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Engineers pushing limits of pedal power

Steve Pilcher, left, tests out the suspension on his unicycle while Craig Senych looks on. Both men are among employees from Inuktun robotics company who will be participating in Bike to Work Week (May 26-June 1). - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Steve Pilcher, left, tests out the suspension on his unicycle while Craig Senych looks on. Both men are among employees from Inuktun robotics company who will be participating in Bike to Work Week (May 26-June 1).
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Trust guys with a passion for engineering to push the limits.

For Bike to Work Week in Nanaimo (May 26 to June 1), employees at Inuktun Services are in it for the long haul –the long haul being a matter of perspective depending on what you’re pedalling.

Steve Pilcher, an engineering technician who builds Inuktun prototypes, is pumping up the tire on his unicycle for his Friday commute.

Pilcher, an avid cyclist, on- and off-road, required about one month to master the unicycle and has been riding one since 2008. His commute to work is about 10 kilometres each way – no big deal on a bike, but practically a marathon on a 24-inch wheel, off-road, knobby-tired unicycle with no brakes that must be constantly pedalled to stay upright and keep moving forward at a top speed of around five kilometres per hour.

But that won’t be Pilcher’s only ride to work. He’ll start the week riding his 1959 Viscount, three-speed cruiser bike, built by the Hercules Cycle and Motor Company, that he completely restored.

“It was all rusted in the dump and I sandblasted it all and cleaned all the chrome up and got it working again,” Pilcher said. “I figure I’ll start out riding that Monday, the unicycle Friday and my other bikes during the week.”

Craig Senych, vice president of operations, has dusted off his Trek 520 touring bike for a one-day, one-way commute from his home in Maple Bay.

Senych, 53, estimates it will take him three and a half to four hours to make the 70-km commute.

“When I was younger I used to ride a lot, but now I’m just a fat, cranky old man,” Senych said. “I still think I can do it, but just not as fast as I used to.”

Senych is used to long rides from when he and his wife lived in Alberta and would cycle between Banff and Jasper, but Senych is carefully planning his route. Once in Nanaimo he’ll likely stick with the steady grade of the Nanaimo Parkway rather than take the Parkway Trail with all its climbs, dips and weaves.

“By that time I’ll be tired,” Senych said.

Senych also knows a commute like that is not sustainable, especially since he will have to leave home at about 4 a.m. to make it to work on time.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’m going to do it more than one half trip,” Senych said. “It’s a logistical issue for me because if I ride both ways I’ll be sleeping the entire next day.”

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