Mat Fee is steadily rolling home to B.C. on a single-gear BMX bike he has pedalled more than halfway across Canada so far.
The Surrey resident’s Cycling For Sobriety ride began in Halifax on May 1 and is scheduled to conclude in Victoria on Oct. 6.
“We’re right on schedule, and maybe even a couple days ahead of it,” Fee said Thursday on the phone from outside Vermilion Bay, Ontario, not far from the Manitoba border.
“I’m healing up from what Ontario hit us with, including some strong winds.
“This province sure is big, and I found out the hard way,” he added with a laugh.
Thursday was a planned “recovery day” for Fee and his small support team, on a cross-country journey to raise awareness for addiction recovery services at John Volken Academy in Surrey.
Fee, 33, continues to live and work at the rehabilitation facility/store, located on King George Boulevard in Newton.
“That place really turned my life around,” Fee told the Now-Leader before he began his cross-country trip. “I want to let people know it’s there and how it changed my life, and that sobriety is possible.”
Nearly 100 days into his 6,200-kilometre bike ride, with 2,700 kilometres to go, Fee said he’s feeling fine.
“I’m definitely feeling it and I’m exhausted, but it’s been good,” he said. “My accomplishments so far, definitely Ontario – going through the Montreal River area, there are some huge hills through there that are kind of famous for being difficult for cyclists, and I was able to make it up them without stopping a single time, and that was my goal, to not stop, and being able to do that felt great.”
So far, he’s gone through 15 tires and a case of around 32 tubes. “That’s how many times I’ve popped a tire,” he said.
“I broke one bike frame,” he added, “and I was on my backup aluminum frame for a little while, but aluminum is really rigid and that was really hard on my body, so the team at Haro Bikes, they sent me another frame.… They stepped up and set me up with a good bike to get me back to B.C.”
“I’m riding anywhere from 50K to 150K a day,” Fee explained. “We planned it in our schedule that I’d ride four or five days and then take a recovery day, and in a bigger city I’ll take two (days) to recover and also do some media stuff, to talk about what we’re doing.
“It’s all dependent on my support team, too,” he added. “I’ve proven that on some days I can ride until my face hits the ground, but it’s hard on the team, too. Riding eight hours a day, that’s a long haul.”
Fee said riding a BMX bike across Canada is something he dreamed about since the age of seven, around the time his family moved from Duncan to Terrace.
“I rode bikes trying to make friends,” he says in a bio posted to cyclingforsobriety.org. “Some of these kids were older and they sexually abused and tortured me. Not long after this, my parents divorced and I blamed myself. I began to socially disconnect and in my teenage years I became an outcast. I started partying and hanging around with the wrong crowd. Hard drugs and drinking became my life at age 15.”
Many years and one drug overdose later, he signed up for treatment at John Volken Academy, where he experienced “great personal growth” following a three-month stay.
This summer, he’s seeing the country on a BMX bike while sleeping in a RV, and loving it.
“When I first started this, I was riding in snow on the other side of the country there, and it wasn’t too bad, other than cold, so we’ve hit all kinds of weather,” Fee said. “And then it got really hot. We’ve had all four seasons already on this trip.
“It’s been great seeing the country like this – definitely an experience I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”