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Backstory: Most Aerobic Assignment


Published December 25, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 30, 2019 at 12:20 p.m.

The group stopping outside of Vélo Québec - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • The group stopping outside of Vélo Québec

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2019.

Most reporters would relish the chance to ditch the office for a day and go ride a bike around Montréal. I'm not most reporters.

Back in October, my editor pitched me a story that involved tagging along with city officials on a two-wheeled "learning journey" north of the border. The idea, the trip organizers said, was to witness bike infrastructure done right.

Was it a cool assignment? Yes. But it was also downright intimidating for someone who'd just bought her first adult bike a few months before. I'd only wheeled my lime-green cruiser around the block a few times, and I'd never ridden a bike on a real urban street or even on the Burlington bike path.

Let me rehinge your gaping jaw before I continue. I know. I need to get out more. To be fair, there was no pressure, but I'd only been on the job six months and I didn't want to be known as the reporter who wouldn't go the literal extra mile for a good story.

So I took the assignment and did what any anxious millennial would do: Imagined every possible thing that could go wrong. What if I got lost? What if I was too slow and everyone had to wait for me? What if I looked stupid in front of all these important people? I only made it worse by Facebook-stalking and googling each of the 20 people on the invite list. A good handful of them had profile pictures showing them riding a bike. Two city councilors don't even own cars and use bikes to get around. What had I gotten myself into?

The day of the ride, I stuffed my bag with about 100 extra layers and some snacks and headed for the border with my bike-friendly companions. I hadn't planned on telling anyone that I was an inexperienced cyclist, but my nerves got the best of me. Luckily, my fellow trip-goers promised not to leave me behind.

And they didn't, even when I slogged up the first hill, then huffed and puffed up the second. By the third, my quads were screaming for relief. One of our Montréal guides announced there was no shame in walking up the steep slope, and I took his word for it. A few city officials joined me.

Back on the flat, my confidence returned even as my legs grew more tired. Here I was, so supremely out of my comfort zone and — dare I say it — having fun. We finished the 11-mile ride at city hall, and I was greeted with a round of high fives. I did it. And you know what? I would do it again.