The following is a guest post from Jamie Cashin. An inspirational story from a participant of Bike to Work Ottawa.
I have always loved cycling… I had just forgotten I loved cycling. I was late to learn how to ride a two wheeler… age 8, but when I did, there was no turning back. At age 13 I was riding in the mornings when most teens would be sleeping in. In my early 20s I would cycle to our cottage for supper, and cycle back into the city to go to work the next day.
In my late 30s I moved to Ottawa from Newfoundland and was riding less and less as each year passed. Each year, with less riding than the year before, also meant added pounds. By age 45 I had reached over 300 pounds. I was sedate, and seriously out of shape, and had been so for more than 10 years. I decided I had to do something about it and began to walk more, and eat more sensibly. By the fall of 2010 I was down to 200 pounds, and had started cycling again.My spouse gave me my first new bike since 1992 as my 2013 Christmas present, and I ended up putting over 4,500 km on it last summer, including participating in the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, a 340 km round trip from Ottawa to Kingston. I also achieved a personal goal of 200 km in one day. I also put another 500 km on my mountain bike.
For the past 3 years I have also taken part in the 30 Days of Biking challenge, where you try to ride your bike every day in April. It gets you on the bike earlier in the year, when you need the motivation, when you need to be able to ignore the fact that it’s cold. Having goals helps me to stay motivated, focused, and in shape.
Once I completed the 30 Days of Biking challenge this year, I needed my next goal, and a friend mentioned the Ottawa Bike to Work challenge, where you pledge to ride your bike to work rather than drive your car. The idea is to increase the number of times you cycle commute, and reduce the number of times you commute by car. It was exactly what I was looking for, so I signed up, despite having not cycle commuted in more than 15 years. A co-worker then mentioned our work team, Team Obstinate Velocipedits, so I joined that team shortly after signing up.
I got another bike, this time a commuter bike, with fenders, and other features more suited to daily commuting than my carbon fibre road bike. I was able to average close to 4 rides a week for the month of May, including riding in the rain, something I previously avoided. My ride is 21kM from Sandy Hill to Ciena (the old Nortel campus) but I often take a longer route home. I arrive at work recharged, and there’s no stress of dealing with 417 traffic. The ride home is a reward at the end of the day.
I’m now around 210 pounds… more than I would like to be, but a lot less than the 300 I was 5 years ago! For my 50th birthday, I took 12 of my friends to an indoor bike park, my treat. This was quite the contrast to my 45th birthday which was at a pub. I am in better shape now than I was in my 30s. Cycling has been a huge part of this, and while I was doing lots of cycling after work and on weekends in 2014, it just made sense to use my commute as another way to ride.
I have seen other friends take similar paths in the past few years, choosing to eat better, exercise more, and improve their health. While not all have taken to cycling, many have, and I highly recommend it. It can start with one ride to work every other week… and can grow from there. Before you know it, you’ll look forward to the days you cycle-commute. Even though May is over, I have purchased a parking permit for the remainder of the summer, and plan to continue to commute by bike for the remainder of the summer, with a goal of a minimum of 3 days a week being by bike, and a side-goal of one full week by bike.
I am looking forward to reading YOUR story next year, and hope to give you the “cyclists wave” out there, on the road.