Mathew Fee and his BMX bike at the John Volken Academy in Surrey, B.C. As a former addict, Fee says he wants to fulfil his dream of completing a coast-to-coast tour while raising awareness around addiction treatment and mental health. (John Volken Academy photo)

B.C. cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

It may be difficult to think of a more challenging way of crossing the country on two wheels than on a BMX bike. 

The off-road sport bike is a single-speed with no gears, making biking up hills and over long distances much, much more strenuous than on bikes built for travel.

But B.C. man Mathew Fee, 33, is no stranger to challenges. He’s taking his Haro Citizen BMX bike on a tour across Canada on May 1, from Halifax to Vancouver on a five-month trip to raise awareness about addiction and treatment, and to celebrate his own recovery.

Fee says riding his BMX across the country has been a dream since the age of seven. When he was growing up in Terrace, he would often ride around the skate park and fly off dirt jumps in the woods with his friends.

“I was thinking of this dream that I had and it just dawned on me [that] maybe I can do this to raise awareness for addiction. There was a feeling that went along with it that I couldn’t ignore,” Fee says.

It will be a gruelling trip. Fee will start biking from Halifax to Vancouver on May 1, a tour spanning approximately 6,200 kilometres. If successful, he may break the world record for the longest distance travelled on a single-speed bike, and set a record for longest distance travelled on a BMX.

“There are no real documented attempts at this, so I want to be the first one to have [officially] done it,” he says.

READ MORE: ‘Can’t stop now’: Terrace triathlete determined to race despite bike accident

He’s come a long way to reach this point. Fee was born in Duncan on Vancouver Island and moved to Terrace when he was seven years old. His father, who taught him how to ride a bike when he was three, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis the year before they moved.

When Fee was young, he was also the victim of sexual and physical abuse, and he entered into a deep depression at only eight years old.

Hard drugs and drinking became his life when he was 15. Faced with the loss of a close friend, suicidal thoughts, addiction and depression, Fee says he felt completely alone. He had tried seven treatment programs, but none were able to help.

“Life got to me at a very young age. I was just unable to cope, and it’s very bizarre but I actually buried things that I wasn’t even aware of. As I grew older, when I was living in Terrace, anxiety started playing a huge role in my life. I was terrified all the time, for no reason.”

Three years ago at the age of 30, Fee lost his job, overdosed and woke up at the Mills Memorial Hospital.

While in recovery, his mother showed him a news clip about the John Volken Academy, a treatment centre in Surrey specializing in a holistic and focussed treatment. Fee says the long-term aspect and therapeutic community model sold him, and he was accepted into treatment.

“I got more personal growth within three months here than I did over a year in another program,” he says. “Everyone progresses up through leadership programs and different phases of the program, and once you get further you mentor the newer students. It’s really special.”

With treatment, Fee learned about post-traumatic stress disorder and how to manage his flashbacks and trauma.

Over time with deeper trauma therapy, he began to feel more grounded within himself, was able to connect with other people again and “experienced a surge of personal growth.”

“I feel free — the emotional and mental cage that I was living in before dissipated, and I feel I’m able to emotionally connect with my friends and the people around me in a really healthy way that I wasn’t even aware that existed before,” he says.

During the trip, Fee says he wants to be open and as honest as he can with people he meets along the way. He also plans on sharing updates, photos and thoughts on social media with the hope he can make a difference in someone else’s life.

READ MORE: Northwest mobile unit to help those at heart of mental health, addiction crisis

Biking and exercise also played a role in Fee’s recovery, he says, and he’s had to train pretty vigorously to prepare himself for the ride. With no gears to make conquering hills easier in summer weather, long-distance BMX tours present their own host of unique challenges — even with a light-weight carbon-fibre bike frame.

“This is why no one has really done this before,” Fee laughed. “Single-speed, Canadian roads, hills, potholes — I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

There are also no hotel rooms booked along the route. Instead, a support team from the John Volken Academy will be following him in an RV the entire route, cheering him on, scheduling interviews and posting updates. Fee will spend four or five hours riding each day for five months, reaching speeds of 20 kilometres an hour.

“I’m going the full distance, there’s no doubt in my mind. But even if the bike ride falls off, and I’ve still achieved some awareness and some hope for people, then I feel like that would be a win for sure.”

Fee works and lives now at the John Volken Academy in Surrey, but says Terrace is where he grew up. Fastened to his hat is a City of Terrace pin.

“I’ve gotten so many messages from people I didn’t know encouraging me, old friends that I drifted away from sending me encouraging messages, saying they think it’s really cool what I’m doing because Terrace has been really struggling with addiction and mental health. Hopefully I can bring some light to Terrace as well and show people there is a way out,” he says.

“Three years ago, I was at the Terrace hospital because I overdosed. Here I am now, three years later. It’s a complete turn-around.”

Fee leaves from Halifax to Vancouver on May 1 to start his cross-country BMX journey. For updates, follow the Cycling for Sobriety Facebook page.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

addictionsCyclingmental healthterrace

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mathew Fee doing tricks on his BMX bike at the skate park in Castlegar, B.C. (John Volken Academy photo)

A support team will be following Fee in an RV to document his cross-country tour and cheer him on. (John Volken Academy photo)

Just Posted

Nakusp Rotary Club raises $530 for local food bank through mask initiative

Rotary members made and gave away over 200 masks by donation in late May

RCMP search for suspects who stole batteries from Nakusp Pole Yard

RCMP said the incident occurred at approximately 12:45 a.m. on May 30

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Kelowna Mountie on desk duty following ‘aggressive’ arrest

The officer involved in an arrest that took place on May 30 in Kelowna has been placed on administrative duties

Most Read