page 34-36, Issue #2
– Michael Webber
I can’t tell if Daniel has aspirations for professional racing victory—he would certainly be capable enough—but his cross-country riding, his training, and his insistence at traveling all long and short distances by bicycle make him a noteworthy individual. Whether being hailed by him from his tall-bike amongst 5 o’clock traffic or simply meeting him for coffee, it is always a thrill seeing him. Daniel is currently preparing for a ride from Seattle to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia? Precisely because “it seemed really far away.” It’ll prove his furthest ride yet. This is a pre-ride story for the Cranked audience to meet Daniel. Enjoy, and if you see Daniel riding along his way East, make sure to give him a couch to crash on and a couple Red Bulls to get him on his way otherwise he’ll be that emaciated lump in the space blanket in your local park.
Daniel Olsen was born in Seattle, but moved to Minnesota when he was 11 or so. He lived in St. Paul, and then Minneapolis and claims that you sometimes need to get back to your roots, that no other place has felt so much like home. Back at this home, his friend’s father, Pete Spence, would be the inspiration for Daniel’s riding life. Pete would take Daniel and his friends to do the Multiple Sclerosis T.R.A.M. (The Ride Across Minnesota) every year. The T.R.A.M. events were Daniel’s first bike tours. They were each 300 miles. He was completing them on his first road bike, a 12 speed Meister he picked up at the Goodwill for one dollar—it had an image of a squirrel stuffing acorns on it. “I recall not having a single flat tire on those rides. So much has changed.”
He has continued to travel great distances by bicycle. In August 2005, he rode from Vancouver, B.C. to Tijuana, Mexico. The trip totaled about 1750 miles and he finished it in 14 days with 14 flat tires. Never a dull moment—a mere three miles into the trip he was run down by a car, but was saved because his friend Nels got the car to stop. “The bumper was over my hips and the car was actually pushing me up the hill because the driver didn’t know she hit me and kept on driving.” Further on this trip, Nels “exhausted his funds on beef jerky” and couldn’t go any further than San Francisco. Continuing on solo, Daniel grew lonely and tired of riding so he began riding harder to finish the last stretch, from San Francisco to Tijuana, in three and a half days!
The question comes to mind—what drives someone to ride long distances. Daniel’s motivation is simply the desire to experience—see things and gather exciting stories. During his tours, his motivation is only to finish, mainly because during them he is usually so miserable. Sounds fun, miserable and alone.
One can only wonder what someone does during these states of solitude. Daniel holds nothing back when he says he goes insane after riding way out there and being alone for just a few days. As he puts it, “After a day or so of solitude you would be likely to hear me yelling nonsense at nobody in particular as I ride down the street. I’m not exactly sure why but, sometimes when my mind is bored and it starts getting lonely I start to freestyle blues/country music.”
Over this past New Year’s holiday, he and roommate Seth biked around the Olympic Peninsula through 380 miles of rain, wind, and lightning storms. It took four days. Aside from it sucking so much they maintain that they had fun in the disbelief that it sucked so much. In his opinion, their walking off into the woods and camping near a stream is probably the best way to spend New Years.
In preparation for long, cross-country rides Daniel rides “a shit load of miles for about three months in advance,” as well as gaining about ten pounds of fat, because it “burns up quickly on multiple day trips.” Gaining this weight is in contrast to his minimalist preparation of gear. For his upcoming tour, he’s not adding much to his gear list, bungeeing only a few things beneath his small seat bag; his only other “baggage” is a camelback for a total of about 22lbs of gear (including water).
The tour from Seattle to Halifax and the perimeter of Nova Scotia starts on June 1st of 2006. Ninety percent of the route is on Highway 12 up to Minneapolis and then to more back roads. In his words, “I plan to ride as hard as humanly possible for the first few days until I get into Minneapolis. I want to see friends and family for as long as I can before I have to leave again. The route goes this way because I am an usher in a wedding and I will be leaving shortly after the wedding is over. After the wedding on the 17th I’ll be headed Northeast up between the Great Lakes and on into Canada and then East to Nova Scotia.”
Good luck Daniel, bring us back some East Coast snow.