Twelve years ago, Jean-Aimé Bigirimana, now 37, came to Canada from Rwanda as a refugee with his family. Settling in Saskatoon, Bigirimana found the prairie community quickly became his home and the backdrop of his life as a cyclist.
This year, the cyclist is taking an up-close look at his long-time adopted home, exploring its geography from the saddle.
In January 2016, Bigirimana took to the road on a quest to put Canada’s breadth under his wheels. As of this month, CKOW.com reports, the Rwanda-born rider is 11,000 km into his journey, and although it’s been trying—notably due to the theft of his fixed-gear bike in Burlington, Ont.—it’s all part of the adventure, he suggests.
“It’s Canada and it’s cycling across a country,” Bigirimana told reporters. “You have to expect the unexpected.”
To hear Bigirimana describe it, the trip has something of a variable scale in terms of its overall challenges. There’s the logistics, he says, of dealing with gear and the day-to-day details—such as the sudden obstacle of a stolen bike. But then there’s the multiple collisions with vehicles, a visit to the hospital, and the unique hardships of snow and heat.
The ride, Bigirimana told CKOW.com, is the real joy.
“I did it to challenge myself,” he said. “The cycling is the easiest part because you just pedal. The logistics haven’t been fun because I’m not very good at planning.” Nonetheless, with western Canada in his crosshairs, he’s not about to dial back the momentum yet.
“I will do it unless something drastic or tragic happens,” Bigirimana said, “but I want to know what I’m made of.”