I love travelling to the mountains and always enjoy hiking in the beautiful terrain. I don’t mind taking on some fairly severe elevation changes and always congratulate myself when I make it to the end of the trail. Secretly, however, I am aware that I am no athlete, I am really not that fit and there are limits to what I am prepared to endure. Amongst the many things that I couldn’t countenance is cycling up a mountain pass but there are plenty who seem to enjoy the torture!
Every time I drive in the Alps or the Rockies I marvel at the insanity of those scaling the mountain passes on two wheels. There always seems to be an endless stream of clinically insane individuals feverishly pedalling in a low gear as they make their way slowly up. Their legs are always going nine to the dozen whilst their forward progress is minimal. Not only are these guys taking on the steep ascents, they are also risking their lives sharing the road with motorists who are often distracted by the breath-taking scenery and who wander all over the road.
Fitness or Folly?
On blind corner after blind corner the cyclists encounter errant motorists and tourist coaches forced wide by the hairpin bends. I never know whether to admire their fitness and tenacity or to dismiss their journeys as sheer folly.
Of course the truth is that I am jealous! I want to be that fit and that brave and that thin come to think of it! I want to be able to make the summit under my own steam but I know that I would be stranded unable to breathe almost before I had begun. I know this because I was once stupid enough to try.
I was travelling around the Canadian Rockies and was enjoying a stay in Banff. Just above the town there is a cable car that takes you up Sulphur Mountain from where you can revel in the spectacular views across the valley. As the cable car station didn’t appear to be very far up the road, I decided to cycle to it on the smart bicycle I had rented for short forays around the camp sites and valley floors, which reminded me of my own KTM mountain bike back home. I had only managed to conquer two hairpin bends when I felt that I was having a near death experience and was suffering a severe oxygen deficiency. I must have been a pathetic sight stationery on the side of the road leaning over by bike panting like I had run a marathon.
Acting the Part
I was forced to push the mountain bike the rest of the way and needed the cable car ride to recover some level of decorum. The only good thing about the entire episode was the return journey into town which consisted of freewheeling down the mountain, no exertion required. Once down I cycled nonchalantly into Banff as if I had conquered Sulphur Mountain. I have never contemplated such foolishness again but I am in awe of those who can make it all the way!
Article by Sally Stacey