Over the course of this week, I met with many, many cyclists and their bikes. I am honoured to meet these people and to be given such marvellous stories so freely and so eagerly. They cannot know how they have touched me, or their influence as this book builds momentum. If even one person reads one story and takes pause in an ill-formed opinion, it will be amazing!
Wednesday night found me visiting the CNIB building on Bayview, where the Trailblazers were having their spring Open House. I met with the president of the organization and his dog. I was treated to the most remarkable tales of being enabled and in turn enabling others. Did you know there’s a way to ride a mountain bike blind without assistance? I’m not talking tandem, either. He’s probably had fewer accidents than I have! The dog was no slouch either.
On Friday afternoon, I was delighted to meet an eager fellow who rides all over the city, hands-free. I thought he was being whimsical until he demonstrated some of his techniques, which he has perfected over the years. He rode powerfully, with graceful strokes. It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen done on a beater bike. Further, he has promised to take me out and teach me to ride so joyfully. I can’t wait!
April 1: Jet Fuel Cafe’s 19th anniversary! I had been alerted to this event because I had had some trouble getting the messenger community to sit still long enough for an interview. Messenger + beer = interview. My photographer and I had a marvellous time hearing stories, getting photos of messengers with their bikes, and just taking in the vibe of the cafe. The sidewalk alone was magic: all those bike souls locked against each other in such mayhem. One of my interviewees the week before had confided in me that, while outsiders perceive there to be a certain messenger style of bicycle, this is just a myth. The sidewalk was a testament to the extraordinary variety of bikes used. The place hummed with bike energy.
We met with several messengers, some of whom described the dangerous elements of their job. When I asked why they stayed, they looked calmly into my eyes and said, “Because I love cycling.” Next time you see a messenger, smile. They are diamonds in the rough and this city is extremely lucky for their diligence, their kindness, and their warmth.
Speaking of luck, my photographer happened to spot a fellow he knew in high school among the milling throng. On a strong hunch, we went over to meet this man, and we are now on the cusp of an interview with him: he happens to be the director of the JetFuel racing team. Beside him stood another young man, whom the director recommended for an interview. When I asked the young man if he was interested, he pointed to one of the new posters on the wall above his head and said simply, “That’s me!” Right. Good enough for me.
And in case you’re wondering, I got home at 12:30AM to find the Taddle Creek tweet: Beer’s gone at the Jet Fuel party.” Mission accomplished, once again.
On Sunday afternoon, I met the most charitable young man. He immigrated from Mexico, where he began his cycling experience by riding the exotic, tropical mountain trails. On his arrival here he discovered the Don Trail, where he just wants to be in sync with the trail and the universe, on his bike. We spent the most amicable lunch swapping stories and bike vibes. I went away feeling invigorated.
Later in the day, I found myself in Kensington Market staring at the most elegant bike I have ever seen. The man was another immigrant, this time from Poland. It was like the man and his fixie had stepped from the cover of GQ and I was being entertained with bike stories from a different era.