Wider Horizons

First, you need the numbers to fully understand the magnitude of what Jonathan (Jonny) FriesenJonathan Friesen (Renewable Resource Management ‘06) has accomplished since he began cycling from home to Lethbridge College daily, starting Oct. 6, 2008.

As of Feb. 1, they look something like this:

  • 478: days cycled
  • 9,560: kilometres ridden (more than a round trip from Vancouver to Halifax)
  • 400: hours spent pedalling (some 16 days)
  • 133,840: vertical metres (8½ times the height of Mt. Everest)
  • 37: degrees Celsius, his hottest day cycled
  • -49: degrees Celsius, the coldest.

Those are the colossal figures that measure his accomplishments, amazing even if you don’t extrapolate them to the date you’re reading this story, at least another 80 days. But here are the numbers which, while less obvious, perhaps make Friesen most proud:

  • 334,600 calories burned
  • 1,118 litres of gasoline saved
  • 915 kilograms of emissions saved from entering the atmosphere.

Did we mention he’s done this every day except for holidays and the rare sick day? From West Lethbridge? Would that be more impressive if you had read this story back in February? And, yet, Friesen, a lab technician in the School of Environmental Sciences, is as sane as you are, perhaps more so, thanks to his cycling.

“It helps with my mental state,” he says. “There’s a peace of mind which is very satisfying, and that keeps me happy, which, in turn, keeps me healthy. So, I’m doing it for the good of my body, for the environment and for my chequing account.”

Friesen grew up in rural Manitoba, just above the border, which gave him an appreciation of his environment. His father, in search of a hobby and a bonding opportunity with the boy, opened a Rocky Mountain Bicycles (they’re made in Vancouver) outlet and the two began cycling the Pembina Hills near home.

The area has coulees like Lethbridge, but with more trees,” says Friesen. We rode cow and deer trails, then we built trails of our own.”

Since then, Friesen has competed in the TransRockies challenge, between Fernie and Canmore, twice, once in the seven-day event with his dad and once in the three-day event last year, pulling off a 12th-place finish out of 87 riders in the open men’s category.

That year, the TR3 included Union Cycliste International points rankings into the race, including professional, sponsored riders.

He’s also finished the 24 Hours of Adrenalin in Canmore three times.

At home, though he admits to owning a truck, Friesen rides a Rocky Mountain cyclo-cross bike, faster than a mountain bike but stronger than a regular road model. Thanks to his hours in his father’s shop, he can do all his own maintenance.

Of course, riding home on paved roads from Lethbridge College to his westside home wouldn’t be enough of a challenge, so some days Friesen heads into Six Mile Coulee behind the campus, wending his way on part of Lethbridge’s “unbelievable” trail network.

“I’d rather cycle in a blizzard than drive in heavy traffic,” he says. “I just allot a little extra time. It’s the same as gym work. It’s easy on the joints and you can go wherever you want. My goal is to never drive if I don’t absolutely have to.”

Yeah, but -49?

“You have to have the right clothes. I wear Gortex layers, a toque under my helmet, a headlamp for safety, and, if it’s colder than -30, a scarf around my face.”

He rides on knobby tires for traction, limiting his falls to about a dozen during the past 30 months, and he finds the going difficult only after heavy snowfalls and against the wind, on occasion.

“The west wind pushes me to work, but there are days, especially after a long Friday afternoon, when an 80-km/h wind can be difficult.  But that comes with the territory.”

Wider Horizons
Lethbridge College
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