The Canadian island of Newfoundland is known for its bountiful fish harvest, warmhearted people and unpredictable weather patterns.
Mountain biking, not so much. Growing up here, it’s not easy to become a lover of the outdoors. The terrain is unforgiving and sometimes all four seasons can be experienced in a single day. The conditions are rarely inviting, and it’s easy to become a homebody.
It takes a certain type of person to embrace the elements in Newfoundland. In particular, it requires serious ambition to wake up at 4 a.m. to go iceberg hunting when the wind cuts the temperature to below freezing. Through mountain biking, though, my closest friends have helped me to endure—and even love—such unappealing outings.
I learned early on that a blast of fresh air and an occasional sliver of sunshine would lift me when I was down. The coastal trails that skirt the cliffs around my hometown of St. John’s—the capital of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador—deliver both of these, along with plenty of torrential weather. Before there were roads, boats were the primary mode of transportation on the island, connecting small fishing villages to each other. If you didn’t have a boat, the only other way to get around was by walking through the tight, twiggy forest, following the sound of the ocean.
Nowadays, we ride these twisting trails for their infinite views, hoping to see floating icebergs, crashing waves and the occasional breach of a whale. A mountain bike has long led me to places other modes of transportation wouldn’t, but this liberty comes with considerable effort. Being a mountain biker in Newfoundland takes dedication and hard work, even off the trails. Training involves riding a BMX bike in a parking garage when it’s snowing outside or ripping down man-made rock gardens in urban parks.