When I decided to bike from Minneapolis to Canada, a 320-mile ride lasting just over 24 hours, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. It was a new frontier for me, riding solo through the entire night without stopping. But what I did know was there was an entire community of cyclists at my back, inspiring me to push the boundaries of what I perceived as possible.
When I first joined the Eliel Factory Team, I was excited about the opportunity to represent a slick and high-quality kit. I had heard about the wonders of Eliel quality and was excited to bring some California gear to the Midwest and test it out year-round through the joys and perils of changing seasons. I don’t think there is a way to overstate just how comfortable and high-quality the gear is. After wearing Eliel bibs on rides like my journey to Canada, the Day Across Minnesota gravel race, and even a week-long bikepacking trip around the Westfjords of Iceland, I am never turning back. This is the best kit I have ever ridden in, hands down.
There is more to the team than wearing the best gear around. The Eliel Factory Team is an eclectic group of cyclists from all around the world, led by a fearless leader who goes by “Apollo Bear.” Calling this group a team may not do it justice, because it really is a community--one that inspires me to be a better cyclist, a better teammate, and an overall better person. I know I speak for many with these remarks.
One of my favorite moments on the Eliel Factory Team came this year when the “Tour de Eliel” was announced--a chance for team members to take on a set of challenges aimed at getting people out on the bike and sharing their achievements. Some people elected to ride their bikes every day for 21 days. Others chose to go for the highest total mileage ridden over 21 days. And a few, especially the crazy ones like myself, went after the longest single-day mileage or elevation gain. What I witnessed was a strong collective sense of fulfillment and awe in watching others achieve their goals and take on new challenges.
Many of us get asked why we do these things, riding our bikes to an extent deemed “crazy” by many. I suppose it’s an infinite pursuit—a never-ending quest to know things deeply and honestly. To know ourselves and our abilities, yes. But really, to come closer to the question of what it means to be human. To exist on this planet in a body that can endure beyond measure. And to share it among a community of support and compassion.
Riding a bike can challenge you beyond measure in one moment and bring you to tears of wonder in another. Any slight discomfort can become an all-consuming weight. The power of the wind becomes piercing. The roads seem endless. The body aches in despair. The mind grabs onto simple measures of survival, and life gets reduced to the bare essentials. Eat, drink, breathe, and survive. Nothing else matters. Your mind may creep in… why am I doing this? And then you look up. You maybe stop pedaling for a moment. And if you allow it, you will realize just how much of a privilege it is to be here. To ride with the pace of the land. To listen to its stories. To be a guest in nature’s home. To learn from the people who inhabit and cherish it. And suddenly, your mental narrative shifts towards a more beautiful space.
During these moments of temporary positive suffering—when our lungs are screaming and our hearts are pounding—we find the strength to keep going. Push. Pull. Breathe in. Breathe out. The bike is still moving forward. The impossible hill is now behind you. The destination is one pedal closer. The mind will loudly affirm: you are capable of more than you ever imagined.
This is a constant theme among the Eliel Factory Team--pursuing challenges that excite us and take us to new places both physically and mentally. If nothing else, this team helps us feel a little less alone and a whole lot more inspired. So much seems impossible, until it doesn’t. And I can’t think of a more gratifying experience than sharing our stories with one another in a community like the Eliel Factory Team