Pete’s Story

On the path to wellness
Hutterite man finds healing on bike
Will Braun
By Will Braun, Senior Writer
Jun 28, 2016 | Volume 20 Issue 14
God at work in Us

Pete McAdams rests beside the road during a long-distance bike excursion in southern Manitoba. (Photo by Hal Loewen)

Popular wisdom suggests the way to deal with mental health issues is to talk them through. Pete McAdams, an uncomplicated, 43-year-old, Hutterite long-distance cyclist, has discovered a quieter path.

While he prefers to focus on biking rather than himself, his decidedly atypical Hutterite last name begs explanation. Having grown up on the “fringes” of a Bruderhof community in Pennsylvania—a group associated with Hutterites—McAdams’ parents went to Crystal Spring Hutterite Colony near Niverville, Man., to assist with translation work after McAdams had left home. When he visited his parents, he liked what he saw of colony life. His parents ended up staying at Crystal Spring and, in 1995, he joined the colony, too. It is no utopia, nor an attempt at utopia, he says, but it is “the best lifestyle I have seen for living out the commands of Jesus.”

McAdams emphasizes the non-rigid nature of the community. I ask how he would respond to the stereotype that would suggest otherwise? “Look at what I do,” he says with a chuckle, sitting at a picnic table in my yard with his cycling gear on.

What he does is ride bike. About 300 kilometres a week. Maybe half that in winter. In good Hutterite fashion, he makes his own recumbent bikes.

“I’m not an athlete,” he tells me. This is not false humility; it is part of his message. Although he pedals a lot of kilometres, he is not particularly fast. He has never won a race. “I’m not competitive,” he says. And until five years ago, he says he was “significantly overweight.” Nothing he says sounds like an athlete’s words.

The story keeps coming back to the bike as a means of healing. As a teenager, McAdams’ temperament—more specifically, his temper—ruled out team sports. He also struggled with depression. Biking helped.

“I always sort of knew that a good ride cleared my head,” he says. “If I spent time on the bike, [the anger and depression] went away.” He did see counsellors a couple times, and while he does not discount the value of therapists for some people, he says “they weren’t of much help” in his case.

Biking was. And it continues to be. What exactly is it about biking that helps? “It’s not going to heal everything,” he says, “but there’s a power that is healing in riding.”

The bike is also a great way to connect with others. James Friesen was riding the highways of southern Manitoba in 2002 when he saw a “mirage.” A guy was riding a recumbent bike down the highway, Friesen recalls, with a bunch of kids behind him. Dresses fluttered in the wind and the closest thing to spandex were suspenders.

It was McAdams on a charity ride with other Hutterites. The meeting was particularly fortuitous, as Friesen is the head of Eden Health Care Services, a Mennonite-based mental health organization in southern Manitoba. The two men continued to bump into each other at biking events over the years. Now, Crystal Spring Colony is a big part of Eden’s annual “Head for the Hills” cycling fundraiser. Last September, Jonathan Kleinsasser, a colony member in his 70s, was the top fundraiser.

This year, McAdams is taking the connection between biking and mental health a step further. In conjunction with the attempt by Arvid Loewen, an ultra-long distance cyclist, to break the Guinness Record for biking across Canada, McAdams plans a parallel ride—Guinness rules require Loewen to bike alone—from Regina to Winnipeg, 583 kilometres, a distance he hopes to cover in 24 hours. He says Loewen put out the challenge and he accepted it. McAdams hopes to arrive in Winnipeg on the evening of July 6, 2016, for a joint rally with Loewen at the Manitoba legislature. Friesen and others plan to ride into the city with him.

McAdams’ goal is simple: Share the message that biking can bring wellness and to bring attention to the good work of Eden Health Care Services. Both McAdams and Friesen see value in formal, as well as informal, approaches to mental wellness. Friesen says research shows that often it is in the unstructured downtime of our lives—time in the bush, splitting wood, riding a bike—that our brains make the connections essential for well-being.

That is certainly true for McAdams. “I found something on the bike,” he says, “and I want to share it.” For those who can’t bike, he suggests finding a similar activity. His dad, in his late 70s, walks. McAdams’ story is not about athletic heroics or even an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. It is about ordinary people doing ordinary things on the path to wellness.

Follow McAdams’s progress between Regina and Winnipeg on July 5 and 6, or for a recap, see his Facebook page.

Jimmy Salmon N. Reunion Ride

Saturday MIT holds its first Jimmy Salmon N. Reunion Ride.  It has been a while since Jimmy moved to the Big Fish, so if you are interested in hearing exciting tales from the west and hearing about the adventures of the Sir Ernest Shackleton West Broadview Debating Society, join us for Saturday’s ride. Due to it being graduation day and Merle H. having to get back in time to fulfill his parental duty and celebrate his daughter’s success at having made it through the public school system, the ride may start at 7:00. Check the schedule to see if the ride meister has o.k.ed the schedule change.jim

The Three Wise men

Remy’s dust up with the shoulder this last week reminded all of us of our own experiences with the nastier side of the sport. Over the last few days I have coincidentally come across a number of stories about pros who have rebounded from adversity.  Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin) both had near career ending crashes. At the same time both were able to look at the benefits of having to face adversity.  Taylor Phinney – “That accident helped me to broaden my horizons so much, I’m truly grateful for the experience. It’s given me a completely different outlook on what I’m doing in life.  Chad Haga – “I hug everyone a bit tighter now. It can all end very quickly. I try not to think about it too much, or think that I shouldn’t ride again. I want to live my life the best way I know how, and God will decide.” Adversity comes in many forms. Velonews posted a story today about Evan Huffman (formerly of Astana) who, while not facing recovery from a crash, failed in his bid to find success racing in Europe. “I think from the outside it looks really bad, in a lot of ways, to go to a WorldTour team and then come back down. It seems like a failure. But I don’t really feel that way. I think that I learned a lot. Even now, this year, having been back for a year, I’m still drawing on those experiences and those lessons that I learned from Astana to be successful now. So I don’t have any regrets.”

Giant Alpecin Crash

Cycling has received a bad reputation as countless pros have betrayed the ethic of sport and have accepted that its ok to “win at all costs”.  Doubt and skepticism accompany the achievements of all in the Peloton. By contrast, Huffman sports two tattoos; on one arm is “truth” and on the other “grace”.  While these are testimonies to Huffman’s deeply held faith in God, they are also statements about a commitment to engage sport and life at another level. Here’s to three men that understand that a real win comes from a deep understanding of the importance of truth to self and others and in the grace to accept and grow through the difficult challenges in life.

Giro Reflections: Italy Full Circle

MIT has a tradition of riding to Richer on the last Saturday of the Giro D’Italia and enjoying coffees, Provenchers and TV coverage of the inevitable battle up the penultimate climb of the race.  Unlike the last day of the Tour de France with its easy parade into Paris, more often than not there is still a lot to play for on Stage 20.  This year was no exception with the top four riders separated by only a couple of minutes at the end of yesterday’s stage.  Unfortunately the race was not broadcast in Canada this year and MIT was left wanting.  Alas, Cycling TV carried the entire three weeks “On Demand” for a very reasonable price of $20.00 and so on arriving home I settled in to see if Kruijswijk could come back after his crash yesterday or if Valverde or Nibali could take the Pink Jersey from Estaban Chaves. It turned out to be an epic battle with Nibali riding to the second Giro victory of his mercurial career. The top four riders were separated by a minute and fifty seconds. Nibali doesn’t smile much but there was no doubt for any viewer that he was one very happy Italian. Contemplating the race from my easy chair I thought back to thirty years ago when I first learned about the Giro and its status as the second greatest stage race.

Scarponi putting on the hurt prior to Sharkfest 2016! Screenshot from

When I was in my early twenties and living in Edmonton I discovered Velocity Cycling, a small bike shop started in 1978 by Hungarian immigrants Joe and Kathy Zombor. Joe had left Communist Hungary behind with a dream of owning his own bike shop. After working as a printer for several years Joe bought a small shop that he renamed Velocity Cycle.


You da man, Joe!

You da man, Joe!

Joe, a successful cat.1 racer in Hungary, focused on high end road bikes.  I couldn’t have imagined that a bicycle could be worth two quid prior to seeing the rack of Bianchi, Gianna Motta and Gios bikes in the shop. Velocity Cycle did not do large volume sales, but it had a passionate and loyal clientele of young, mostly poor, racers. The shop was a place to be educated in the sport. Posters of Merckx, Moser, Hinault and Zootemelk climbing the magnificent cols of the Alps and Pyrenees were plastered on the walls.  Racks of team jerseys of the era to make one look like the pros were available for sale. Several shelves of books about cycling legends and European races were there for the browsing.  The shop carried Winning Magazine, a must purchase every month to keep up with the races in the 80’s.  Midway through the summer Joe would order in professionally made VHS tapes of the Giro D’Italia, straight from an Italian supplier. These were much in demand and though I was definitely not at the top of the pecking order in the Velocity cycling club I eventually had my turn with the video. There was no English TV coverage of the race, everything was in Italian, but it was first rate. I recall being amazed at the time trials which were filmed from above via helicopter. The 1985 race saw the arrival of a young Andy Hampsten, son of English professors from Grand Forks, who won the final stage on a monster climb. I was inspired to buy a plane ticket and travel to Europe the summer of ’86 to cycle with a friend from Quebec.

The much awaited copy of the annual Tour publication

Our plan was to ride through Provence, swing up through the Alps and into Italy, and then ride through Switzerland and back to Germany.  We did everything except ride through Italy.  Short of funds and time we got as far as an interesting ski town on the border of France and Italy called Isola 2000 before taking the train to Switzerland.  Today, thirty years later, the Giro passed from France to Italy, crossing the border at none other than Isola. Shortly after this Nibali, led out by Scarponi, launched the attack that destroyed his rivals. Thirty years of riding and I still get excited by the scenery and the history and drama of the sport.

Perhaps it is time to complete the ride through Italy.  Anyone free next summer?

The Roles we Play

On a recent ride through the center of Canada (Landmark) with the MIT we needed to stop due to a flat.  Standing back and reviewing the process that took place it is evident that we all have roles to play when a flat occurs.

Everyone, the whole ride comes to a stop and the process begins with each of us taking on a role in the tube replacement process.

  • the rider, whose tire is flat is responsible to get it changed as quickly as possible with all the distractions of the other riders and the pressure to get going again all the while remain calm and cool as the process will be criticized.  This often a tough situation and one that everyone isn’t comfortable with.  Critical factors include that the tools are used correctly, the tire and tube are removed in an orderly fashion.  Removing the old tube installing the new tube then getting the tire seated without pinching the tube.  Then getting the tire inflated with the options each of us carries from C02 cartridges to the air pump options. Nervous times!
  • the bike holder, a critical role so that the bike is safe and the chain, gear cluster and crank do not make contact with the dirt.  Usually doesn’t add much in commentary but does look around for other volunteers when his arm begins to pain.
  • the overseer, another role that is somewhat helpful but not always appreciated, usually his role is to make sure all the various tools, tube and pump are handed over in a timely fashion.  It is the ongoing directive commentary that is not always appreciated.  This role often provides the ‘backup’ to pump up the tire if the rider gets to tired.
  • the commentator, in this case with the orange vest.  His role is to provide play by play commentary as to what he sees happening in front of him.  The ongoing verbal dialog is often filled with colourful stories of past flats and from own personnel experiences.  Note, nobody is paying him any attention.
  • the bystanders, likely the second most critical role.  They keep the important discussions going regarding latest antics of our new Prime Minister along with debating the merits of the Chinese immigrants taking the English language test here instead of China or the latest riding shmertz they have used to grease their riding shorts.  It is bystanders role to take the group picture wave at the passing public and totally ignore the flat changing process.

It is important to note that the flat was changed in due process and the ride was continued.  I need to note that no commentary was provided on the air pump and the action required to make it produce the critical volume of air to fill the tire as that will be left to a future post.flat fixing