Skyler Tompkins shares Ice Road Challenge fat biking story
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Lifelong Sioux Lookout resident Skyler Tompkins joined participants in fat biking across the winter road from Red Lake to Pikangikum during this year’s Ice Road Challenge on Feb. 7.
“It was more of a fundraising event for the Pikangikum Youth Mountain Bike Program. New Hope Community Bikes teamed up with the OPP and they got a bike program going in Pikangikum for the youth. They have one of those shipping container bike shops up there, and they’ve been running the program for two years already. They employ the youth in Pikangikum to fix up old bikes and they lend them out. The program was to raise money to bring them ten new fat bikes and also to keep their program running for two additional years, and that’s employing the youth to actually run the program,” said Tompkins.
New Hope Community Bikes’ website reads, “In April 2018, team members travelled to Pikangikum to teach repair skills to youth that would operate the shipping container bike shop. Eight youth participated in 12 hours of training and learned how to adjust gears and brakes, rebuild bearing systems, true wheels and complete bicycle safety checks… The first summer for the shipping container bike shop was a huge success. Bikes were signed out over 400 times, three kilometres of new mountain bike trails were built and the youth took leadership to really make the program their own… From 2017 to 2018, the number of bikes seen in the community grew as there were new places to ride and a place to maintain them.”
Tompkins was one of 43 cyclists who took part in the ride. Despite the cold temperatures, participants biked over 80 kilometres that day and over 100 kilometres total.
“Because of the weather, it was around minus-33 that day, they did it a little bit different. We did a 22 kilometre ride around Red Lake, which took around an hour and a half. A lot of people came from southern Ontario so it let the guys get a taste of it and dial in their gear better. We left from a checkpoint because by then we were leaving later. We ended up doing 87 kilometres that day… The next day we got dropped off at the checkpoint and rode the rest of the way back into Red Lake,” said Tompkins.
After getting his fat bike last year, Tompkins took to Facebook where he found a group and saw the event posted shortly after. He said he prepared himself for the long-distance ride, which was a new experience for him.
“I just got my fat (bike) last year, but I have 3500 kilometres on it… This was the first event I’ve ever really been a part of. I decided to look up an Ontario fat bike group page on Facebook. I found one, joined it, and I saw the posting for this event two days later. I saw the ride was leaving Red Lake so I thought that was pretty close and I could do it,” he said.
“When I signed up for it in December I started training… I did some 55 kilometre rides, but I didn’t have time to do a full 110 kilometre ride. I felt pretty good though and I was really prepared for it. I got 675 kilometres in January preparing for it,” he added.
The Ice Road Challenge had a fundraising goal of $30,000. The fundraiser is currently sitting at just over $53,000, and the campaign doesn’t end until March 2.
For more information, go to newhopecommunitybikes.com/pikangikum or search New Hope Bikes on Facebook.