Trees can be a cyclist’s best buds, in so many ways. They provide shade along the roadway, they tell you which way the wind is blowing and how much, and they can even block a nasty headwind. Just the other day, in fact, battling a stiff southeast clipper on the way back from Alberta Beach, we lucked into some roadside groves of aspen trees that provided the perfect wind guard. The effect was remarkable, if short-lived.
(For mountain bikers, the cyclist-tree relationship is a little more complicated, I think. Trees create many of the best trails and provide essential technical features but they can also hurt you and wreck your bike. For road cyclists, however, trees are almost always wholly a good thing.)
And that’s not even counting the aesthetic benefits of trees. They’re beautiful, at any time of year, constantly changing, sometimes smell great, and, I would argue, have a soothing, therapeutic effect on anyone in their immediate presence. If you’re in need of a pit stop on a bike ride, pulling off under a tree is always a splendid idea.
This particular tree in Edmonton’s west end is actually too close to my house to serve as mid-ride pit stop. But I ride past it almost every day, and even after thousands of passes, it can still take my breath away on a spring day, like today, when the blossoms are in full explosion. When my kids were little, my wife and I would walk them down to this pocket park and the boys would clamber all over the low branches. It’s a perfect starter tree—accessible, smooth-barked, with horizontal spots for hanging out. It came to be known as the World’s Best Climbing Tree. We don’t visit the WBCT as often as we once did, but a few weeks back we stopped by, and our teenage boys got right up into the branches, just as they did in those long ago days.
Some trees have a certain magic about them, an old power that fosters relaxation, reflection, imagination, and even regeneration. The WBCT is one of those trees, and as I sit here under its branches writing this, I can feel its ancient energy reminding me that everything grows, blossoms, and eventually sheds its leaves.
With that counsel from a good friend, I hop back on my bike and continue riding.