Our Bicycle Philosophy
Who Can Ride?
Not everyone can compete; not everyone can set records; not everyone can keep up with the Tour de France legends. But everyone with the will can ride (with the exception of those with genuine disabilities or certain health conditions). It may not feel that way when you walk into a bike shop and the clerk treats you like an imbecile for not knowing about groupsets or disc brakes, or when you join your first group ride and everyone’s dressed in matching bright lycra with helmets and eye-wear that look like they’re from a scene in Back to the Future. But let me introduce you to some of the eclectic cyclists I’ve run into and you’ll forget all about the snobbery of the cycling minority.
First, at every French outdoor market there’s always an elderly man or woman who rides up on a bike from the 1940’s–usually the same bike they’ve had since they were twelve. They leave with their panniers full for the week, having to bike 5 to 10 miles (sometimes longer) to get back home (otherwise they would have walked). Then consider 65-year-old Jean-Pierre whom I met on the 1000-meter climb to the Col de Roc Jalere. He was on his way to Norway (by bike…from the South of France) wearing an old worn fleece and clunky sunglasses designed for anything but aerodynamics. And let’s not forget the 86-year-old Frenchman who bikes regularly up the hill to our village. Decked out in slick pro gear, a bandanna and seriously sporty eye wear, this guy sometimes goes up and down the 10-kilometer, 350-meter climb several times in one day to stay en forme.
And then meet young American Evie Stevens, whose story goes like this:
… The most absurd and delicious detail of that performance was that on the final, long climb the rider had left her race completely behind and ridden all the way up to the pack of elite and pro cylists, who’d started five minutes before. Some of the best women riders in the country, on their custom-made machines, had looked up to see a tiny, brown-haired investment banker on a cheap maroon bike, using her granny gear, pass them by. It was a wonderful fairy tale. It turned out to be true in every detail. [Bicycling magazine]
After that, explains the article, with little to no cycling experience, Evie Stevens promptly left her career on Wall Street to become a pro-cyclist. “[The] first time Evie got a flat, she called her sister on her cell phone for instructions,” explains the Bicycling article. “She liked riding. She liked going fast. She didn’t know anything about bicycle technology, and didn’t particularly care.” Where is Evie now? Focused on “winning the UCI World Championship and bringing home Olympic Gold from Rio in 2016,” according to her official website.
My 69-year-old mother hadn’t been on a bike in about 20 years when she straddled my Giant hybrid and climbed a few of the hills on our Mountains and Sea tour. I had to ride beside her with my hand on her back at the very top for a little extra push, but Mom didn’t get off the bike until they crested the hills. If she can do it, so can you.
These stories are meant to show that cyclists come in all shapes, forms and ages. It’s the one activity I believe everyone can do for as long as they want. There’s little to no impact on joints, the stride is in line with the natural human form and let’s face it, bicycles may be the only invention that truly does make getting there more efficient.
According to World Bicycle Relief, when compared to walking, a bicycle saves three hours of time for every 10 miles traveled. They also proclaim that over equal units of time, an individual can ride a bicycle four times the distance as someone walking, and when hauling goods, riding a bicycle increases an individual’s carrying capacity by five.
I’ve quoted him elsewhere on this site, but the French actor Clovis Cornillac, who stars in the 2013 film Le Grande Boucle said it best in an interview. As the leading actor in this film about a layman who cycles the Tour de France Route, Cornillac cycled the entire Tour de France route himself. This is what he said about the experience:
I discovered an absolutely fabulous universe. I can tell you today that we can all do it. When you do it at your rhythm, if you know how to work, and if you learn how to pedal…believe me when I say this, we can, every one of us, do it. It’s magnificent. The bicycle is ideal for traversing France. It’s the perfect speed. It’s absolutely stunning.
- September 29, 2013