Back before I was interested in racing, before I had ever gotten my Fuji, Trek or Raleigh, before I was able to drive, I wanted to be a cyclotourist. I wanted to travel on a bike, carry a bunch of my own gear and be self-sufficient. I spent countless hours online researching what I would need for such a trip, what was the best kind of bike to ride and what to expect on the road. I was 13 or 14 at the time.
In high school I wrote a paper on the comparisons between cycling for transportation and driving a car. I didn’t think it was half-bad, and it was one of the only things I wrote that combined one of my passions and hobbies with school. One of the websites I used as a reference for that topic was KenKifer.com.
That site is the reason I first started cycling.
Ken Kifer was a writer, a follower of Thoreau and most importantly to me, a cyclist. The pages I read were about cycling as a lifestyle. Cycling on various trips, as well as Ken’s thoughts on what gear to take and what bike to get. He had suggestions on how to get a bike for cheap, as well as best practices on how to navigate the wide world of cars on a bike without being killed.
Unfortunately he was hit by a drunk driver while on his bike in ’03 and later died. This happened as I was just starting as a junior in high school. This quote from Ken’s site reflects my feelings on his death;
When the cycling world heard of Ken’s death, they were stunned. So many people cycle today as much as they do, and enjoy it as much as they do, because of him. Ken knew the world could be a better place if more people cycled. He knew they would be physically healthier and mentally healthier, and that the world itself would be healthier. He worked so hard to make the world that place. He knew if people rode bikes (the right way, at least), they would feel good. So he taught people how to ride bikes safely and effectively. He taught them everything they needed to know to enjoy cycling. He shared his stories and showed what a wonderful time someone could have cycling. When he died, a lot of people felt that they had lost a friend.
I was lucky enough to talk to Ken via email a few times, and since I linked to his site, he linked to mine (under La Randonneuse). While my site is no longer up, thanks to the generosity of friends, Ken’s site still is.
Because of the content that Ken published on his site back in the early ’00’s, I became and still am an avid cyclist. While I may have never toured (one of these days!) I love to ride my bike, and hope to continue doing so until I’m Ken’s age and beyond.
Did you ever happen across Ken’s site? What was the reason you first got into cycling?