On the Labrador Coast – Newfoundland Tour
Gary Conrod is the founding father of Atlantic Canada Cycling.While drifting through Grade 12, Gary purchased a Kmart Monte-Carlo 10-speed (at $140 CDN); in 1974, it was actually a pretty good bike for its time – iteven had “braze-ons”!
Living in in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Gary would explore all over, riding every day, even days down to -22 Celsius, finding himself exploring every back road and woods path in the entire region. One day Gary noticed an announcement for the founding of a new bicycle club. He got involved from its founding. The Velo Halifax Bicycle Club began in 1974 with just 12 charter members. The only young person in the club, as it grew, the dirty work was passed on to Gary – stamping envelopes, stapling newsletters, wandering halls of hospitals and military facilities posting club notices, etc. The club blossomed in the big bike boom in the 1980s to 160 members. Gary did several stints as Club President and also as Tour Planner. Thirty-five years later, he is still cycling with the club and helping out.
His personal cycling trips increased in length, leading to a big crossing of Canada in 1976. Suffering Crohn’s Disease badly at the time, the crossing was quite a challenge. This was just before the arrival in Canada of triple chainrings and cycling shorts. It took all summer (7,000+ kilometres).
From there, it became an obsession. For Gary, bicycle trips came first, jobs (real life) came second, sandwiched in-between. Doing grunge-work on loading docks and in warehouses (i.e., hand-stacking fake cans of Sprite at 3 am in shipping containers bound for Cuba), stints as bicycle mechanic, and even periods as a bicycle messenger, fueled his journeys. Many of his trips were return journeys; time after time he returned to two special places for him – Quebec and Vermont.
There were some longer trips, including circling around several of the Great Lakes, to England’s Peak District, nights camping on the foggy moors of Devonshire, around Ireland, many more trips to the U.S.A., two trips with cycling to the Netherlands, through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
In the early 1980s Gary was appointed Touring Director with the Provincial sports body Bicycle Nova Scotia and later the Touring Committee of the Canadian Cycling Association.
An appeal in Bicycling Magazine encouraged Gary to recruit used bicycle parts to be shipped to money-strapped Communist-era Poland. His efforts garnered him an invitation to a nine-day bicycle festival there. The only Canadian invited at the event of 4,400 people, he returned full of excitement to hold a similar type of gathering back home.
In 1987, he organized the first Atlantic Canada Bicycle Rally. It turned out to be a far over-the-top affair taking thousands of hours of work (most of it proving later to be unnecessary). It drew 118 people. They loved it, and demanded it become an annual event. Then after-rally tours were added, and Atlantic Canada Cycling began.
Using his expertise on cycling in Atlantic Canada, Gary turned his personal cycling notes into a book on cycling, the “Nova Scotia Bicycle Book”.
He was selected for another position, Atlantic Canada Director for C-KAP (Canadian Kilometre Achiever Program -www.ckap.ca).
Gary on the Cape Breton Island Tour
Tracking every inch since he started, Gary has cycled over 150,000 kilometres. He currently has eight bicycles (road bike, touring bike, two hybrids, tandem, mountain bike, folding bike, city bike).
As duties with Atlantic Canada Cycling grew he had to take shorter trips, but has managed to tour California a few times, Florida and a place much less warm – up into the frontier-like remoteness of Labrador.
Gary likes to take the long-way round. ..always the scenic route. If there is one less car he will go that way. He enjoys planning tours as much as the on-road execution of them. His goal is to be honest – a big peeve to him are the many cycling vacation sites that show only sunny skies and pretty people smiling. “The real world of cycling is not like that; the elements are not always perfect and breakdowns are also part of the game.” To Gary cycling is a labour of love.