Continuing with our Feature Rider series, installment two is from Jon Hagan. He’s a passionate rider, not for competitive reasons, but more so for the simple joy of getting out on the bike. I think if you were ask Jon, he’s into riding for the lifestyle more than hardcore fitness. He commutes to work all the time and gets a lot of pleasure out of it. That said, Jon has been known to take on some pretty difficult challenges and his annual ride to Pigeon lake is certainly one of them…

I bought my bike just over a year ago with the hope of fulfilling the modest goal of riding to my family’s cabin 120 kms southwest of Edmonton. Experienced riders don’t find this to be an overly challenging distance, but for me it was a start. It was a start that I had tried once before about five or six years ago. Riding a three hundred dollar mountain bike (a sparkling gold Raleigh Tarantula) and really only being a casual rider, I naively thought I’d be able to average 20 km/h; thus making it to the cabin in about six hours. What I didn’t take into account was the fundamental rule of preparation. As far as success goes, this rule applies to everyone. However, thinking will power would be enough, preparation was something I overlooked.

Six and half hours into the ride, just as I was passing the half way mark, my knees started to throb. This quickly morphed into a unique burning sensation, which then became some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever had the opportunity of experiencing. My knees were screaming. The only way to get any sort of reprieve was to walk the bike, and even then it was too much. So there I was pushing my bike down the road between the end of the Devon highway and the town of Calmar thinking ‘just a little further’ when I realized I’d been thinking this for quite sometime now. I decided it was time to throw in the towel. I pulled out my cell phone and called my sister. I was exhausted, and I needed a pick up. Half an hour later, sitting in her truck with my bike jammed into the back, I was wearily thinking about how nice it was to be sitting on something soft.

My knees and I recovered, but we didn’t try the ride again until six days before my wedding in 2008.

Top of Devon Hill

Top of Devon Hill

I started riding like crazy. I rode everywhere – to work, to the store, to my family and friends’ houses. I was getting accustomed to the bike, and I was digging it. I was spoiled by its weight, and I felt like I was getting stronger. After riding non-stop for the next couple weeks I decided that my next ride was going to be out to Pigeon Lake. The plan was to leave the morning of August 2. I felt more prepared this time, and I knew what to expect. I also knew I was a marginally better rider riding a much better bike, and this made all the difference in the world.

After fueling up with breakfast I hit the road. The city streets were mostly empty. I rode south down 142 Street and west up 111 avenue, which then turned onto Mayfield road taking me out to Stony Plain road and towards the Devon highway. As I hit the Devon highway I noticed the first of the signs my family had put up on the side of the road. I don’t recall exactly what it said, but they were words of encouragement. They motivated me. I hit the Devon hill – and rode up the other side effortlessly. I cruised through Devon until the west bound turn, which takes you into Calmar. I’ll admit I walked my bike a bit when it got really windy, but I managed to pass my previous point feeling pretty good and with a couple of hours to spare. In the end it still took me a significant chunk of time to make (nine hours), but I did it. Three weeks after that ride, Sheldon asked if I would like to do it again before the snow falls. We did – he brought me Advil (works wonders for the knees, incidentally), and we got the ride done in close to six hours.

Now here we are in 2009, and I’m gearing up for the one-year anniversary of my first successful ride to Pigeon by doing it again, but this time I’ve convinced some family and friends to do it with me. The ride is slated for August 2, and one of the most important things I’ve told the people coming with me is to not underestimate the ride. It’s strenuous and tiring, and that we all need to prepare for that – and that means more than just thinking about it. Most of all, however, I tell them that it’s satisfying how with practice and preparation we can condition ourselves to do something we weren’t able to do before. I now look at my initial failure as a learning tool that has, in a small way, shown me how to succeed.

My next goal is to make the ride back.