New York City is full of inspiring people. A city full of makers and doers and no day will pass without meeting people that live for their passion and ideas. But even in a city like NYC, there are some folks that stand out. One of them is my friend Brittney.
I first met Brittney last summer, when we were both working at the “Bicycle Film Festival New York” and got into a conversation about bikes, fashion and girls on bicycles. (Ok, not so unusual to meet someone who loves bikes at a bicycle film festival). But soon I realized, this girl has her shit together. Brittney, only 19 at the time, had just moved to NYC and worked as a barista to learn how to make good coffee and of course to make some money, but besides that she learned to become a bicycle mechanic and did an internship with a photography studio. Simply to work on the things she’s most passionate about and to prepare for a trip she was planning back then: cycling from Portland (OR) to Mexico on a fixed-gear.
ATIW: Brittney, where’s home?
Brittney: I grew up in a village two hours northeast of Toronto, but in terms of where’s home, it’s wherever my bike is.
ATIW: What kind of bike are you riding?
Brittney: “I have one bike, that I’ve had since March, and I love it dearly. It’s a lime green 2011 Cinelli Gazzetta fixed-gear. White All-City hubs and crankset, white Velocity deep-v’s. It’s pretty flashy.
ATIW: Tell us about your ride from Portland (OR) to Mexico!
Brittney: The trip, as you can imagine, was magical. Portland (OR) to the Mexican border on two wheels, in six weeks. 1500 miles of coast riding fixed – no coasting. Romanticize and idealize the road, and the simplicity of just moving forward all day, every day, and you’ll start to understand how perfect it was. Wake up in the morning with the sun, usually around 7-7:30 am, pack up, eat some bananas and peanut butter, and hit the road. I lived almost exclusively off of bananas, peanut butter, Clif bars, beef jerky, apples, and beautiful SoCal burritos, for the whole trip. There wasn’t much navigating to do, just keep the water to your right, and stay as close to it as you can at all times. Usually rode between 50-70 miles each day, but we didn’t really have a schedule. Just two months of freedom, and the length of the United States to simply BE present in. The simplicity was my favourite part, the part that continues to inspire me. I’d never experienced the contentment that comes with having everything you need to survive on your person, and relying on no one and nothing but yourself. Being entirely self-sufficient is fascinating, such a human experience.
I still can’t really identify when it occurred to me that this is something I could do. It was born of necessity I think. I’d been planning on travelling around the states, but shipping a bicycle around is so expensive. I wanted to travel to a lot of places, I wanted to bring my bicycle, but I could only afford to ride it, I guess. I don’t know how I decided on the west coast. Portland and San Francisco were close to the top of my list of cities I needed to see, and I guess it just made sense. I bought a sleeping bag, mat and a tent, (which has since all been returned for cash… dirtbag move I know, but I had to do it.) And last minute someone recommended the Lonely Planet Guide: Biking The West Coast. (Invaluable. The only guide you need.) I left New York for Portland about a month after I decided to do the trip. I didn’t do any research, I didn’t do any training, I rode those mad hills on the same gear ratio I originally set my bike up on. Ignorance earned me a lot more cred than I deserved, and I think that can be applied to so much more in life. Just DO stuff. Figure it out as you go, what’s the worst that could happen?
ATIW: What’s next in life?
Brittney: It’s been kind of a wacky month since I am back – I got back to Toronto and immediately started working as a bike courier. I worked for three weeks (and it’s AWESOME, it’s so perfect, get paid to ride my bike and hang out with rad dudes.) Then I got cut off and crunched pretty good between two cars, and took a mirror off with my kidney. I just got up and kept working, but a few hours later realized I was bleeding internally pretty bad, ended up at the hospital for three days, with a lacerated kidney. Not fun. I was back on my bike within a few days of being outta the hospital, they said not to ride for a month but that’s silly, it was easier than walking. So I’ve just been cruising / working at my old coffee shop for a few weeks. Starting back at messengering again tomorrow!
To learn more about Brittney, her work and life on a bicycle
check out: www.brittneyburkholder.com.
All images are courtesy of Brittney Burkholder