By Rob Ficiur
On Thur., June 1, about thirty local residents took part in the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike fundraiser. We were told the bike we were riding (and pedaling and pedaling) was the biggest bike in Canada.
Most of us have a bike story. We have great memories of the time we first road a bike by ourselves. We usually don’t bring up the time we fell off our bike when we were doing something foolish. The following are selected bike stories from history, concluding with more tall tales about our (my) adventure with the Big Bike.
1. The first bikes – The first bicycle was the Dandy-Horse built in 1817. When I looked at this bike I thought it would be easier and faster to walk than to peddle this thing. No problem, there were no pedals on this bike. Instead, you walked beside it and pushed it. It was not until 1839 that the first two wheeled bicycle “vehicle” came about. Three years later a Glasgow newspaper recorded the first instance of a cycling traffic offense. A gentleman knocked over a girl with his bike. He was fined five shillings.
2. Bike Safety = Freedom – By the late 1800’s bicycles had advanced to being the real wheel drive machines we are used to. As bikes became dependable and safe they increased freedom of riders. As children, we could ride across town in a fraction of the time it would have taken to walk. Some articles suggest that safe bicycles allowed women of the early 20th century to have freedom. As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom. Susan B. Anthony, famous for fighting for women’s right to vote said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”
3. Cycling has been part of the Olympics since the first games in 1896. That year there were four men’s cycling events. Women’s cycling events began in the 1984 Olympics. In the last 121 years Canada has only won one gold medal in cycling.
4. Longest Ride – One of the longest bike rides ever was Goran Kropp. He pedaled 13,000 km from his home in Sweden to Mount Everest base camp. After he reached the Everest summit on May 23, 1996 Kropp cycled most of the way back home.
5. Don’t Believe all Tall Tales – Don’t believe every bicycle story you hear. During the height Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890’s, advertisers promoted a bicycle that you could ride directly to the Dawson City gold fields. In this era before there were roads or rails to Dawson City, the ads showed excited cyclist going up the Chilkoot Pass on these special edition bikes.
6. Bow Island Big Bike 2017 (More Tall Tales) – As we began our Big Bike Tour the weather changed. Instead of the bright sunny day we had seen the wind came up and blew. I had previously thought I was wise to have brought my sun glasses; now I needed a coat. (When it blows so hard that three basketballs race down the street faster than you can run, that is windy).
Pedaling the Big Bike was a community effort. There were times when our speed must have exceeded all speed limits as there was no traction in the pedals. We managed to hit red lights both times we came to the one light in town. Starting and stopping the Big Bike was a big project.
As a one-time Big Bike veteran, I can tell you that Bow Island geography is not flat. Our biking experience brought to my attention that there are hills everywhere. Who knew that an almost invisible rise in elevation could be that hard to climb on the bike?
As we descended into Centennial park campground I was thrilled at the speed we had achieved going down hill. The only problem was now I knew we must go up what we had just gone down.
This fundraiser was for the heart and stroke foundation. As an out of practice cyclist my heart was pumping faster and breathing getting shallower as I look at the mountain we had to now climb. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my way out of this. Entering the park was my car. No doubt my wife had come to rescue me from the over-exertion that awaited our crew. I gave no thought what I would say to my fellow riders. I would abandon the Big Bike for the safety of my car without an explanation. It was survival of the fittest – and since my wife brought the car – that was going to be a great fit for me.
Alas I was not saved from the uphill climb. My wife was driving the local newspaper editor around so the paparazzi could take pictures of our Big Bike Crew in full action mode. Like the rest of the crew I had to pedal back up Bow Island Mountain back to our starting place.
Like other tall tales, the Big Bike story will get better every time we tell it.