July 13, 2016
Luke Kantola, one of our two Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship winners recently returned from his Leadership Training Course in Texas where he learned about the philosophies of leading self-supported bicycle tours. We caught up with Luke to hear about where his love of cycling started, where it has brought him, and his ambitious plans this summer to combine his passion for film and bikes.
Here is Luke:
The California Bay Area is the birthplace of mountain biking, and as a kid I took for granted that the road to my childhood home snaked through redwood trees and ended at a trailhead to Mt. Tamalpais. I was completely unaware that the trails I was riding as a kid were the same trails where the original mountain bikes were tested and refined.
As I grew older, I drifted away from biking and by high school, I was far more interested in long distance hiking. My first thru-hike occurred during the summer of my junior year. That summer, my friend and I hiked the 160-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. Along that trail, we met a group of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers and that chance encounter set in motion what is becoming a lifetime of long-distance travel for me.
My own PCT hike occurred five years later. After four months hiking the length of the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges I was totally exhausted when the trail ended. I loved long-distance travel and the freedom it awarded, but I wanted a mode of human powered travel that was less impactful on my body. Naturally, my childhood of riding bikes around Mt. Tam came knocking.
I moved to Washington State after my hike where my obsession with cycling was renewed by its low impact on both the environment and my body. That summer I set off on a bicycle tour down the Pacific Coast Route in order to move back to California.
There is a lot to be said for the difference between hiking down a hill and rolling down one. Biking got the weight of my gear off my back and onto the road. I traveled more miles per day than when I was hiking, but I still felt intimately connected to the topography of the landscape around me. I met amazing people and had the best travel experience of my life. The only thing that was missing from my ride of the Pacific Coast Route was the feeling of solitude in the wilderness I had come to crave in my life.
I was already aware that the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route existed. I thought of all of my friends throughout the years who had expressed interest in long-distance travel or even more specifically the Great Divide itself. I realized that I had an opportunity, not only to create an adventure for myself, but also an opportunity to offer my friends a life experience that they may never get without my encouragement.
From my experience hiking, I know how vital it is to have a source of inspiration in life. I want to engage more people than just my friends in this way and that’s what led me to apply for the Adventure Cycling Association’s Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship.
This April, I participated in an Adventure Cycling Leadership Training Course in Texas as part of the scholarship. The most impactful part of the experience was being surrounded by people who had more long-distance travel experience than I did. This is so rarely the case in my day-to-day life that I felt humbled and honored to be able to soak up tips and tricks from these people. But the Leadership Training Course is not about who has ridden their bike the furthest — it is about learning to empower others on their journey toward becoming more confident bike travelers.
I have experienced leadership training before, but never in the context of bicycles, and the thing about bicycles is that people of all sorts are drawn to ride them. Gender, ethnicity, political leanings, and even fitness level are largely eclipsed by the fascination that mankind has with the bicycle. This allows for an immensely diverse group of people to come together under the common thread of a love for seeing the world by bike.
My personal aspirations for bicycle leadership extend beyond leading a group of friends down the Great Divide this summer. As a filmmaker by profession, I plan to document our trip and reach out to a global audience of people who are waiting, or may not know that they are waiting, for a spark of inspiration. I know from my own journey that a spark of inspiration, like a chance meeting with a group of Pacific Crest Trail hikers, can set in motion the type of self-empowerment that comes through human powered travel. You can follow our adventure this summer at www.WildConfluence.com/Divide/
Photos courtsey of Luke Kantola
The Thomas Stevens Fan Club is brought to you by the development team, Annette, April, and Michelle. They share an office with a classic Parisian Metropole bicycle. Want to know more about how you can support Adventure Cycling and all the amazing work they do? Call them at 406-532-2760 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org