Meet the LaSalle man who has cycled 53,000 kilometres during the pandemic

Matthew St. Amand picked up cycling during the pandemic, and that habit has turned into a bit of an addiction.

Matthew St. Amand has written a book about his passion for bikes — but he says it's not just for cyclists

A man wearing foggy glasses and a bike helmet
Matthew St. Amand of LaSalle, Ont., rode more than 20,000 kilometres on his bike last year alone. (Submitted by Matthew St. Amand)

Matthew St. Amand picked up a cycling habit during the pandemic, and that habit has turned into a bit of an addiction.

He has cycled more than 53,000 kilometres in Windsor-Essex since May of 2020.

Along with the riding, St. Amand also did some writing.

St. Amand joined Windsor Morning to talk about his book: The Kilominator: Cycling Through a Global Pandemic In Search of Sanity & Stability

Here is part of his conversation with host Nav Nanwa.

Matthew St. Amand speaks with CBC Windsor Morning host Nav Nanwa about his book, The Kilominator: Cycling Through a Global Pandemic In Search of Sanity & Stability.

Nav Nanwa: So the pandemic hits, you're in your late 40s. What is it that pushed you to pick up cycling?

Matthew St. Amand: Well, I realized that, with all the time on our hands, I could choose which "95" I wanted to be. I could sit back, eat, drink and do nothing and become 395 pounds, or I could get my head together and get on my bike and try for 195.

I've struggled with my weight my entire adult life. So I thought, you know what? This is time to get smart and at the same time, a way to sort of deal with the anxiety and the mental health issues that arose at that time.

Were you a cyclist beforehand?

I would go out sporadically on my bike, maybe once a week. If I went three times or four times a month, I would consider that really rigourous.

But then when the pandemic hit, a friend had recommended an app and was only when I started recording my cycling data, just seeing how far I went, and then you get to see how it adds up. I very quickly became obsessed with the numbers.

So how many kilometres have you racked up so far?

In 2023, this year, it's just under 2,900.

Twenty-nine hundred kilometres. Wow. And this is someone that just recently, like you say, picked up cycling?

Yeah, it was May 2020. I went out and I finally got myself a decent bike. I'd had a department store bike, and when I got serious about it, it snapped in half one day on a longer ride.

So, I thought I'll need something a little more durable, and I went to one of our many very good cycle shops, found myself a good mountain bike.

It was, in fact, not the bike that I needed, but I had no clue. That's what prompted me to write The Kilominator.

A bike stands up against a railing on the misty Detroit River in the dark.
Matthew St. Amand took this photo along Windsor's riverfront on the morning of Jan. 2, 2023. (Submitted by Matthew St. Amand)

I was looking around for information, and any book on cycling that I could find in my travels dealt with people who've gone into the Tour de France or who are at the elite level. It's like reading about someone from another star system.

I don't know how to inflate the tires. I don't know how to get my feet, you know?

Is it fair to say that biking has now become a bit of an addiction for you? Like I know when you reached out to CBC Windsor about your story, you referred to yourself as a bit of a beast or a maniac.

For sure. I have to point out, I don't refer to myself as those things because that'd be self-aggrandizing, but I have been called these things and they are compliments, in fact.

But yeah, I really enjoy it. Once I get rolling, I don't listen to music. I don't listen to podcasts. It's just, you know, the wind and the the sound of the tires on the pavement.

A man rides a bike on the road, with a body of water and some trees and grass behind him.
Matthew St. Amand rides into Amherstburg, Ont., under a purple morning sky. (Matthew St. Amand and Todd Ternovan)

And so what I do is think, and a lot of what The Kilominator deals with, is Windsor history, Essex County history. You don't have to be a cyclist in order to get something out of the book.

One of the things that led to longer rides was cycling from LaSalle to my old neighbourhood in west Windsor, Cameron Avenue, seeing my old grade school, making my way over to Walkerville.

When I first cycled up Lincoln Road, where my mother's father lived up until the 1980s, I thought I'd reached the end of the earth. And eventually, I cycle now from LaSalle to Emeryville.

An old childhood friend of mine, who unfortunately had passed away as a young boy, is buried there, and once a week in the nice weather, I'll make my way over to St. Williams Cemetery and just turn it into the halfway point of a very long ride that's usually about 100 or 120 kilometres.

You have documented your story in your book The Kilominator. What do you want people to take away from your story?

Oh, just that cycling is fun. It's not a how-to book — it's more of a why do I do it. And basically, I've got really not a whole lot of knowledge about cycling to impart other than 'Wear your helmet.'

Proper tire inflation is actually really important. I used to ride around on mushy tires without realizing it. Once I started keeping my tires pumped up, my enjoyment doubled.

And it has to be fun. I wasn't even really seeking fitness. I just wanted a way to kind of deal with the anxiety and just kind of burn out the engine that powered my anxiety, and the nice byproduct was that I did get more fit. I got healthier.

With files from Windsor Morning. Q&A edited for length and clarity.