The central B.C. First Nation Simpcw is partnering with the Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program (IYMBP) and First Journey Trails to host the first-ever Allies Mountain Bike Festival April 29, 30 and May 1.
The event will take place in Chu Chua, the home of Simpcw First Nation, northeast of Kamloops, and is aimed at bringing people together to “ride in solidarity and for the love of trails and mountain biking” said the news release announcing the inaugural event.
Co-owner of First Journey Trails and co-founder of the IYMBP Thomas Schoen said this event is meant to “show the Simpcw community at large … just how much they are loved and supported by the trail users and by the mountain bike world. People love their trails, they are super supportive, but because the riders are out in the forest on the trails … a lot of community members, they know what’s going on and they’re really supportive but they don’t necessarily see just what a big deal this is to the non-indigenous community.”
“We just want to give the community a ton of love and let them know: ‘what you have done over the last couple years is absolutely spectacular and it is appreciated.’”
Another message Schoen said he and his partner want to get out there is “we can work in partnership with Indigenous communities in the spirit of reconciliation, we can support them, we can help them.”
Simpcw First Nation has developed more than 15 km of trails by working with the IYMBP and First Journey Trails, a trail construction company which teaches First Nations trail crews trail design and building.
This Allies event is aimed at showcasing this network and bringing Indigenous and non-indigenous trail users together.
Thomas Schoen, an active supporter of the Cariboo mountain bike community, makes his home in Williams Lake, but his work takes him all over the province supporting community-led projects building trails.
He and his business partner and fellow co-founder of the IYMBP Patrick Lucas saw a lot of mountain bike groups and communities doing bike-specific events but also saw something missing.
“Never ever in this province or in Canada, according to our research, had anyone hosted an Indigenous-specific event,” explained Schoen. So the pair had been looking at doing some type of event before the pandemic, but put those plans on hold when COVID-19 became a reality.
The term “allies” highlights the fact that the founders of the Indigenous Youth Mountain Biking Program are both non-indigenous Canadians who wanted to celebrate the work the various indigenous communities they work with had been doing to help support recreational trail opportunities.
“Our role, we see that as being allies to the Indigenous community at large. We want to be partners, we want to be supporters we want to help out in many ways in terms of reconciliation, in terms of the creation of infrastructure development.”
Schoen and Lucas are hoping the event can become a festival event series and move each year to highlight the work communities have done to create trails in different areas.
The two-day festival will also feature a mountain bike film premiere.
This premiere will be for an episode of Return to Earth by Anthill Films, an episode focused mainly on Lucas and his work with the IYMBP. It was filmed in Simpcw, as well as at Canim Lake and on the Jesmond Mountain trails, near Clinton.
An event announcement states the festival will be centred around “learning, listening, and riding” and it will include group rides on the broad range of trails which range from beginner to advanced, a BBQ, viewing of mountain bike films, cultural aspects, and will all begin with a blessing from the elders. There will be ride shuttles available, campfires and camping.
Dog-walkers, trail runners and hikers are also invited to attend the event in support of allieship and community-building and a love of trails.
A full schedule of events is available on Pinkbike.com and while attending the festival is free, participants are asked to register for the event by filling out a form online, on-site camping is limited and meals or events will be by donation.