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For longtime cyclist, his wheels provide transport, entertainment and exercise

Kanellos Kanellopoulos was a champion cyclist from 1973 to 1993, taking part in more than 530 competitions with the Greek team. These days cycling is a way of life. «It’s my means of transport,» he said. «And at the same time, it’s entertainment and training. You just have to love it and accept fatigue, discomfort and the weather.» A school gym instructor who paints icons in his spare time, Kanellos works 16 kilometers from home, a distance he covers in 30 minutes. «When you’re not competing you enjoy it more; you’re not concerned with performance. And when you’re in the mood, you speed,» he said. How many kilometers do you do now? About 15,000 a year, just getting around and the few days a year I train. Basically, commuting is my training. I might do 100 kilometers getting to work. Do you use a car? If the weather is bad. In the past I didn’t have a car; I used to cycle in the rain. But it’s a nuisance. You have to clean the bike and change your clothes. When it’s cold you dress up warmly with gloves, a cap and special gear. Do you wear a helmet? Lately, yes. Ever since I fell and hit my head when the fork broke, I’ve made it a rule. I’m not on my own; I have four children. A bicycle is a solitary means of transport, isn’t it? But if you go swimming or jogging in the forest, you’re even more solitary. With a bike you’re in the city, you meet people you know, you’re among people. It’s extremely sociable. It takes you door to door from home to work. Does Athens need bike lanes? Athens needs roads. They’re narrow. If they put bike lanes in as well… Athens will need bike lanes when Athenians start cycling. Aren’t car drivers dangerous? I’m from Patras. I feel safer there than in Athens. Here you’ve got traffic, stress and pressure, and people are used to it. In the provinces, people operate at a relaxed pace. At any moment someone can hit you because they didn’t predict what move you would make. It’s the same all over Europe. Why are you so keen on cycling? Someone who just goes from home to work and from work back home goes crazy. I’m one of the lucky ones. To get to work I see the mountain, I go through the city and I can go on all day. You can cycle for hours, every day. Many people use exercise bikes at home. That’s the worst; almost like forced labor. Like at the gym. I go past gyms on my bike and see them inside running on treadmills. When it’s a gorgeous day outside, who would want to be running like mad on a treadmill? That’s no fun. Some people think cyclists are quaint. I don’t feel quaint, though often when I go into offices, banks, and stores as I am with my cycling outfit, my gloves and my shoes with ridged soles, they look at me as if I’m an alien. I’m used to it; I don’t mind. I’m not the one with the problem.