The Musée des Confluences in Lyon sits on the meeting of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It's purpose is to examine the story of mankind and the history of life. Philosophy and science, à la francaise. It was also the meeting point for the second edition of Chilkoot's Confluences - four districts, four departs, four groups of cyclists that leads to some pontification on the story and meaning of cycling, following the format laid out by our learned museum curators.
Origins, the stories of the World: All of us on the planet share the same questions on the origin of the world and our place in it.
What was cycling’s big bang? It's a tangled web of racing, recreation, commuting and adventuring. The answer is not in one bike or in one cyclist. Nor does it come from one region.
Just like the Confluences pioneers - a courier from Paris (District Nord), a long-distance loving artist from Marseille (District Sud), Victoire Cycles' marketing manager from Clermont-Ferrand (District West), a beer brewer from Geneva (District East). That is a snapshot. Imagine the rest. A collection of personal histories comes together to form one story - that of confluence.
Species, the network of life: how do human beings see the world, how are we integrated in it and how do we contribute to modifying it.
Cycling 200kms takes the confluencers through the matrix of it all, on a route that they may never have cycled but for the invitation of the Chilkoot Pioneers. The shared joke with the boulanger for mid-ride fuel, the crow that momentarily flew side by side at head height on that stretch beside the corn field, the fallen acorns inside that corner that nearly caused a crash, the beating rain from the start. Life behind bars creates a unique species of being.
Societies, the theatre of mankind: A human being is a migrant who is able to come together with others, stops for a time and forms societies, cultures and civilisations.
These escapist outsiders share an omerta - don't let the rest of the world know at these moments, sometimes nothing else matters. From one organisation of pioneering cyclists, the 103 individuals decide that for one day all roads lead to Lyon where they exchange a beer from their native region and create and share a confluence that will influence them for perhaps the rest of their lives. They are their own society, a specific bike culture, are they civilised? That's a matter of opinion.
Eternities, visions of the afterlife: Unlike other living beings the human being questions himself about the afterlife. A different perspective on disappearance.
In the tougher moments on the road to Lyon the questions and doubts creep in as to the value of this venture, and by extension the purpose of cycling as a recreation. The thought of the afterlife of cycling is a terrible unknown and at the same time possibly the biggest motivation. The fear of losing it - the ability, the freedom, the form - is a constant pull to take the cyclist back out on the road. When will I be stuck to the coast, not able to ride the hills like that old guy I saw yesterday? What if that car had been half a meter closer?
There are too many possiblities and fears. So once more just escape, ride your bike, with friends, and share a guilt-free beer afterwards. Long live Confluences.