A new life cycle

Winter 2016
Rory McLeod in front of Taylor Lake.

Photo by Nick Gilbert ’18

Rory Macleod ’00

Cruising into Hamilton on his maroon, custom-built bicycle just in time for Colgate’s homecoming weekend, Rory Macleod ’00 had traveled 4,931 miles in 75 days. He’d biked through heat exhaustion and lightning storms, but he endured those hardships to overcome a bigger obstacle.

“I got to a point in my life where I was worn out from the negativity in the world; I started becoming brittle, impatient,” said Macleod, who made the decision a year ago to embark on a solo, cross-country journey. He had discovered a zeal for outdoor activities, especially cycling, and figured that “there’s no better time than now.” Macleod emphasized, though, that “it was no small decision” to leave behind his career as the senior writer in Apple’s human resources department and a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco.

Also, Macleod was cognizant of his privilege and wanted to make the expedition “bigger than myself.” So he decided that, during the trip, he would raise money for World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit organization that provides bikes to people around the world in order to give them access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

After intensive planning, on July 7, Macleod dipped his rear tire in the Pacific Ocean (as is the tradition for cross-country bicycling) on Cannon Beach, Ore., and headed east. On the way to Hamilton, he stopped at Yellowstone National Park, Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and all five Great Lakes. These landmarks — and more significantly, the people he met along the way — helped Macleod accomplish his mission to “re-fall in love with America.”

Although he prepared to be self-sufficient — his bike is equipped with a self-powered hub, and loaded with a tent, food, clothes, and a stove — it became apparent that there were times when he was at the mercy of others.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by kindness,” said Macleod, whose been treated to home-cooked meals, hot showers, and lodging by complete strangers. They’ve also reached into their pockets and given him money for the charity. Even the little deeds have made a big difference. “One day, I was riding down the road and there was a woman unloading groceries from her car. She saw me, reached into her grocery bag, and pulled out a Gatorade bottle. Things as small as that have gone a long way in lifting my spirits.”

Macleod was also buoyed by the support of the Colgate network: He stopped at the homes of alumni, received donations from many friends, and was inundated with support from the community. He also reconnected with classmates during homecoming.

By the time he reached Hamilton in September, Macleod had surpassed his initial goal of $14,700, or 100 bicycles, and raised his goal to $20,000. On September 29, he reached Bar Harbor, Maine, and dipped his front tire into the Atlantic Ocean — completing his coast-to-coast expedition. But he didn’t stop there. Macleod is currently riding back west through the southern states. He estimated that when this article publishes, he’ll be in Texas.

“This experience has changed me,” Macleod said. But he’s not yet ready to draw a conclusion about the journey and what’s next. Visit roryrides.com to find out where he is, and maybe you can hand him a drink as he rides by.

— Emma Loftus ’16 and Aleta Mayne