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Travels with Mikael

Mikael Jansson is a long-time club member who loves bikes and loves to travel. Most recently, in November, he biked nearly 1,500 km solo along the west coast of India. In this blog entry, he shares his perspectives around the human interactions that make each trip unique and delightful.


Driving is too fast. Walking is too slow.

I love travelling on my bike, and I have fond memories from all my bike tours. When I think back on them, I treasure the interactions I have–both with the people I’m riding with and those I meet. Even the trip that included a Superman dive over the bars when I slid on the front of my helmet for a few metres is memorable–mostly for the wonderful interactions I had with all who looked after me until I left the hospital a few hours later.

There are some distinct advantages to travelling by bike, beyond the great feeling I get from moving my body. First and foremost for me is the contact with people in the places I visit. Many times, people have approached me just to chat…even when we don’t have a shared language. I am usually happy and smiling on my bike, and that probably helps. But I think there is more to it than that. Perhaps social distances shrink when I am on a bike? Of course, there are obvious conversation starters with a bike rider…"Where are you riding to?" "Where did you start from this morning?" Or perhaps it is just so obvious that I am a foreign visitor! More likely, others see an old man and assume, correctly, that I need guidance and help. These brief glimpses I get into people’s lives are treasures, even when the interactions are very basic and we lack a shared language.

The trips I have taken without my bike are very different. When I had a car, we drive hundreds of kilometres every day and see a lot less–of a lot more. Tours using public transit were different again. Even though I had the chance to meet a few people with different histories and stories on buses and trains, the experience outside was different. I felt as if I had many fewer options–for lodging, in particular–when I couldn’t easily roll another few kilometres down the way to check out another hotel.

Often, getting on and off transportation was stressful, as was the need for accommodating schedules…or lack thereof. For some reason, my interactions with others at transportation hubs tend to be qualitatively different. I assume that is primarily because I am a little stressed, but I think others at these hubs also have different expectations when interacting with me. Some people are rushing to get on the bus or rushing to meet their loved one, other people are working and hope that I will provide income for them.

Bike touring is easy. Just as the hardest part of the Tripleshot ride is getting out of bed, the hardest part of the bike tour is buying a ticket.

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