Bicycling is for the Young At Heart

Bicycle Touring 

1014 words

Bicycling is Only for the Very Young --- At Heart.

We all have become accustomed to those fair-weather cyclists, wearing
skintight, neon colored costumes, blissfully gliding in six-packs through
stop signs who, by this time of the year, will have retreated inside to
escape Victoria's "moist and foggie clime." 

There is a much larger constituency on the back roads, trails, and highways
of our region, every day of the year. They aren't flashy, or noisy, and they
religiously adhere to the rules of the road. If they have anything in common
it's gray hair and a certain intensity of purpose. Generally speaking, their
garb is utilitarian rather than yuppie. A preferred reliance on thrift shop,
rather than bike shoppe.

A good example of this genre, are the Cross-Canada Cycle Tour Society, all
over 55, moving at a brisk pace. They ride to maintain their level of
conditioning for a rather ambitious series of long tours, at any time of
the year, anywhere on the globe.

A more laid back pack is the Over the Hill Gang, who ride for companionship
and pure enjoyment. And then there are the iconoclasts who wouldn't be caught
dead in a group larger than one. They ride at their own pace, to their own
thoughts, enjoying their solitude and resentful of any interruption. 

The commuters move along on errands, to meetings, to school and from home to
work, and back. All with inside smiles, while adding years of enjoyment to
their allotted life-span. What do they know that we don't?

The expression "It's like riding a bicycle, you never forget" is used to
describe any simple, enjoyable pastime? Why isn't it like; "tying your shoes,
making a sandwich, or reading a book?" It isn't because bicycles have been
an integral part of most of our lives since childhood. Most of us can remember
our first bike. It was a landmark moment. 

80 year-old Basil Newton's first recollection is of falling off his brothers
Raleigh Record Ace, "it was so big I had to ride with one leg under the bar,"
and he remembers his first bike of note as a Dawes racing bike he acquired
in 1938. Brenda Borron's was a Triumph; at about age six, with wooden blocks
on the pedals so she could reach, and Bob Campbell recalls trying out a
friend's Huffy followed by his first very own bike, a CCM, at that same age.

What sets Basil, Brenda, Bob, and countless other cyclists apart is that their
exploring, commuting, or just plain re-creating, is done year-round. And
they've been doing it almost every day for a very long time.

Basil Newton joined the RAF in 1935, and was later posted to India. "I rode
those very upright Indian bikes everywhere". Back in Canada after the war he
commuted for years on the mainland, a sight so strange to the locals that he
was sometimes taunted with cries of "go home DP". 

A resident of Victoria since 1968, Basil rode to work and back each day, a
distance of 29 kilometres until his retirement in 1983. He bicycled through
a heart attack in 1985, and last year was diagnosed and treated for prostate
cancer. "I'm in remission, but it's slowed me down to about 19 kilometres a day." 

Basil and wife Bernie ride often here and in Ireland, and last year, at 79,
in Donegal, he participated in a 59-mile ride, to encourage younger people
to ride. "I completed it in 7 hours. It was a hilly course, and I don't think
I would have made it if I hadn't been able to draft behind a fellow." The next
oldest rider to finish was 20 years his junior. Today Basil rides from his
Cordova Bay home up the peninsula. "I like the peace and quiet of that area."

Brenda delivers the Victoria Cycling Coalition monthly newspaper from her home
area of Saanichton. "I'm always looking for excuses to go out and ride, and
I'm always finding new routes."

Art and Brenda Borron have toured extensively on their own and with the
Cross-Canada Cycle Tour Society. Both are graduates of, and strongly endorse
the CanBike training course, taught by Ray Hall. Like Basil, Art Borron, 71,
is a survivor of prostate surgery four years ago, and a heart bypass three
years ago. Their longest tour was from Victoria to Creston in 1992, and last
fall they rode a three week long figure-eight tour from Dawson Creek into
northern Alberta.

"I like to ride alone, and at my own pace, but Art and I catch up with each
other through the day." The 64 year-old describes her time on her bike; "It's
a such a lovely, peaceful feeling." Basil Newton agrees, a flying instructor
for many years, he equates it with the solitary freedom of flight. 

Since 1984 Bob Campbell has commuted five to eight thousand kilometres a year
from Stellys Crossroad, to work near Hillside and Blanchard. The 23-year
veteran of the RCMP, the Thunder Bay native joined the force in Vancouver at
age 24 and now specializes in computer use in white-collar crime. "I find that
the mechanics of riding suspend the thought process, it becomes a peaceful
break from the days problems."

Much of his riding is on the Pat Bay Highway bicycle lanes, and he's had his
share of scary encounters with both drivers and dogs, but it doesn't deter him.
"My view is that the 'uncourteous' driver will eventually become a victim. What
they don't realize is that they have their name (license number) on the back
of the vehicle."

All three credit their spouses for enthusiastic support and participation. Bob
and Jill Campbell are looking forward to touring with son Aaron a vital and
inquisitive seven year-old. Describing himself as, "only a recreational rider,
"his plan is to someday ride across Canada. 

Their collective advice is; "ride a little bit, and then a little bit more,
you never know where it will lead you, and how much it will expand your view
of the world. This Island is a wonderful place, best explored from the back
of a bike."
 
By all of us.


Victoria writer Terry Connellan has just returned from touring the New England
States with his partner Ellen Tremblay. This marks the end of 18 years and
almost 90,000 kilometres of seeing the world from the back of a fully-loaded
bicycle.


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