The Forest to the Sea

Why I Love Bicycling

My decision to do Black to Black comes from a long history of cycling. More than anything my love of bicycles and the pure emotional release that I experience while riding is what moves me to do this trip. The time with Tom and Woody, the passing countryside, the ever changing European cities and cultures, the beer gardens all excite me very much, but it is the bicycle that brings them all together.

My introduction to two wheeled transportation came at a young age. My dad and mom both enjoyed bicycling and would take me out for rides around Logan where I grew up. They’d strap me into a big plastic safety seat mounted to the back of their bicycles (this was before covered trailers were common) and ride around Cache Valley. I can’t say I really remember those rides all that much, other than that the lack of shocks made for a bumpy ride in back. I do remember riding around the big city blocks of Logan on my big wheel Tonka tricycle though. The twins who lived across the street had the same models and countless nights were spent racing those guys around the block. We’d do all we could to win: running the others off the sidewalk, grabbing onto each other’s yellow handlebars and twisting them, making deals with one of the other riders to foil whoever had been riding strongest. It was great fun.

My first actual bicycle was a single-gear red Schwinn with white tires that you had to pedal backwards to brake. I used training wheels at first in the high school parking lot a couple blocks from my house. It wasn’t long before I could ride without the trainers touching the ground and was riding everywhere. I loved bicycling because, even though I wasn’t the most athletic kid, I could ride really fast and surprise people who thought of me as chubby and clumsy. I’ve come into my own a bit since then, but cycling has always been a good fit with my body’s strengths.

Throughout the rest of my childhood in Utah and my college years in Vancouver, I rode Specialized and Trek stiff frame mountain bikes. In Logan, I would take to the trails in nearby Logan Canyon and actually use the bike for what it was made for. Explorations of single-track in the canyon became a daily release for me to toss off the pressure I felt from being extremely different (non-Mormon) from the majority of my peers and I let my dreams for the future in the rest of the world grow while maneuvering past rocks and around trees. In Vancouver, it became more of a commuter than anything to get me to university and from class to class. That bike suffered in the never ending drizzle dropping from the cottage cheese skies!

Somewhere along the way, I got rid of my bike and went for a while without riding at all. I ended up in Los Angeles and found myself riding public transit through the city everyday. I hated the city and was down about most everything. Then, something changed.

I moved into a place where my roommates let me use an old Nikishi road bike of theirs, and, despite the 10 miles through non-cyclist friendly streets, I began riding everyday to UCLA. Cruising along the banks of the Ballona Canal from Playa del Rey to Culver City and onward to Westwood and returning by zooming down the West LA hills from Brentwood to Santa Monica and through my favorite of all Venice Beach changed my outlook on everything. I was freed from the everyday grind of the streets and able to spend the time riding thinking about whatever I wanted and needed to think. I even was lucky enough to spend one afternoon cruising on the boardwalk with Tom and his girlfriend Dani. Never again would I be without a bicycle and my love for the speed of road bikes was born.

What happened in Los Angeles revealed that no matter how I am feeling, bicycling somehow makes me feel better. I have spent time on the bicycle with a smile wide across my face and laughing with joy, with tears in my eyes, with rage pumping through my blood as I pedal as fast as I possible can, with no thoughts at all and with so many other emotions. For me, it is the perfect outlet for everything.

Now, I’m using my bicycle for one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. The plan to ride 3,000 km across Europe in 24 days seems crazy at times. But, surely, it’s achievable and I can only begin to imagine the experiences that me and my fellow riders will encounter as we pedal forth!

Ezra Anton

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