Anne Hanson rides her bike almost every day of the year, so if you take her motto to heart, most of her days are good ones. At seventy four years of age, that’s a lot of good days. Jason Hanson is her son, and Saskatoon Cycle’s new Operations Manager.
by Jason Hanson, Saskatoon Cycles
When we lived in small town Saskatchewan back in the ‘80s, I remember the residents suggesting she was a little crazy. She would ride her bike a whole kilometer to get groceries instead of taking the car. In a snowstorm, she’d don a full body skidoo suit and facemask and walk(!) to the store. She once attempted to bike from Yorkton, SK to our home, but threw in the towel after 40km at Theodore when the wind got too heavy. The townsfolk whispers became murmurs when it was revealed she left her family for two entire weeks to cycle around Ireland with her twin sister. These were all things normal people just did not do. When you added the fact that she home schooled her kids, Anne Hanson had decisively carved out a reputation for being a non-conformist/eccentric/modern day witch. Everyone had an opinion. To me, she was just Mom.
Her first bike showed up on the farm in the late ‘50s, but it was for all the kids, and she remembers having to do dishes with sister Linda while their brother John rode around on the new technology (I suspect this may have sparked her interest in feminism, but she will neither confirm nor deny the possibility). Later, she and Linda would take turns riding The Bike or The Horse. “It’s crazy; you’d think mom and dad could have afforded another bike!” she laments, but my grandparents knew The Great Depression, and their steely socialism didn’t have much patience for frivolous things.
Mom did a few unconventional things in the ensuing decades: played U of S Huskie basketball, volleyball, and field hockey, won national All-Star and MVP titles (and a provincial hall of fame spot) as a fastball catcher, and worked “outside the home for pay” as a mail carrier while raising two kids. Through it all, a passion for cycling emerged as her most cherished physical activity. “I just love cycling. It’s quiet. I enjoy the sense of freedom that I can go anywhere, get great exercise, and put less of a burden on the environment.” She’s done longer trips, like the MS Bike Tour in Waskesiu, and the Myra Canyon – Penticton leg of the Kettle Valley Railway Bike Trail, but mostly it’s the daily trips for coffee or visiting that put a smile on her face.
Her bicycling world expanded only a few years ago, when she ran into a winter rider named Gerald (from Bike Doctor) at the coffee shop in the Mendel Art Gallery (coincidentally, the birthplace of Saskatoon Cycles). “It was really cold, and he was so enthusiastic that VERY soon after I started winter cycling. He is my hero!” Different pieces of the puzzle (to her, the most important ones) fell into place during the journey: a niece suggested ski goggles, bike shops studded up her tires, and trial and error got her using the right layers for the right temperatures. Now a seasoned veteran, she has become a bit of a winter cycling evangelist, paying forward the enthusiasm and advice she received. “People just have to try it. It is so refreshing and invigorating. I am so glad I started!”
Still, she’s realistic about obstacles people will face in trying to embrace cycling, especially in the winter. It costs money to get the right gear, and even with her vast experience, she doesn’t feel safe in many places throughout the city, and will often resort to “unsanctioned paths”. I’ve had to warn her repeatedly that one day she’ll get a ticket for riding on the sidewalks, but I don’t push it very hard. I want her to be comfortable and protected, and really, why would I expect her to follow rules now?