The lonely roads in distance cycling

©Barry Sandland/TIMB Man w his bike in Brussels

©Barry Sandland/TIMB

“In 1965, my brother went to Paris on his Dutch bike and people stopped to watch him. To watch the spectacle. I did long rides three times to the north of Holland for business reasons, but I will never forget. A very good experience and you see how lonely the country is on the small roads. I did that about seven years ago. My daily limit is about 120 miles, 180 kilometres. If you cycle every day, you can do that.”

Photographer’s notes: I have to say, this man reminded me of my father. An older bike, the dress shoes and the methodical pace. And then, as we started talking about cycling and the daily journeys, the affinity became closer. They would have entertained each other.

I have a few distance rides under my belt. I did the east coast of Africa w a friend. That was the eighties, and I think we saw two other cyclists on the entire trip. If I had been alone, I might have not made it. But the roads were wide open and incredible.

A few decades later, I did a short trip in northern Canada. It was wide open roads, long spaces between cars and I saw just one other person on the roads, outside the city. And it was immensely lonely. I was gone for a week and it felt like months.

My father was a far more disciplined distance rider. For his retirement, when he turned 65, he took his bike to the far end of Canada, British Columbia, and road his bike all the way home to St. John’s, Newfoundland. He did 160 kilometres a day, every day. That is my dad. He would see the daily ride as a job that had to get done. It might be fun one day, a misery the next, but the job had to be done.

Just to be sure, he was a great dad. Self-discipline does not mean a disciplinarian comes with it. His discipline was his own trait and he tried to encourage it in us through example, not force. He got me on a bike and I am still there. I hope I do something epic when I turn 65….

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