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Spoke-Lore, The Evolution of Biking in Fernie by Laura Nelson
THIS AUGUST 7 the Fernie Museum is launching a biking exhibit alongside the TransRockies celebrations and Fernie Mountain Bike Guide book launch. Here is a sneak peak of some of the intriguing gear, individuals and races Fernie has celebrated over the years.
Jack Buchanan bought one of Fernie’s first bikes at Barton’s about 63 years ago with money he’d saved up working at the golf course, paying about $40-45 for it. At the time there weren’t too many cars in Fernie so a lot of people used bikes to ride to the store or to go fishing. Barton’s financed many bikes for kids over the years. They would put down a deposit of maybe $5.00 and pay Barton’s 50 cents here and there often taking five years to pay it off.
In the 1980’s biking took a turn “off road” and into the mountains. Trail building for bikes didn’t really start until 1984-85 so these mountain bike pioneers often rode forestry and exploration roads. The odd game trail and old horse trails up Cedar Valley, Hartley Lake, Coal Creek, Bull River and even into the Flathead. Early rides were often “hike-a-bike” epic adventures and involved creek or river crossings. This was done on fully rigid bikes, with no helmets, cell phones, or even decent rain gear.
The first WOMBAT (Women On Mountain Bikes and Tea) ride with their high tech gear of the time.
By 1991 mountain biking was becoming very popular. The Park Place Lodge wanted to create an event and organized the first Mud N Madness mountain bike race at the ski hill. The concept was to create an event that would bring people and business to Fernie during the summer, which was very quiet relative to ski season at the time. Also, to use the ski hill as the platform for the concept (which everyone knew and loved). Another event around the same time was the Griz Growler. Competitors for this fun race got to launch off a ramp into the small lake beside the Griz in for this one.
Gerry George and another competitor on one of Fernie’s first muddy race courses.
From this gnarly group of Fernie mountain bikers emerged Greg Blackwell. Born in Fernie, Greg took an interest in mountain biking and began attending races in the 90’s with strong finishes. Greg took his racing to a level only 33 other people since 2000 have managed to reach. He entered the inaugural Iditarod Trail Invitational- the world’s longest winter ultra race- 1100 miles across frozen Alaska. It took him 15 days, 9 hours for a 3rd place finish just 7 hours off the Iditasport overall course record. Since then most finish in 17-33 days.
Greg Blackwell in the Iditarod Trail Invitational
Come take part in this interactive exhibit at 362b Victoria Avenue to learn more about the evolution of biking in Fernie and to support the Fernie Museum. Visit www.ferniemuseum.com for more information.