Kathleen tells...

We cycle thanks to them

Cycling stands for freedom! Any self-respecting cyclist will confirm this. I step on my bike and take enough to live independently for a year. I go and stand where the wind and my legs take me. No train, bus, tour operator or plane waiting for me. I should not align my agenda with that of others. If I cycle through a city, I quietly laugh between long traffic jams of cars, trucks and other motorized stuff. In the countryside, the most beautiful car-free roads determine the direction. In my own home town or on the other side of the world: cycling is easy everywhere. I put my feet on the pedals and ride towards freedom.


At least if we don't cycle through abandoned mountains areas and my legs suddenly turn porridge, vibrate uncontrollably and my vision becomes glassy. In short, when I meet the hunger knock known to every cyclist and Paul tells me that he ate our last banana that morning. At such a moment I will cycle less relaxed, because a growling stomach drastically reduces the landscape: vistas no longer interest me. Rare plants in the verge even less. Freedom? Independence? I will only desperately look for a person, a saviour, just anyone who sells water and bread. That may be in a poor little stall along the road. Or on a carpet in front of his house. The expiration date doesn't even matter anymore. As long as it is food. 


That's how it goes every time we get on our bikes. When I leave I don't pretend to need anything or anyone. But even at the first obstacle my so-called 'cyclist independence' is no longer necessary. I then gladly put my fate in the hands of people who can show us the way, people who can tell us how long we still have to climb to the next mountain pass, people who can reassure us that the snake in the verge is not poisonous, that the military post in the distance just carries out routine checks, that the broken road within a kilometer will turn into brand new asphalt.



If something goes wrong and there is no one but Paul around, I can sometimes feel lost. I'm wrong, because I'm never really alone. Paul is around of course. But even he can't compete with my most loyal friend: my Santos. The bike has been leading me over 50,000 km safely everywhere. Very solid frame, flexible pedals and perfectly adjusted gears. I have long conversations with my Santos, I give him a glimpse into my deepest soul and pet him encouragingly over his stem. Like motorcyclists: my bike and me, we are one.



And I have to admit: without the effort of others there would be no question of my dear friend. My bike was smiling at me in the shop, ready to go. I just inserted my debit card and typed the four numbers. That was all I had to do to leave the shop with the Santos in my hand. That's my contribution.


Unknown hands had already dug up the necessary bauxite from the mines and had melted it into aluminium, had shaped the frame, had fitted the spokes and wheels and all the rest, and, as a bonus, had set up a bicycle bell with a compass. Thanks to these and other unknown people my Santos has a nice black suit, it lies firmly on the road and most important: I can travel the world on two wheels.


It has to be said: I am free and independent. As long as there is someone who collects the down for my sleeping bag, sews our tent, sells waterproof panniers, draws roadmaps, sells food on the road, bottles the water, shows us the way, offers us a place to sleep, takes care of the internet and gives me a smile that helps me through difficult moments.