Other people travelling by bicycle that I’ve been lucky to meet over the last few years.
Almost every day on the road I wonder a little, hope a little: “will I see another bicycle traveller today?” Sometimes in the distance I think I see one, but it’s only a donkey. Many other times it’s a local person transporting something that can be mistaken for panniers from a distance. Or maybe I need my eyes checked, or my hopes are running away with me, because logs and bags of charcoal and sugarcane don’t really look like panniers.
The title of this gallery was originally: “other people that travel by bicycle, by choice” because in places where I felt so intrepid, so hard-done-by, there have generally been other people with bicycles much heavier and shittier than mine. Rwanda has many competitive road cyclists, and Uganda has its cycling activists, but it seems to me that the majority of local people we meet on bicycles have different reasons for doing so than “bicycle travellers.”
Long-time readers of this blog know that I get all emotional about how other bicycle travellers have shaped my life. Ilona helped me try it, and recently we took a second bike ride together. Evan and I have taken many bike rides together because he became my partner. Christine and Nora joined me for their first time travelling this way. So did my dad; mom came too, by car. Soon Evan’s mom joins us on the road. It’s not her first time.
Although most of my interactions with other bicycle travellers have been briefer than these, they’ve been memorable. Some have shared their homes and meals with me, others have joined me on the road for a few minutes or hours. A few have left me behind, others answered my burning questions. We move to the side of the road, gawk at one another: bike, gear, personal grooming, map, water bottles, thighs, demeanour. We exchange tips, encouragements, small talk, contact info or maybe not.
And when someone at first glance is similar to you—they travel the same way, a way that’s relatively uncommon—it is thought-provoking when they have different ideas about the world. We all may look somewhat grubby and hungry and gratified, but bicycle travellers are a diverse bunch. And yet I seem to always leave these interactions feeling inspired in one way or another.
I’m missing photos of many, including but not limited to Nathan, Angie, Simona, Daniele, Robbie, Jonny, Veronique, Roz, Aurelie, Yann. Wish I had photographed you when I had the chance!
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