Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Inspired to have only good and great days on my bike

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I've been inspired by a lot of people these days. Collectively, they are the reason I ride two wheels to work now instead of four.

One of them, longtime Free Press colleague and cycling enthusiast Jon Thordarson, has been on my mind ever since I dragged the bike out of the basement.

He took it up years ago before he started battling cancer, but I think cycling kept him strong through some extraordinarily dark days. When he finally succumbed this spring, his brother and cycling colleagues attended the wake in his honour in their bright yellow cycling jerseys.

Jon is famous for scoffing at whiners with a "You're not made of sugar." And he toughed out that five-year fight with cancer like he toughed out a long-distance race with just one lung.

He led by example, a life of courage and singular grace, fiercely optimistic, kind, generous. He never proselytized. He always said there were "only good days and great days."

Other cyclists have inspired by example.

My kids' beloved elementary schoolteacher Andrea Stuart, who has the shape and the vitality to be a rolling advertisement for 'active transport', commuted every day for years. When I marvelled at her commitment, she simply said she loved it.

Many of my Wolseley neighbours cycle to work every day, and I always admired them as I clambered, frazzled, into my car.

Then I started running into colleagues who were also leading by example: Free Press reporter Geoff Kirbyson; page designer Leesa Dahl; publisher Bob Cox; copy editor David Fuller, photographer Wayne Glowacki. The head of U of W's trendy new Global College, Marilou McPhedran, who doesn't even own a car. The smart and sassy U of W prof Shannon Sampert, who is also a pretty impressive "biker chick" on the weekends.

My impoverished son (who points out that he "didn't exactly have a choice"), last June took up a 40-minute cycling commute to his new workplace and is now in the best shape of his life.

None of them proselytized. None of them told me cycling to work would give me more energy, more strength, less stress, and make each day a little more fun.

I'm not nearly so subtle. I tell anybody who laughs at my bike-helmeted head that this is a no-brainer. It takes an extra 15 minutes to get to work by bike -- in total, a 30-minute ride. But that extra 15 minutes on my morning commute works out to an hour of exercise and fresh air every day. An hour I didn't have to pay to go to a gym, or work out in my basement, or try to tack something on to an already long day.

I can get even more sanctimonious. I am saving city roads, lessening traffic noise and pollution, not using up non-renewable resources such as oil or gas. Laugh at my helmet hair if you wish, but I am following in the panniered path of a lot of smart, interesting, healthy people.

It might be catching on. Comment editor Gerald Flood was checking out my bike the other day. Some colleagues have asked about my route. Two very dear friends tried out the new Bishop Grandin 'active transportation' trail last weekend, and both said they were trying to map out safe and not-too-scary cycling routes to their jobs.

I've vowed to stay on my bike as long as my other inspiration, buddy Diane Skogstad -- who last year commuted to the end of October, and was back in the saddle by April.

I feel younger, stronger and more alive on a bike. I like to think that's how Jon felt, too.

On windy days, I tell myself I'm just getting a better workout. On rainy days, I say I'm not made of sugar.

And on bad days? There are no bad days.

Only good days and great.

margo.goodhand@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2010 A13

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