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The Big Ride

By Sheila Ascroft

Sheila AscroftI’ve been cycling for 24 years and never gone anywhere. Well, that’s not quite true. I’ve been to several somewheres over and over again.

But after 76,000 km, I’m wondering why I’ve never done a Big Ride. You know what I mean – those once in a lifetime rides across Canada or the U.S., or a 10-day tour in Italy or France or wherever. The big deal bike trips.

It’s about commitment or the lack thereof. Unless I commit to doing something, any excuse will stop me from acting. I live in the middle of Canada, so travelling to either coast to bike back involves the cost of flying and a chunk of non-earning time and bills still coming in and then what do I do with my dog? And. And. There, you see, I’ve just talked myself out of another chance of doing a massive ride (at least in my own estimation) before I’ve barely thought of it.

Funny thing though, I know that when I do commit, nothing stops me. Decades ago, I rode horses instead of bikes. I rode despite snowstorms to get to the stables, I rode despite hard packed arenas that hurt like hell when you fell off the horse, I rode despite an injured hand, a broken toe and my father’s death…. I loved being on a horse. The sense of oneness with  the big animal, the scent of hay mingled with horse sweat and oats and apples was intoxicating. Nothing stopped me from riding – until allergies forced me away completely.

So, why haven’t I done a Big Ride? Maybe it is too big a dream. Maybe it needs to be a journey with smaller destinations. Instead of thousands of kilometres over mountains, prairies, Canadian Shield rock and rivers, maybe I can think shorter, easier. I know that sounds like another cop-out, but I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it.

Every Christmas my niece sends a card with photos of our summer holiday on Lake Champlain, I think maybe this summer I’ll bike there. Peru, N.Y. really isn’t far compared to crossing Canada, only 280 km. So it’d take two or three days each way depending on hard I rode. Of course, I’d have to go through those darn Adirondacks. I’m not good at climbing. I don’t have a cyclist’s lean body and hauling extra fat uphill is hard. And I’d have to cross that scary bridge from Cornwall into New York state. And, if I’m staying over along the way, I’d have to carry a change of clothes, etc., and that would mean using panniers, which also weigh the bike down. And what if it rains? What if? What if? See, there I’ve done it again. My analytical mind freezes me into inaction.

Still, I could spend this winter paying more attention to my diet. Maybe I could shed a few pounds by training properly for hills on my indoor bike or at spinning class. Maybe I could Google a route and stick it on my wall. Maybe I could pin up those happy summer photos. Think of how good it would feel if I actually rode down. How much better the water would feel. How satisfied I’d be. Maybe I’ll phone my niece today and see if she has the first week of July free….

I’ve been cycling for 20-some years and writing about it for the last 10. My articles have been published in newspapers and magazines — and now on the women’s cycling website! I’m a member of the Ottawa Bicycle Club and the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program. www.sheilaascroft.com

1 comment to The Big Ride

  • Barb Hobe

    Sheila – For me, every ride is a big ride, for there is something to celebrate and enjoy: Just having the physical ability to ride, the well-maintained bike to ride, the safe streets to ride on, and the memories of multi-day rides of the past and looking forward to more in the future. I may not go for a long period of time, but I feel as if I have been on a big ride. Barb

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