It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s time for the third story for Bike Love month! Brett Bergie is a long distance bromptoneer – she trained to ride the 2020 Trans America Bicycle Race in 2020 on her Brompton. Yes, you read that correctly! She currently lives in Calgary where she advocates for safe streets, and is considered an honourary member of the Ottawa bike community.
On a chilly, grey day in early spring, just before arriving in the old town far from home, the road turns sharply on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. The low grey ceiling prevents me from seeing across to the other side. Vastness, openness, and coldness give me a chill, less so in the bone, more so in my soul – a moment when solitude feels uneasy.
Bicycling longer and farther than my friends are willing to go almost always means bicycling alone. Young and curious, I find myself lost on occasion, feeling unsettled and frightened each time. More than finding my way again, in those moments I wish I weren’t alone. After some time pedaling and meandering, I situate myself again and point my bicycle home. I evaluate my energy stores and feel some assurance I will make it. Elation comes first but then depletion.
In the weeks and months after the pandemic is declared, I habitually take to my bicycle. “Outside is not cancelled,” they say. While the threat of COVID-19 disrupts and upsets social connection and routine, I discover I can still draw pleasure and security rolling on two wheels in the open spaces, the green spaces, and the empty spaces.
For fleeting moments, life feels familiar. On the bike, my mindset is contemplative and unhurried. Time fails to dictate my actions as it does across life’s other compartments. Riding my bicycle is an indulgence in sensory pleasure: quietude, coolness of tree canopies, permeating aroma of a growing season, an open and uninterrupted horizon, and force upon my cranks. I feel a deep affection and gratitude for the contours of the land in all its natural beauty. Far removed am I from another element of nature – this pandemic.
Time on my bicycle remains an opportunity to be truly present in my surroundings and activity. I feel my weight on the saddle, the pressure where my hands rest on my grips, and the responsiveness of my bike propelling forward with the rotation of my feet. The bicycle is the ultimate expression of simplicity – and I am the faithful servant of simple pleasures.
It occurs to me that while the risk of COVID spread occupies my mind, consciously and subconsciously, my bicycle is my best tool to dislodge worry and unease. My mind lends itself to the air’s fragrance, not the droplet count. When in motion, seeing people evokes a wave instead of a threat response. I feel an overwhelming sense of connection and community.
And now I wonder if bicycling was ever a discipline of solitude.
— Brett Bergie
Don’t miss the other #BikeLove stories!