I’m Leaving the Nest to Bike Across Canada

As a university student and amateur cyclist, travelling cross-country is an exciting but daunting adventure

Cycling through Burn's Bog. Victoria Day practice ride with a group of fellow Hong Kong bicycling enthusiasts. (Kristine Hui)

Cycling through Burn’s Bog. Victoria Day practice ride with a group of fellow Hong Kong bicycling enthusiasts. (Kristine Hui)

Every year for the last six years, I’ve asked myself if I would ever achieve my dream of biking across Canada. Now, I’m finally getting ready to begin the seven-week trip that will take me to the opposite side of the country alongside 19 other riders.

When I think about the 7,550 kilometre journey ahead of me, my palms start to sweat and anxiety overwhelms me. Over the past few weeks I’ve woken up in the middle of the night from stomach pains—something that only happens when I am extremely stressed.

I signed up for this trip in December and did so secretly because I knew that nobody in my family would approve. In previous years, when I had floated the idea by them, my parents were adamant that I stay home. They liked to remind me that I could very well get hit by a car and die.

After a couple of years of trying to get their stamp of approval I had a revelation of sorts; I didn’t need their approval to go.

When I did tell my parents, I did so after paying the non-refundable trip fees. Unsurprisingly, they tried to convince me to drop out, but six years of waiting and wondering had only solidified my intentions to go.

In my parents’ defence, I am not a cyclist. I don’t consider myself an athlete either. The very idea of people paying to go to the gym is baffling to me. Paying to exercise is the same as paying to suffer—why would anyone want to do that?

My reasons for cycling across Canada are entirely unrelated to exercising or staying fit. I just want to see my country in its most natural form. If I went by bus, I’d be stuck in a metal box insulated from the sights and sounds of Canada. I’d probably fall asleep and miss seeing things too.

On a bike you can feel each bump in the road. You can feel the agony of every uphill climb and the delight of every downhill ride. I want to have the most immersive experience possible, as this will be the first time I travel anywhere in Canada that’s not British Columbia.

I learned to ride a bicycle when I was about seven or eight years old. After that, I did not ride until about two months ago, when I purchased my current bike. Since then, I’ve learned how to shift gears, ride with “clip-in” pedals, ride while eating and drinking, and ride without using my hands.

The trip is planned by the non-profit organization, Tour du Canada, which has organized this annual cross-Canada ride since 1988. When I signed up for the trip, I received a booklet from Tour du Canada on how to prepare for it. I am supposed to have logged a minimum of 2,000 practice kilometres before the trip begins.

Our group of riders assembled at the University of British Columbia on June 20, and our first riding day fell on June 22.

On the Tour du Canada website, it’s written that over 98 per cent of participants are able to complete this trip. While I am anxious, I’m also optimistic about my chances of making it all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland on August 31. Here’s looking at you, Canada!

The Runner will publish additional articles from Kristine as she makes her way across the country.

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