A Surrey man is all set to be “Cycling for Sobriety” across Canada on a BMX bike.
Mat Fee, 32, will start his cross-country ride in Halifax on May 1, and is attempting to set a record for the world’s longest ride on a single-speed bike.
“I’m just preparing to start,” Fee said Monday (April 22) from Bridgetown, Nova Scotia. “It’s getting close now.”
Fee and a small support team have nearly 6,200 kilometres and 143 days ahead of them, as part of an effort to raise $100,000 for addiction-recovery services at John Volken Academy in Surrey.
“That place really turned my life around,” said Fee, who continues to live and work at the rehab facility, in Newton. “I want to let people know it’s there and how it changed my life, and that sobriety is possible.”
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.”
After losing a close friend, Fee says he did even more drugs.
“I crashed my truck due to mixing drugs and medications, lost my job, overdosed and ended up in the hospital.”
That’s where Fee said his mom showed him a news clip about John Volken Academy.
“All I heard was ‘long term,’” he says. “I was sold because I knew I didn’t know how to live. Once I was through the doors of the John Volken Academy, I felt safe.”
After three months of treatment, he experienced “great personal growth,” despite the challenge of living in such a therapeutic community.
“It was what was needed,” he posted on the website. “I learned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and finally at the age of 30 I got answers to why I mentally and emotionally suffered.”
Fee will turn 33 on April 26, less than a week before his Cycling for Sobriety journey will begin. A countdown clock is posted on the website, along with photos and a map of the cross-Canada journey, which is scheduled to end in Victoria. The effort also involves a GoFundMe page, along with Instagram and Facebook accounts.
“People can track my ride,” Fee noted. “We’ll be doing lots of live-streams, drone footage of me riding and all that.”
Fee and his team recently drove across Canada in an RV, to map the route he’ll ride back home to B.C.
“Of course, as we’re driving and all the kilometers are ticking by, knowing that I’l be biking back, all that way, that kind of got to me a little bit,” Fee said. “But it’s for a good cause and I have a lot of people supporting me on this, and I know we’ll get it done.”
To date, it’s been a long road of training for Fee, who says he’s spent months in the gym and going on long-distance rides to prepare. He’s also experimented with how to best prep his bike for the trip.
“I’m at the point where I feel ready for it,” he said. “A lot of it is mental, too. We’re prepared for anything.… The weather window for us is around six months, but I’m aiming for around five months to do this.”