There’s a situation shared by all winter cyclists: that moment when you arrive at your destination in the dead of winter to greet bewildered expressions—and usually one of three obvious questions: ‘Aren’t you cold?’ ‘Isn’t it dangerous?’ ‘How can you ride in this terrible weather?’
To me, it has become a way of life—no big deal. I respond by emphasizing that it was just a ride across town, a couple of kilometres, half an hour of outdoor exercise on the way to the grocery store, work, the pub, etc.
When considering riding Actif Epica, I realized that even with my winter cycling experience I would have to re-think my strategies if I was going to make it through and still be able to answer those questions positively. This one isn’t just a ride across town, it’s a ride between towns and cities, with kilometres of unpopulated prairie in between. In truth, this is actually one of my main draws to participate. I’ve ridden around cities in winter for years—it’s time to take things to the next level and challenge myself to an extraordinary event, at least by my standards.
My first entry into cycling was through an eight week solo tour to the east coast of Canada. As an enthusiastic, but massively inexperienced cyclist at the time, the planning and preparations seemed monumental. I spent countless hours researching every aspect of the tour: Gear and bike selection, nutrition, route planning, camping strategies, training, and so on. I read lots and talked to people while planning, but in the end I was making the journey on my own. And that leap into the unknown, rolling out onto the highway on my own steam, was both nerve racking and incredibly exhilarating.
The result of that tour changed my view of cycling and of my own lifestyle.
I realized that a bike is not just a piece of fitness equipment—it’s an efficient and utilitarian vehicle capable of travelling great distances and carrying large loads without harming the environment, powered by me. It’s also a vehicle for discovery, taking me to roads less travelled and communities passed by the masses speeding down the highway. Curious locals in these towns become fast friends as stories are swapped, information and advice exchanged, and a link between two communities established. Fellow cyclists are like long lost family, eager to share in the experience and lend a hand. My solo effort left me in control to solve unexpected challenges, like theft, broken parts, and mental well being.
My emotions and actions this week leading up to this race have echoed those from my first tour. Looking at the greater aspects of Actif Epica, it’s clear that they also aim to replicate what I discovered during my first tour. The race, like my tour, feels like a leap into the unknown. But after a week of riding on my tour, I had settled into a normal routine and gained enough experience to know how to deal with certain unexpected challenges. I became comfortable as I adjusted my lifestyle to match my activity set.
And that’s another reason I am really excited to participate in this race. It promotes becoming comfortable outside the systems and protocols we are used in daily life, and the non-race events associated with Actif Epica promotes involvement by all, not just us crazy cyclists and runners.
As the last-minute preparations come together, I will continue to anticipate the leap into unknown territory on Saturday morning.