Another week of tripping over inspiring, imaginative people who ride bikes because it makes sense to do so.
On Monday, I was invited to dinner by someone whose bike I had carded. The bike was decorated, in this case clearly a man’s doing. The dinner unearthed a commune of “bike likers”.
These good people are all connected by their love of sustainable living, many of them keen to pursue careers in farming. Several have been involved with Otesha, a not-for-profit organization based in Ottawa. Mobile sustainable communities cycle around the country presenting plays on environmental issues and social justice. They are also heavily involved in C.R.A.F.T. farming communities. During the meal, we swapped bike stories. Occasionally, a couple would quietly excuse themselves and would take their bikes out on food runs, coming back with backpacks full of recently expired but incredibly healthy food, released at the various co-ops and grocery stores in the neighbourhood. There was so much wonderful food at the table (and so many people) that I was overwhelmed. And the bike stories were charming.
On Tuesday I travelled back to Joy Ride 150 and interviewed one of their BMX riders, Ben Janacek. This inspiring young man has won two amateur titles and is now competing as a professional. He has some excellent advice for anyone wanting to get into it. And before you think him one-dimensional, he rides, not to win but for fun, and is intent on experiencing all forms of cycling. He owns several types of bikes, as do many of my interviewees, and they are all important to him. In fact, he considers cycling medicinal. “A bike helps you get away from trouble and stress.”
To see just how good Ben can be, watch this video. http://www.pinkbike.com/video/157875/
Just as that tornado blew into town on Wednesday, I was interviewing the woman responsible for My First Wheels, Lenni Eubanks. My First Wheels is dedicated to collecting gently used children’s bikes for donation to kids living in low-income neighbourhoods in Toronto. The bike stories were real tear jerkers, but only because the children so openly display the same emotion we all feel when we meet our first bike. Lenni herself is precocious, youthful, energetic. She is surrounded by bike energy, what she calls “the bike effect.”
For more information, visit http://myfirstwheels.ca/mfw/home.html
Thursday night found me speaking with Todd Tyrtle, a man who loves to use his bike for charity. He has travelled 2,100 KM for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (www.longrideeast.com), for one thing. In 2010 he rode 600 KM and this year he did a whopping 1500 KM. Next year, he wants to take his son on an epic adventure to New York City, by tandem. They are collecting acts of kindness to forward their cause. Visit his site to donate an act at http://500kindnesses.com.
Finally, I met with someone on Friday afternoon to understand who rides a bike with ram horns.
Well as it turns out, in this town its a stunningly beautiful young woman. She built the bike herself, over the course of several months. She’d never done anything remotely like this before, but says it can be done at any of the DIY shops in town. She chose Bike Chain, the U of T campus DIY facility that’s free to students. She describes it has her “ideal bike”, and “the one”. It’s not perfect she tells me, but she knows every inch of it and loves what they do together. She has even fallen in love on it. And apparently I’m not the only person fascinated with this bike. People approach her to say they have noticed the bike and now have met its owner.
On Saturday, I took my new Urban Soul—a deep red flip flop hub bike that I’ve named Garnet—for its first voyage in the People’s Procession.
The bells, the colours, the joy on every face, it was all very moving. Thank you Toronto for your bike energy.