It was late October 2018, a crisp autumn day in the mountains. A friend and I pedaled side-by-side down a dreamy gravel road in a particularly picturesque slice of the Canadian Rockies. Surrounded by mountains and hillsides alive with vibrant yellow larches, we chatted about possible adventures for the year to come. Having just spent a month solo traversing the French Alps on foot, I was excited to trade my hiking boots for more time on the bike in 2019. “What about riding the routes in the guidebook?” we pondered.
The guidebook we spoke of was the soon-to-be released Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies. It will feature ten routes throughout the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, ranging from beginner itineraries to more expert excursions. I had been living in the Rockies for more than two years at this point, but had merely scratched the surface in terms of exploring. As a fairly novice bikepacker, this would also be a great way to earn my stripes.
The more I pondered this big undertaking, the more it resonated with me. My reasons were more profound than just exploring and gaining experience though.
The guidebook was written by my late husband, Ryan Correy. Compiling it was Ryan’s last project before his death in 2018 at the age of 35. Ryan was, not surprisingly, an avid bikepacker, a passion that took hold after the completion of his first Tour Divide epic in 2012. His love for cycling began much sooner in life though—first at the age of 13 with a series of cross-country bike tours, then blossoming into increasingly ambitious feats such as circling North America, a 25,000km, 131 day ride from Alaska to Argentina, a successful solo Race Across America finish, elite mountain bike racing, world record attempts, and many others.
Ryan at the finish of the Tour Divide in 2012. He also completed the route in 2015, and had planned to return again in 2018...
There was nothing quite like bikepacking for Ryan though. This was where all the elements of adventure came together for him in a way that truly captured his soul, bringing out the best of life and the best of him. Ryan wanted to share that with others. He believed there was much to be gained in life from the experience of bikepacking—travelling great distances, often in remote areas—and the way in which one interacts with the world when all else is stripped away. People, nature, the elements, and even oneself. How you must, in some way or another, test yourself. The rawness and simplicity of it all.
And so, this was the impetus for Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies. Ryan began scouting routes in 2016, fresh off our move to the mountains and inspired by the endless wilderness around us. It was a massive undertaking for Ryan, requiring many trips into the backcountry to explore. Of course, that was never something to complain about! But, it required great dedication. Hours spent poring over maps, connecting with trail builders, park authorities, and the like, translating his explorations into navigable routes, riding roads that led nowhere, and hike-a-biking and bushwhacking through overgrown trails. Ryan took pleasure in it all.
Ryan out scouting routes for Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies, due out in May 2019...
Nearing the end of his work on the guidebook, Ryan casually mentioned a seemingly innocent stomachache as he headed off on his shiny new Salsa Cutthroat to scope out another route. Returning a week later, the pain had worsened and so began our most difficult journey yet. It wasn’t long before we received the unthinkable news of “cancer” and became fully aware of the monstrosity of the disease—a stage 4 diagnosis that brought with it a very small chance of long-term survival. Ryan’s disease was particularly aggressive, though, and despite all of our desperate efforts, we only got nine months. On April 27th, 2018, the disease took hold of Ryan and he drew his final breath right before my eyes.
In excruciating pain, Ryan rode to 1st place in the solo 24 Hours of Adrenalin race in July 2017, receiving his cancer diagnosis the very next morning...
It’s now been a year since Ryan died, and I often pause to reflect on the journey I have been on in the last 365 days. My time with Ryan was truly a gift—my life forever richer because of it—but I’ve learned that this gift did not cease as Ryan’s breath did on that day. Spurred on by his contagious conviction to “turn his passion into purpose” I find myself compelled to do the same, to fully step into life. Nothing feels more natural than to do that on a bike. As I take on the routes in Ryan’s guidebook this year, with the generous support of Salsa, I’ll bring full circle a project he never got to see finished. I’ll witness with my own eyes the very things he saw from his bicycle seat, ride the same stretches of gravel and trail, admire the vistas that delighted him, curse the brutal sections that challenged him… all while making new memories and forging my own path.
I look forward to sharing these ten adventures, and this journey, with you.
Me out riding in British Columbia, one of the many areas I’ll get to explore more this year...
ABOUT SARAH HORNBY
Lured to the west by the beauty and lifestyle of the mountains, I transplanted myself to the Canadian Rockies to live, work, and play in this gorgeous corner of the world. Here, a casual interest in cycling has grown into a passion my life seems to, quite happily, revolve around. No matter how big or small the two-wheeled adventure, it's the freedom, friendship, and simplicity that always has me dreaming about what’s next.
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