The tour will travel through various First Nations, including Tsilhqot’in, Secwepemc, Nazco, Lheidli T’enneh, Carrier Sekani, Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Tsimshian.
By Sam Laskaris
For the past decade a successful BC Bike Ride has been staged each July. Over the years, the competitive multi-day, timed mountain bike racing event has annually averaged about 600 participants from 35 countries.
This Aug. 5 to Aug. 13, however, organizers have created a spinoff adventure. A maximum 100 riders will be allowed to take part in the more relaxed (non-competitive) adventure, which will have riders travel to various northern B.C. communities. Those on the tour will travel through various First Nations, including Tsilhqot’in, Secwepemc, Nazco, Lheidli T’enneh, Carrier Sekani, Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Tsimshian.
While visiting the various Aboriginal communities, ride participants will have plenty of opportunities to learn about the local cultures, heritage and history.
“We’re in a position to try something new,” said Dean Payne, the president of BC Bike Ride. “We thought we’d do something more casual.”
The tour, which will depart from Vancouver and see participants fly to Williams Lake on the opening day, will cost $3,999 per person. That includes flights, train and bus expenses, meals and accommodations throughout the event.
Registration for the tour opened in early February and about 50 people from 10 countries have signed up so far. The registration deadline is June 1.
Besides not being a competitive event, the mountain biking adventure tour will be different as ride participants get to choose for how long, and to a certain degree, where they ride each day.
They’ll be able to choose a comfortable pace to ride at. And if they desire, they can go back and ride a certain trail they enjoyed that day as many times as they wish.
After the opening day of riding in Williams Lake, those on the tour will head to Prince George the following day. The tour will also include visits to Burns Lake, Smithers and Terrace.
Members of the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Project, which was founded in 2012, will be joining the tour.
This project includes individuals who support and encourage Aboriginal youth and their communities to take part in mountain biking.
Members of this project have visited numerous First Nations the last few years and have conducted mountain biking clinics and in some cases have helped build trails in the community.
Tom Eustache, a member of the Simpcw First Nation, has helped out with the creation of numerous trails in the province. And he’ll be among those taking part in this year’s ride.
“We’ll be more of a liaison between the tour and the communities,” Eustache said.
Eustache was among those who took part in trail building clinics last year in Williams Lake. He’s keen to return to the region, and also visit other northern B.C. communities this year as part of the tour.
Though this year’s inaugural tour has yet to be staged, Eustache can already see it becoming an annual event.
“I think it will,” he said. “It’s a pretty awesome place to ride. There are some really good communities up there that have taken biking to the next level.”
Patrick Lucas, a community planner who founded the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Project, will also be taking part.
Lucas is the one who approached Payne to see if his organization could be part of a spinoff event created by BC Bike Ride officials.
“His results and his organization really left an impression on me,” Payne said of Lucas. “We like their mandate and what they are doing.”
Lucas said they plan to visit with as many First Nations as possible during the tour to spread the word about mountain biking.
Lucas is also thrilled tour organizers will be bringing in guest speakers, singers, drummers and other Indigenous performers during the daily stops.
“I believe that including Indigenous speakers and history lessons are a critical part of creating a deeper and more meaningful experience for the ride participants and acknowledging and respecting the First Nations on whose territories we'll be riding,” Lucas said.
Lucas also believes evening talks will be a huge appeal for those on the tour.
“I think the ride participants will appreciate learning about local history and gaining a greater understanding of the land and trails that they are riding,” he said.
As he has preached throughout his work with the Aboriginal bike project, Lucas is keen to bring forth Aboriginal connections on rides.
“Mountain biking is about more than ripping down a trail, but also about creating a meaningful connection to the land and the communities,” he said.