Learning about communities by bike

Cyclist on loaded touring bike

Travelling across Canada by bike will give John Martin and Allistair Walker the opportunity to study rural communities.

Professor John Martin, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities here at the Bendigo campus of at Latrobe University, is about to embark on a study of Canadian communities, travelling by bicycle. John is an avid cyclist and has cycled in many places across the world. He takes a very keen interest in their culture and infrastructure and how that keeps cyclists connected in the community.

John has been able to arrange a study tour by bicycle combining recreation and study leave across Canada from May to September. He will be travelling across Canada, west to east, visiting small rural communities in ten provinces to learn about the ways in which people in these places have adopted sustainable living practices.

Like small rural communities across Australia, Canadian communities are also dealing with significant change relating to economic, demographic and environmental factors. They are sustainable primarily because people in these communities work together in creative and innovative ways to secure their viability and liveability. John is interested in how they organise themselves to do this, how they relate to other communities in their province and with the federal government to ensure a sustainable future.

The preparation for the epic cycling journey of 7,500 km has been on an ongoing process for the last 12 months. Two of his Bendigo cycling mates have decided to join John on the ride. Trevor Miles is taking on the challenge of the Rockie Mountains for the first month and Alistair Walker will continue on across the prairies and to the Atlantic.

Trevor said he was looking forward to returning to Canada, this time travelling by bike. “Canadians have always impressed me as being very generous and welcoming”, Trevor said. He is hoping this translates to a safe and enjoyable ride across the Rockies.

Alistair Walker has an extensive background in rural finance and posted these words at the start of the preparation. “Well, I guess I have to start somewhere. I don’t just mean the training which I suspect will be the easy part. When you love riding a bike, the prospect of 7,500 km somehow doesn’t seem that daunting, yet I can understand other people’s reaction when I talk about the scale of my undertaking.

“Of course a lot of people think I must be mad, and you may be one of them. Perhaps I am, or is it just because I’m 45? I’m fortunate to be fit and healthy, have been with my current employer for over 17 years (read long service leave), loving life and in the mood for adventure.  As I see it, you don’t get too many opportunities to do something that you just know was put in front of you to grasp with both hands.”

Behind the scenes there have been many logistical challenges, on how much to pack, what is a reasonable weight to carry, what is the average speed to gauge the distance per day. There have been the weekends on the bike testing out the so arrangements made so far and these have been refined a few times.

There are still many variable that will be worked out along the way. Sleeping out or in, what clothing to take, food on the road, where can we get a shower? How to charge the mobile phone and keep the laptop working and photographs captured. What food is best to keep the body fuelled yet not weigh the bike down carry too much? What roads to travel and not offend the local authorities, handling on road breakdowns, knowing where there is support if required. There is an answer to all these and this ride will now become another respected resource in the cycling community of answering the many how to questions!

Keeping track of their adventure and finding out the answers to some of the questions can be found on the following web links. You can follow their journey on their blogs.


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