by David McPherson
Profession: Musician (vocalist/flutist of indie trio Hey Ocean!)
Bikes: 1980s Miele road bike; vintage forest-green 1960s Raleigh Cruiser
Fun Fact: Does the voice of Applejack, Rainbow Dash and others in the animated children’s TV show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
Ashleigh Ball beams with childlike excitement when she recalls her first ride – and first bicycle – on her older sister’s hand-me-down many years ago. “It was a white Norco with blue and purple neon splatters,” said Ball, describing her first twowheeler. “I made it my own, with my mom’s help, by adding yellow handlebar streamers. I remember riding down the hill at Balaclava Park by my house without training wheels and feeling so proud.”
Today, the musician, who is a member of the Vancouver-based indie-pop trio Hey Ocean! with David Beckingham and David Vertesi, carries this childhood passion for cycling into her daily commute to and from work. “I love that I can get there faster than if I drove,” she said. “I also love that it’s a form of transportation, but can also be a killer workout.”
Growing up in Vancouver, Ball vacationed with her family in Whistler every summer. “We would bike around the valley trails to all the different lakes,” she recalled. “We would often go camping over to the Island. My dad would always load up our bikes on the rack for the trip.”
Another memorable cycling trip for Ball involves a close friend and a ferry ride to Gabriola Island a couple of years ago. “A friend was having a big party on his property,” she recalled. “It was during a heat wave and we weren’t really sure where we were going. We made it to the top of this hill on the island right as the sun was setting.
“We both started hollering like wild animals as we went bombing down this giant hill with the warmest evening wind at our backs and our arms out like wings,” Ball continued. “We ended up riding all over the island in the pitch-black dark before we finally followed the sound of the music to the party.”
Ball’s favourite rides are along the West Coast shoreline: “Summertime beach excursions are the best when I bike out to Tower or Wreck Beach from my house on the east side with a backpack full of supplies or I ride along the Stanley Park Seawall to Third beach with a few pals.”
These days, Ball’s favourite bike is a sea-foam green 1980s Miele road bike with all-new components. “I call her Ariel,” she said. The songwriter also has a vintage forest-green 1960s Raleigh Cruiser she calls “The Pickle.” “He lives in my garage right now, but I plan on getting him up and running soon,” she said. Does a long ride on Ariel or The Pickle ever inspire the musician’s muse? They sure do. “I make up melodies all the time while biking,” she said.
“I sing a lot, riding from place to place. I wrote a song called ‘Bicycle’ that’s on our last album. It was inspired by a ride to visit a friend who was getting rid of all his worldly possessions and moving to Central America; it just sort of came out as I was riding along. I like it when that happens.”
As our conversation closes, I ask Ball whether she sees any other similarities between cycling and songwriting? “The similarities lie in the journey, I suppose,” she concluded. “You set out with a destination in mind and you hit some hills along the way. You’ll be pedalling against the wind and rain sometimes and things will get tricky, but once you get going and set the wheels in motion, it can be a real satisfying ride. The freedom you feel on a bike is like nothing else.”