The Spoked Traveller | Seeking culture, adventure and a good story
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The Spoked Traveller

It never occurred to me to leave my bike at home on my first overseas trip. Twenty years later, nothing has changed. Whether at home, or in a foreign country, riding makes me feel closer to people and places.

I created this site as a hub for all things cycling; it’s a celebration of bike culture. Where to travel next, how to travel, where to get advice, see some cool practical bike fashion, what to eat. I’ll share what I know; and I invite you to do the same.

Over the next few months keep checking in as I’ll be adding some new menu items.

See you on the trails. Melanie

At the start of my second mountain bike race, I was feeling a different kind of nervous compared to the first race: the first race was fear of the unknown, fear of falling off my bike and never finishing, and fear of competing for the first time. After riding for more than 15 years, my ability wasn't something I had to prove to anyone. Now, here I was putting it out to be measured against others. And, after coming in second in my first race two weeks ago, there was the added pressure to perform. I realize it's not the Olympics or anything, but it still means something to me. race two The fear this time around was riding a technically scarier course; on the last race I could get away with a fast and smooth race, but Kelso Ski hill had some sections that made my heart sink--like the pile of rocks that drops at the end. From above it's hard to see the step below and what you can't see is petrifying. Trust. On a pre-ride a few days earlier, I already had a few spills: after hitting some loose gravel on a sharp fire road turn my handlebars turned 180 and spit me off the bike.

We hugged like we'd known each other for years. We'd never met before. As two who share the love of travel and writing, Sandra Phinney and I met online through an association and then started yakking; what we discovered is that we share so much more. I recall Skyping one time when I needed some ideas where to send a story idea; Sandra suggested some markets I'd never heard of, but what unfolded was profound.  From the get-go she makes me think I can do more: be a better writer, and connect more to my writing. And, this is how it all began with us, this mutual admiration society. www.sandraphinney.com

"You looked shell shocked at the start line," says my bike buddy. Yes, waiting with one leg on the pedal, arms on bars, and poised to push off, all I could think: "what am I doing here?" And while the women around me in my 40-something age category tried to reassure me they felt the same way, I was stunned. shocked We're on a wide dirt road. Waiting. Waiting.         Ten second countdown. Heart is pounding outside my chest. Nine. Wow, that woman's legs look strong. Eight. Apparently, other people think you can do this. Seven. I'm 42. Six. Can I puke now? Five. Four. Three. Two. Off we go. I'm last. last  

The big race is tomorrow. I'm fine, really. I have talked myself out of the 'I want to vomit,' feeling.  Actually, I'm just thinking of the post-ride beer. That, and a giant chocolate chunk cookie from La Gourmand coffee shop--it's more chocolate than cookie. Hey, don't judge. Everyone has their motivation. Actually, the motivation certainly goes deeper than a cookie. Just to bring you up to speed, I did the pre-ride yesterday: it's two laps of a 6.8 kilometre loop full of twists and turns, burms and fast straight-aways. Only two big hills and it's not a technical course. So, back to the motivation.

This seems to be a theme with me. What is home? Frig, I dunno. It certainly isn't a place with four walls. But it was odd returning to London this weekend, a place that should be home if you consider time a prerequisite for home: I lived here from 1993 until 2014. Certainly the longest I have ever lived anywhere. But, I have to qualify this. I went away every summer. This weekend I drove back to London from my current home in Toronto. As I drove to my mom's after my trail run through one of my favourite parks, Komoka, which hugs the Thames River and then shoots up the valley, I got back in the car and then as I'm blindly driving, since I know every street, store, corner and tree so well, I missed the turn off.

So, I bought a road bike, which as a mountain biker, means a huge cultural, emotional and physical shift for me. To fully immerse myself in this change, I joined a bike group and last weekend I went on my first road bike trip: 75 kilometres from my apartment in downtown Toronto to the burbs of Oakville. Meeting at a coffee shop at 8:30am, I wasn't surprised by the other riders: all the men were wearing  team jerseys, talking about bike components and their pitiful sluggish shape, this being the first group ride of the summer.