Over the past two weeks, I’ve met with four different people, all of whom had startling stories to tell me about their cycling experiences.
On a lovely Friday afternoon, one of my photographers and I headed into Parkdale for an interview with a man I’d met by leaving a card on his bike. As it turns out, both of those last two nouns are plural. He has multiple bikes, and I’ve left multiple cards. My photographer—who really knows his bikes and couldn’t resist touching them—got more animated as the interview progressed. As I watched Brian’s heart race escalate, I realized fully the drawback of my not being a Bike Nerd on this mission. Still, even I could see why I carded these bikes: they were spectacular.
Our interviewee studied industrial design and is a 4th generation cabinet maker. He has worked as a DJ and as a bike messenger. His favourite role though is bike mechanic. He doesn’t do it for money anymore but his home demonstrates how much he enjoys this. He has bought and rebuilt seven bikes (that I know of), all with the best quality parts. He proudly tells us that his vintage bikes are almost entirely North American built, meaning very few parts come from an offshore source. And yet, this man describes himself as a “quietly riding person”, and suddenly I aspire to be just like him.
The following Wednesday, I was having dinner with a very dear friend, who unexpectedly shared some bike stories. Here is a brilliant woman who, while completing her Master’s degree, cycled from the Fairview Mall area to Dufferin and Steeles using Cummer Avenue. I’ve climbed the Cummer hill twice. I’ve failed the Cummer hill twice. Understand that I’m a personal trainer. My commutes have included the Pottery Road hill, the Hogg’s Hollow hill, and now the Christie hill. The only hill I’ve ever had to walk was Cummer, and here was my friend telling me she did Cummer daily. A couple of years ago she took a job in Unionville, where she now lives. She was thrilled at the prospect of of being able to cycle to work. She was forced to drive to work because the infrastructure prevents even the determined cyclist.
The next morning, I met a young man fresh out of school who rides a cyclo-cross around town. He bought this gorgeous bike because it takes the abuse of a commute north of the 401. He also had a very entertaining story about cycling to remote villages in Sudan. As sad as my girlfriend’s story was, this one was blessedly sweet. He exhuded the contagious joy that so many cyclists carry for their bikes and for being out on the road.
Finally, on Friday night I met with a man who washes windows for shopkeepers in my neighbourhood. I found him because his bike, parked near mine, had all his equipment lashed to the frame. He is a kind, hard-working individual and he describes himself as a “people person”. That was borne out by how many passersby greeted him warmly while we sat on a patio talking about using bikes for a business. It was a privilege to meet him, not because of his bike or because of the unorthodox things he does on his bike, but rather because of the response he elicits in others.