Community First

The benefits that come from two wheels and rolling singletrack should never be underestimated. For Canada’s First Nations, embracing mountain biking and building trails has helped to strengthen the community, provide a new passion for the youth and a healthy source of recreation for all. Photo: Paul Masukowitz

Community First Reviving an Ancestral Connection to the Land

It was 2012, and Patrick Lucas was working as a consultant, the liaison between First Nations in British Columbia and community development grants from the federal government.

“Lots of it was unsatisfying work,” he says. “I was the white dude flying in to a First Nations community to write a stupid, thick report no one was going to read.”

Lucas had gotten into riding while doing development work in the jungles of Laos, spending weekends exploring the backroads and paths linking indigenous villages. When he moved back to Canada, he started riding on Vancouver’s North Shore. Soon, mountain biking was all he talked about. It was his escape from a tough, often thankless, job.

“It was usually stressful work, so I’d go for rides on the way to a meeting or after,” he says. “Sometimes both.”

For years, he worked with the Boothroyd Indian Band, a small community a few hours northeast of his Vancouver home. When he’d show up at Boothroyd, there was always a bike on his car, and an elder in the community took notice.

“He asked me, ‘What do you know about mountain biking?’” Lucas remembers.

The elder pointed out that the kids of the community were always riding their bikes, building jumps out of any pile of dirt they found and stunts out of any wood they could scrounge or steal.

“We don’t want them to stop,” the elder said. “Can you help us build them a bike park?”

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The younger members of Canada's First Nations are finding a new connection with their land through two wheels. Double horns for the day's ride. Photo: Paul Masukowitz