Cycling is a journey that grow with us

Kaisa & Christoffer share their weighted thought from recent journey through clouds of Canadian black flys. Join us to see and hear more on Wednesday 24th at 17:30 in Töölön Kirjasto, Helsinki. Event link here.

Every journey is inevitably two journeys
— one in thought, one in actuality.

The first one is defined by clarity, simplicity and perfection alien to anything in our experience. It is pure, devoid of the ambiguities that life brings with it.

The second one is gritty, messy and at times unpleasant in its imperfectness. But at the same time, and just for those reasons, also much more interesting.

This essay has two parts because each journey is two.


There are texts that stay with us. In a world where impermanence is the norm this is in itself astounding. What makes this so much more astounding is that such texts not only stay with us, they grow with us, imparting to us new realizations each time approached and consulted.

It is nothing short of miraculous that some texts—at times written millenia earlier—are able to capture something so central to the human experience. They speak with a clarity and conviction that makes them relevant to people born in a time and place far removed from that of their originator.

For me a text of such caliber is Tao Te Ching written by the mystic Lao Tzu. One verse in the book he authored that stands out for me personally among many equally beautiful ones is—

Brilliance and splendors blind the eye
Competition and the hunt for fulfillment madden the mind

Grasping wealth leaves the hand useless for all else
Louder, faster, brighter: these things drown the senses

How well does this verse not encapsulate the current state of affairs? In moments of reflection do we not desire a state of existence uncluttered by incessant bombardment of external stimuli? Indeed, how often do we not find ourselves wishing to be able to silence the noise around us?

Cycling does exactly that.

The steady rotation of the pedals resembles that of the Buddhist prayer wheel, instilling upon the practitioner a peace of mind uncommon in this world.

But cycling affords rewards even greater than peace. Peace brings with it clarity – and through this clarity we are able to move forward with confidence. When the fog lifts the sailor is able to see the shore she has been looking for.

For us cycling is not about escaping uncomfortable circumstances but about moving toward desirable ones.

While the two conceptions can be seen as two sides of the same coin, there is a significant difference as well—the first is a move away from something, the second is a move towards something.

The distinction between the two can seem as subtle as not to merit our interest, but such a view would be ill-founded. For in this distinction we find the purpose that propels the cyclist to move ever onward— a knowledge and conviction that there is something of great value beyond mere peace— an ever-expanding and astonishingly variegated reality ready to be explored by one neither disturbed nor distracted.

The only thing needed to get there is a bicycle.


It is of little use to speak of the scourge known as the black flies to anyone who has not cycled among them on the Labrador. In this instance experience is a requrement for comprehension.

These insects surrounded us at all times, and managed to reach our skin through the tinest of gaps between fabrics designed to protect us.

They do not suck your blood — no, these creatures have little time for such subtleties — instead they bite off a piece, leaving your skin filled with minuscule bloody punctures.

To try to quantify the experience by stating that the number of insects was such and such conveys no relevant information. It was hell.

But as with all hells, once one has traversed through it the experience gains an aura of glory. “Despite all hardships we accomplished it!”

Perhaps this gloria is a way of revisiting past suffering, trying to impregnate it with some meaning. Or perhaps — and this is our firm opinion on the subject— there really is a meaning to our suffering.

Ours is not an excersise in masochism, but in understanding this world through subjective experience.

The road we rode began in Montreal, but the actual beginning for us lay on the Northern side of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in a small town called Baie-Comeau. Everything up to that point had been preparation.

The Trans-Labrador Highway is one of Canada’s most desolate roads. Strictly speaking, this road has its start in Labrador City, but to get to Labrador City (colloquially

known as Lab City) one needs to cycle through places with titillating names such as Manic-Cinq, Relais Gabriel and Fermont.

In between each of these points lies nothing, for hundreds of kilometers. None of the places mentioned would merit to be touched upon based on size alone, but the contrast to the wilderness they are surrounded by makes them stand out as small oases for the weary traveler.

Cartographers may disagree, but for us the road beginning at Baie-Comeau and ending at Blanc-Sablon is one.

Apart from the black flies, mosquitoes and horse flies also kept us company. It was like they worked in shifts, one group picking up tormenting us when the previous called it a day.

While cycling we collected data and made statistics:
the black flies and mosquitoes dropped off at around
13 kilometers an hour, the horse flies being a bit faster and staying with us up until our speed reached over 20 kilometers an hour. Something that only really happened during descents.

Apart from the insects there were also freezing cold fog and occasional rainshowers to contend with. A never tiring wind also kept us company – usually greeting us from afront.

A journey like this is not always easy, nor did we expect it to be, and at times we confess the circumstances made us feel miserable.

What impressed us, however, was the solidarity we encountered while traversing through these endless spaces void of settlement. The fellow travellers — and in this case all of them car-bound — would make their mission to stop and ask us if we were in need of anything or needed help.

While alone on the road we never felt lonely. We would be handed drinks and food from passersby, but even more importantly we were greeted with words of encouragement. These words helped instil in us a belief that while on occasion difficult, our undertaking was nonetheless worthwhile.

It is here that we arrive at the heart of bicycle travel — which while at times unbearably excruciating also offers a feeling of pure joy and elation not found outside the realm of sacrifice.

In our attempts to clip out feelings of discomfort from our daily lives we have inadvertedaly managed to clip out an equal amount of thrill and excitement. When the ends of the spectrum are trimmed only grey remains. Which, for anyone who has had an experience of color, is unbearable.

This is the real reason bike travellers return to the road. The road might treat the wanderer harshly, but this toughness is paired with a grace rarely encountered or experienced outside this arena.

The only requirement needed to receive this grace is a bicycle and a willingness to go.


On Wednesday April 24th at 17.30 we will be speaking at the Töölö Library in Helsinki at an event hosted by a group of outdoors people known as Lapinkävijät. Event link here.

The presentation will be in Finnish, but the photographs speak in a language understood by any cyclist.

Admission is free and everyone is invited.