If you sat down and really gave it some thought, you might be able to come up with a more difficult way to cross the country on two wheels.
But, without the deep thought, let’s just agree cycling from Ontario to the West Coast on the back of a BMX bike is at the deep end of extreme — especially since that cycling is mostly riding the blacktop.
That’s the reality for Steven and Ray, a couple of Toronto-area friends who determined in early September to head for Vancouver on their favoured mode of transportation.
Sunday evening, they arrived in Osoyoos — after a long ride up the hill from Rock Creek and a mad dash down Anarchist Mountain — pitched a couple of tents and crashed.
After sharing a pizza at the local convenience store, they left town this afternoon, headed for Princeton.
The ride is a bit of a whim, the pair shooting the breeze one evening when conversation turned to getting out of Toronto and starting over in BC.
“I always wanted to do a long epic bike ride and he said he wanted to go to Vancouver,” explains Steven. “So I told him that if would ride these BMXs with me, I’d go with him.”
At first Ray didn’t think his friend was serious, but — as he puts it — they “shook on it and so I had to go through with it.”
For the uninitiated, a BMX bike — to quote Wikipedia — is an “off-road sport bicycle used for racing and stunt riding. BMX means bicycle motocross.”
The pint-sized two-wheelers weren’t exactly built for highway riding. They’re more at home on the dirt track, especially a racing circuit that includes lots of bumps, some jumps, inclines and plenty of corners.
The hairpin types are especially delightful.
“I would never ride any bike except a BMX,” says Steven. “(Ray) has his seat raised a little higher so he can be a little more comfortable some of the time. But I’ve been pretty much standing the entire time.
“It’s not really meant for going up steep hills; your legs become the gears and you’ve really got to push on these hills.”
The bikes are also not meant for carrying a whole lot of cargo. Everything the two need for the ride accompanies them in backpacks.
Still Ray thinks the bikes are ideal for extended travel.
“They require very little maintenance and they’re very durable,” he explains. “I think it’s actually ideal to do it on a BMX. I’ve had like five flat tires, replaced two tires and that’s about it.”
Ray, who is 30 and 10 years younger than Steven, says his friend introduced him to the sport.
“I only actually started recently — he got me into it actually — and I figured the best way to get my legs up to par was to join him on this crazy-ass ride.”
The pair say they left Toronto September 5, so far covering a distance of more than 4,100 of the 4,400-km ride.
“Depending what the weather allows us, we try to average 80 to 100 km a day,” says Steven. “If it’s raining, we’ve got to stop, snow, we’ve got to stop. We only really stop for food, weather and sleep.”
Ray adds the duo have taken to riding at night if the weather is bad during the day.
“Sometimes you want to sleep in after a long ride,” he explains. “By the time you get ready to hit the road, it’s already sundown. We’ve got lights and drivers have mostly been cooperative.”
The two are not riding for a cause, not collecting cash for every mile they’ve ridden and no one is sponsoring them with the intention of featuring them in some zany reality TV show.
They’re doing it, they say, because they needed a change.
“I was supervising a commercial flat-roofing crew and I was just tired of doing the same thing every day at work — go home, pay bills — so I quit my job and gave my landlord notice,” explains Steven.
Adds Ray: Eight years for me living in Toronto was too much. I got itchy feet and thought let’s see the country. What better way to do it than on a BMX — nice and slow.”
Slow it certainly is. The duo took an hour and a bit to climb over Richter Pass and then they were gone.
Next stop, Princeton, they say. Or maybe Hedley.
“It doesn’t really matter how far we get,” says Steven. “There’s no timetable, no deadline. We’re just a couple of guys out for a ride.”