed on their unique journey. In 2019 Brady was invited to attend a talent I.D. camp in Athens, Georgia. He went with the intent to compete, give it his best, and see where he stood. He performed well enough that he was invited to race with Novo Nordisk's junior team. Cue the pandemic. With the 2020 racing season canceled due to covid-19, Brady was left with few options, thankfully there were still opportunities to be had. Working locally with his Sask teammates and coach, and virtually with Novo Nordisk, Brady participated in workouts, races, and camps, the latest of which earned him an invitation to another talent I.D. camp, one of twenty-five selected from a group of 80. This July 21st to 26th, this group of athletes will gather in the city of Caen, in the north of France. There they will test themselves, and each other, brought together by the thing they love to do the most, which is to ride bikes, really, really, fast.
On June 1st Will Zittlau began a bike ride in Victoria, B.C., his bike loaded with everything needed for a long adventure. It was the beginning of a cross Canada journey in memory of his late father, who had done the same ride in 1982. Another of my colleagues, Josh Long, discovered Will's story via a Tiktok post that Will had made, interested in bicycle touring himself, Josh began to follow along.
A couple of weeks into the endeavor, as Will's progress saw his ride nearing Regina, Josh reached out to invite him to stop at the bike shop on his way through town. Once at Western Cycle, our technicians put Will's bike in a stand, gave everything a good look over, rotated his tires, and hooked Will up with some nutrition for his journey. Having the following day off, Josh offered to join Will for a portion of tomorrow's ride. The next morning, the two met on Victoria Avenue and set out heading east down the Trans-Canada highway.
Conditions were ideal, 24 and sunny. Both from British Columbia, at similar stages in life, with similar interests, conversation passed easily between the two, they found they had a lot more in common than cycling. The kilometers also passed quickly thanks to a 48 km/h tailwind the entire way. They stopped in Grenfell to top up their water, and 4 hours 45 minutes after setting out, found themselves in Broadview, Saskatchewan, 160 kilometers down the road. Here they parted ways, Josh's ride done for the day, Will's would continue, finally ending in Oak Lake. Manitoba, for a total day's ride of 320 km. Josh would later relate to me that the experience answered some long-held questions he had about bicycle touring, further inspiring his ambitions to set out by bike and explore the open road. Will has made it through Northern Ontario, last stopping in the town of Massey, he posts about his travels on his Instagram (@willzittlau) and Strava (Will Zittlau) accounts, it's a pretty epic looking adventure.
Some might be thinking that's all well and good for bike shop employees, but racing in France, touring cross-country, or riding 160 km on a day off doesn't really apply. A lot of us are new to the sport or rediscovering it. The lockdowns brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic influenced many people to seek paths outdoors, and cycling was the perfect way to get some exercise, have a little fun, and adhere to social distancing guidelines set out by health authorities the world over. But, as infection numbers fall, vaccination percentages rise, and the world starts to open back up, people are more and more excited about reconnecting and closing the distance that's opened over the last year and a half. I want to encourage you to see your bike as a way to seek not only reconnection but as a way to make new connections. I've always found my bikes have brought great people into my world, that riding a bike with said people makes fast friends, and going for a bike ride with friends to be one of the most enjoyable activities out there. If that sounds good to you, I encourage you to attend a group ride, there are all kinds out there.
Our Western Cycle Rides Facebook page has rides for many disciplines lead by our shop ambassadors. Michelle Dominey leads a weekly mountain bike ride, Stephanie Bank hosts a Monday night gravel ride and Tara Fuchs hosts a road ride with our very own Lou Schwindt for those who prefer the tarmac. All of these are no-drop rides, everyone is welcome, all that is required is a Saskatchewan Cycling Association membership which can be found at saskcycling.ca, and a blinky tail light for rides that take place on the road. The Saskatchewan Cycling Association website also has information on many other resources such as clubs, events, and competitions, if you're into that sort of thing.
We live in a world where our differences are constantly being pointed out to us, where if you and I don't think exactly the same way about something then we should probably go online and tear each other a new saddle sore over it. Maybe if we all go for a bike ride together instead, we can figure out that we're not so different, that at the core of it we all want pretty much the same things, like windless rides, perfect weather, and the occasional cafe stop.
Welcome to the Blog.
Hello, my name is Timothy, some people call me... Tim. Last year I did something I'd been talking about doing for a long time. I stripped my bike down to bare aluminum, and proceeded through many cycles of spray-sand-tape spray-sand-tape, until it was all finished, as good as I'd be getting it, fresh paint. It took about a week. I'd been slowly collecting a few replacement parts in preparation for this and with the paint done, it was time to bring the works down to Western Cycle to be built. I walked it over from my downtown apartment, it took two trips, I was very excited. Then I found out about the wait, three weeks, the sky was falling.
My first ride was a day earlier than expected, and only lasted five minutes, from the shop to my home, but it was pure joy. Everything was so smooth, I was floating, then flying, the bike was a dream. It was a perfect combination of brand new and familiar, and I was tickled, it had all been worth it. This something was a long time coming, but it was not the something that I referred to earlier, that something had already started, or was yet to come, I'll explain.
As the pandemic worsened, and restrictions tightened, my summer began to look more and more open. I would have a lot of time to spend on the bike it seemed, so I might as well put that time to good use. I signed up for the Great Cycle Challenge in support of the Sick Kids Foundation, which helps children in their fight against cancer. I'd set my goal at raising a dollar for every kilometer ridden in August, one thousand seemed a do-able challenge, this was not something I'd ever done before.
Being a roadie I'd been out on some longer rides, even a hundred k here and there, so I was mostly confident. But there was the nagging reminder that I'd never been that consistent a rider, more a commuter who on occasion liked to stray a little farther from home. The way I saw it, I had a couple months to train on my new ride, enough time to build up my fitness and just be hitting my stride as August began. Aces. Then I got offered a job. How lucky was I? I had a kitchen job during the pandemic, and it was part-time mornings so it wouldn't even affect my training plan. Aces. Turned out to be a pretty popular place, the hours grew, and the training suffered. The picturesque patio attached to the establishment didn't help matters either if I'm being completely honest. Bust.
When August began I had a nasty kink in my lower back, I could barely churn out thirty kilometers at a time, and nothing I seemed to try was bringing any relief. By the time I got an appointment for a massage on the 13th, I don't think I had three hundred kilometers under my belt, and the little voices of doubt came calling. "Who were you kidding?" "Bit off more than you could chew?" "That's OK, next time bud," they said, like a couple of old friends, scared I'd move on without them. Thankfully, the massage worked. I went for a ride that evening and was relieved, it felt great to be on the bike again, pushing power through the pedals and exploring a stretch of road without my body screaming at me to get off. I think I had a massage every Monday for the next three weeks, I highly recommend it, I felt amazing. Barring too many rain days or patio interruptions, I had a chance.
I rode constantly. I rode out and backs on the service roads east of town, I rode to Lumsden, then Craven. I went over the bars at Wascana Trails, (did it last time too, in the same spot). I did bypass loops, rode to family barbeques, getting groceries, on beer runs. I was always on the bike.
The kilometers were finally starting to add up, I was going to do this, I would make it. Donations from family, friends, and colleagues also started to add up as the month went on, and I surpassed my fundraising goal with a little better than a week to go. Amid all the riding, I had accomplished another long-held goal, I rode a Century, a one hundred mile effort, I was pumped. I knew a few days out from the finish on which ride I would reach my goal, after months of anticipation the certainty of it kind of dulled the excitement about crossing that line.
I remember the exact moment I reached one thousand kilometers. There was nothing dull about it, it was surreal. I was on the 2700 block of McDonald Street, nearing the end of a 70km ride. It was a sunny, late August afternoon, and the canopy of green offered welcome shade after a few hours out on the road. I'd been watching the odometer on my watch pretty closely by this point, as I really wanted to watch the number rollover. Of course, I missed it. Didn't matter. Elation rolled in, tears welled in my eyes. I swallowed the frog that was attempting to interfere with my breathing and pressed on. At that moment I felt like I could have ridden another 70k, or any distance at all really. I'd been planning this ride, or one like it, for years, and for years had done nothing about it. For years those little voices, those old pals of mine, had haunted me, derided and consoled me. Now they were nowhere to be found, I'd become strong enough to out-pace them, they couldn't keep up.
More than just a bike
In my world of repetition, waking up to the daily grind of doing the same things day in and day out, I had accomplished something new. In the act of riding my bike, I had proven to myself that there was room for more, room for change, for things that I actually wanted in my life, not merely the things I have to do, or more honestly, the things I have limited myself to.
Now, don't get me wrong, not all bike rides are an existential awakening, nor should they be. Sometimes they are a way to blow off steam, or a way to get to work, explore a new trail, have a few laughs with the crew, or an excuse to get to ice cream. We all ride for different reasons, we are all at different places along our cycling journey, we all want different things from our cycling, and that's just how it should be. The best part of all this is that there's room out there for all of us, and the more varieties of cyclists on the road, or path, or trail, the better off we'll all be.
In writing this blog I am taking on another first, I've never written anything for public consumption before. Being new to this I am not really sure what this blog is going to be. Frankly, I'm with fine that. Count on reading more about my adventures on the bike, news from the wide world of cycling, and being that I'm writing this for Western Cycle, you'll likely read about some exciting new products or goings-on at the shop. Also, I'm riding in the Great Cycle Challenge again this year, and I'll keep you in the loop with how that all goes.
If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking around. Whatever ends up on the page my goal is to be informative and entertaining, and I hope you'll join me for this new something.