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Hinton helps cyclist back on the road

Submitted photo
Masaaki Yoshino, Japanese tourist and cyclist, picks up his brand new custom bike at a Jasper bike shop.

Masha Scheele

After nearly a month break in a long cycling journey, Japanese tourist and cyclist, Masaaki Yoshino, is back on the road with some help from Hinton residents.

Courtney Lovestrom from Hinton reached out to him immediately after reading the story he had posted online. Yoshino’s bike was stolen on Jan. 19 from a hotel where he was staying in Hinton.

Residents quickly showed their support by raising enough money in two days to replace all his stolen gear.

Since then, the Bench Bike Shop, which specializes in touring bikes exactly like his, helped him find the custom bike and shipped it to Jasper.

“It’s a very specific bike, specific to cargo style touring. It’s meant to carry a massive load of gear,” explained Lovestrom. “We ordered the exact same bike. We don’t have to replace all the bags as well, just some of them.”

Lovestrom first listened to his story with the help of a Japanese translator when she invited him over for dinner shortly after the bike was stolen.

Lovestrom’s boyfriend is also a cycle tourer and she immediately related to Yoshino’s story.

“I have an intense amount of respect for cycle tourers, travelling the country and seeing it by bike, for the amount of determination you have to have to actually set a goal and complete it,” she said.

She wanted to extend kindness because she knew it could potentially make or break somebody’s cycle touring trip.

Messages started coming in from locals who also wanted to help by donating money for a new bike.

Yoshino was hesitant at first when she asked him if she could set up a crowdfunding page, but Lovestrom convinced him that people were eager to help.

Within eight hours, they raised half of everything that was stolen, and over the next two days they raised more than $4,500 online and additional funds in person. It was enough to replace everything he lost.

“I feel like we sometimes tend to look at all the negative things that happen in our community and I feel like with [Masaaki]’s story, people see that we have a really great community,” said Lovestrom.

The community also donated gift certificates, made posters, and reached out to apologize for what happened.

Yoshino’s journey initially began in Anchorage, Alaska this past August and he cycled down to Hinton where he stopped due to cold temperatures on Jan. 7.

Yoshino explained that he had slept in some roadside turnoffs in a tent during his journey throughout the past few winter months.

It was his first time experiencing cold weather, he said, and explained that it’s much warmer in Japan.

Lovestrom felt horrible knowing he had been so closed off to the community since he had arrived.

Submitted photo
Masaaki Yoshino visits Jasper

“I love to show people around the area that we live. Especially in the winter, our area has so much to offer,” said Lovestrom who has shown him all the sites, hidden gems, and Canadian winter treats.

Yoshino said that meeting Lovestrom has turned around his perspective of Hinton. Lovestrom didn’t want one bad person to end his trip or even slightly sever his trip if he managed to replace the bike on his own.

“I hated the thought of Hinton being a negative aspect in all the travelling that he’s done. I really love our community, I think we have such a beautiful community of people,” Lovestrom said.

Yoshino has cycled across the United States every year since 2012, and this year he decided to expand his trip to Canada.

His plan is to travel through the national parks as he makes his way south to Los Angeles, California.

He’s been impressed with the wildlife, the scenery, and the northern lights, and will likely see more as he plans to tackle hwy 93 to Banff.

“You’re in a form of solitude that’s next level, where you’re physically being pushed, you’re mentally being pushed, and constantly in your own thoughts. I have so much respect and to know that something out of his control could have ended his goal, that’s just so detrimental to think about that being somebody’s story when they’ve decided to do a trip like that,” said Lovestrom.