Why Adventure Cycling?

This is a guest article by adventure cyclist, Dane Frost. You can follow Dane’s adventure through Latin America here.

 

I met Dane in La Paz, Mexico, riding his touring bike along La Paz’s famous malecón. He had a fishing rod attached to his bike frame and a violin case strapped to his rear rack. I remember thinking, “That’s awesome! I’ve got to meet this guy.” After several coffee-fuelled conversations and a spectacular day trip to nearby Balandra Bay I realized that we shared a philosophy not only of travel, but of life. Dane was kind enough to share this philosophy in the following article, which also has the distinction of being El Pedalero’s first guest article.

 

Dane's-Bike

The bike doesn’t cut you off from the world.

Cycling the seemingly endless roads to my destination, the question everyone asks me is, why? Why would you try to ride a bicycle from Portland, Oregon to Argentina? It’s a good question.

During the stretches where the elements are particularly harsh I often find my own mind asking me this question with little relief in the form of an answer. It’s not until the suffering is endured and the day finished that I get a glimpse of the answer; it comes in the form of a peaceful mind and absolute bliss.

My initial reason for deciding to make this trek on a bicycle was my very limited budget. Being utterly confused by life was a close second. As a recent college graduate, I had found myself under an absurd student loan debt and without any comprehension of how to take the next step in life in a meaningful, purposeful manner. “Compete to be hired and work for whatever company will pay me the most money,” they told me.

I knew I owed the world and humanity more than to play this game but I was (and still am) unsure of how to pursue something “better.” Before I left home, my response to this why? question was: “because it’s a cheap way to see the ruins of the ancient world, and I don’t know what to do with my life.”

Dane-pull-quote-1Then I got on a bike – and the bike demanded I refine my answer.

Bicycling forges a strong body and a clear mind. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, bicycling is great exercise. It builds cardio, and is easy enough on the body that I occasionally get passed on the road by seventy year-olds (this leads to mixed emotions of “fuck yeah, way to go” and “fuck you, don’t crush my ego”).

I’d spent the four years prior to this trip behind university desks and textbooks. Within a month, I was in the peak shape of my life.

Riding also demands a presence of thought, especially in the more treacherous terrain. If you let your mind wander at the wrong time you will find yourself on the pavement, or worse. The riding meditation that I find myself in often leads to personal insight and spontaneous happiness.

Dark-Clouds,-Deep-Thoughts

Riding demands a presence of thought that often leads to personal insight and spontaneous happiness.

Adventure cycling is the perfect pace to travel. OK, I admit this claim is purely subjective, but let me make my case. If you wish to truly take in the new landscapes and cultures you will be passing through, then cycling is for you. Being on a bicycle is different than other faster means of transport. It doesn’t cut you off from the world as do the windows and velocities of motor vehicles. You feel the wind, you hear the wildlife, you smell and feel all sorts of new things. This is all amplified by the natural state of bliss and presence of mind that riding has put you in.

Dane-pull-quote-2Being on a bike creates unique opportunities and friendships. In Mexico and much of Latin America, bicycling is very much a respected sport and will spark interest and enthusiasm wherever you go. You will find people are eager to help however they can.

Riding down Baja California, I stopped and chatted briefly with a motorist parked on the shoulder. Six hundred km further in La Paz I had an email from a stranger which read: a mutual friend told me of your travels taking you to La Paz, I am out of town with the family till Christmas but we left you a spare key. Mi casa es su casa. I stayed a week in a mansion with a pool overlooking La Paz and its tequila sunsets. Checkmate, motorists!

Meeting such generous, open hearted people has genuinely restored my faith in humanity, after it was slowly eroded by the major media outlets.

Dave-Playing-Violin

Being on a bike creates unique opportunities and friendships.

Willpower and courage are both paramount when it comes to trailblazing a path to where you want to be in life, whether it’s putting down that pack of cigarettes or rolling the dice on your business idea. Adventure cycling strengthens both will power and courage.

I can’t begin to express the fear I felt riding away from the safety and comfort of my home in Portland and entering the unfamiliarity of Mexico. “There is a 100% chance you will be murdered and cannibalized by drug gangs,” they told me.

The practice of pushing past the fear and accomplishing your goals reduces the power fear holds over you. Cycling demands courage as well as the will power to keep going every day, every mile, every moment. Every instant that you want to quit but instead continue, you have achieved something and strengthened your resolve. The best choice and the easy choice are seldom the same.

My understanding of why I continue to do this everyday is still uncertain. There are many positive lessons to take away from such an experience. There are also plenty of reasons why not to continue. But one thing is certain, I am a Pedalero.

 

Feature image (top of page): Dane enjoys a sunset with his violin and fishing rod in tow.

 

© El Pedalero, 2014.

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