When Edmontonian Marianne Shalewa is riding her bicycle, you can be sure that there’s more to it than just someone pumping pedals. It’s more likely that this unstoppable dynamo is plotting her next big test, and if that means bicycling across Canada she won’t balk, she’ll embrace it.
“Every year I try to give myself a fitness challenge to keep me moving,” says Marianne with charming enthusiasm, “Whether it be running a half marathon, riding my bicycle all winter, going to the gym for a whole winter, doing a charity ride through the Rockies of 500 km in five days. Setting a goal each year for something challenging to strive for keeps me training and exercising in some way.”
Biking across Canada happened to be the biggest goal of all — one that Marianne has been reaching for over the past three years. “It isn’t easy to get away from mortgages, jobs, weddings, babies…,” Marianne explains, citing the familiar everyday obligations that can push aside thoughts of “less important” wishes like doing a cross-country expedition. What happens, though, when you are young, curious and can see the greater world offering much more to see, do, and experience? Moreover, what happens when you suffer a concussion that suddenly puts your dream on hold, taking back what is possible?
A Match Made in Happen
Two years ago, Marianne did suffer a concussion, but true to her irrepressible style, she spent little time dwelling on it. Instead, the experience encouraged her to make her dream more of a personal imperative. The process of recovery, the need to reconnect with her inner strength, to build up and prove herself again both mentally and physically, were aspects that served to enrich her original goal and self-awareness. Coincidentally, boyfriend Matt Cline also rolled into her life which turned into a well-matched partnership.
Matt shares Marianne’s passion for cycling, fitness, social responsibility, and new adventures. He also wished that he could get out and explore the world. It’s no wonder then that while helping Marianne on her own recovery he decided to go with her to realize her ultimate goal of bicycling across Canada.
Last year, the duo started training together to reach this big goal — they devised mini cycle tours on routes like Edmonton to Pigeon Lake and rigorously tested bikes and gear as well as their physical and mental readiness. In all, they planned at least 5,000 km of training rides in preparation for the trip.
The young pair of twenty-something riders have been on bikes since childhood and now have significant cycling backgrounds, each having four years of experience training and riding in road cycling events. Marianne trained with the Edmonton Road & Track Club (ERTC) and is the founder of YEG Road Girls, an Edmonton cycling group that brings “women together in a fun, challenging environment.” The former kinesiologist and exercise therapist was also a cycling leader at MEC for group rides and events, enjoying opportunities to inspire and help people try new things. Matt was also an ERTC member and a three-time rider in Alberta’s biggest one-day bike tour, Le Tour de l’Alberta (which just wrapped up on Sunday July 24), at 100 km and 185 km distances.
With the bikes and gear tested and preparations complete, the final thing left to do was bid adieu to their jobs. Then, following a cheerful send-off from friends and family, Marianne and Matt departed from Edmonton on May 28 in a packed station wagon, touring bikes atop, en route to the departure point. On June 1, Marianne scanned the panorama of islands and blue Pacific Ocean surrounding Tofino, BC, and then turned her wheel toward the highway. Matt, sharing the moment, rolled up alongside her. Their hope is that in 92 days — September 2 — they will pull brakes at St. John’s, NL, and complete a coast-to-coast cycle tour of Canada covering 8,233 kilometres.
The Travel Route
The journey will take Marianne and Matt on-road and off-road through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland. They will try to average 150 km per day. If possible, they will hop onto the Trans Canada Trail and also plan to do the entire Cabot Trail in an impressive effort to cover every province in Canada. “We want to explore Canada, not rush through it,” says Marianne. She’s looking forward to meeting a lot of new people along the way and says, “I am super stoked about seeing the East Coast!” Having previously worked in Newfoundland as a kinesiologist, she’s especially excited about the chance to show Matt the culture and scenery there. “People are about community there,” she says, looking forward to some happy reunions.
Even though a try for corporate sponsorship went unrewarded, friends, family, and donations came through to help foot the costs. Unsurprisingly, nothing was about to deter Marianne so she kept working. Her zeal produced creative solutions such as organizing stays with a network of friends along the route and using free services like Warm Showers, a hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. During the trip, she and Matt will be keeping everyone informed of their adventure with their fun daily social media posts. They will be flying back to Edmonton from Halifax at the end of the journey and will again gather together many of the same family and friends as before for an official celebration, just in time for Marianne’s birthday.
Follow Marianne and Matt on their exciting, picture-packed social media accounts:
STRAVA: Vegan Incline (Matt) & Banana Bum (Marianne)
Instagram: VeganIncline (Matt) & BicycleBananaBum
Facebook Page: MnM Explore Canada