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MEC member spotlight: Melody Markle

We love that you love getting outside. That’s why we’re profiling inspiring members across Canada who connect with their communities through active outdoor lifestyles.

Member: Melody Markle
Member since: 2007
Activities: mountain biking, camping, hiking

Tell us about yourself. How do you like to get outside?

I am Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe and grew up in Algonquin Anishinaabe traditional territory in Ontario. I spent many summer seasons camping, fishing with my brother, playing in swamps to catch turtles and stargazing into the night sky. I was fortunate at an early age to have my mother sprinkle seeds of culture in me and around the importance of being First Nation. I often give thanks to her for instilling my pride to be loud and proud of my motherline.

During my adult years I moved to Toronto and attended Ryerson University. I also started spin classes with the goal of building my stamina and cardio levels for my move to BC.

What was your first introduction to mountain biking?

The summer of 2007 was full of endless trail adventures. I started riding with the Cumberland Ladies Ride Group. My first day of biking in Courtenay, BC, was a ride to remember. I borrowed a large downhill bike from the guys and threw my helmet on with hopes of not crashing. It was a short-lived dream – I ended up going over the handlebars five times during our ride on Tomato Creek. I even had my first panic attack during the climb on the logging road.

What do you like about mountain biking? What’s changed for you since you started?

I love the personal transformation, from increased confidence to leading a healthier lifestyle. I spent a lot of time in urban settings where trails are harder to find, and my health wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t until my first trail ride that I realized how much exercise was involved. I began to train four times a week on local group rides. I loved how supportive the riders were, and the weekly outings settled my anxiety around venturing off on my own in the forest.

I began to ride downhill and XC and built up my cardio to handle two-hour rides without being too exhausted. Now I’m learning to ride Kamloops terrain, which is primarily singletrack enduro, and I’m beginning to love the climb. I’m riding with intermediate to advanced riders now too, and enjoy how they encourage me to push myself. I love setting goals and watching the progress with a group or recording my time on Strava.

How did you get involved with the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program?

I was connected to Patrick Lucas and the AYMBP through a friend who works with the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Collective. She suggested we meet to chat about our love for mountain biking and engaging the Aboriginal community. After a few rides and conversations we created a video about how I connect to the territory when I’m riding the trails. I guess I consider myself a role model when riding because there are so many other elements I incorporate when pushing my pedals. Presently, I volunteer my time with various groups from surrounding communities if they need additional help with group rides.

 

How is mountain biking a healing tool for you?

I strongly believe in muscle and blood memory as a framework when decolonizing my body. I practice this by looking after my health holistically. There are many layers to tend to: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. I strive to maintain balance in all the elements that make up a whole and assist me with my biking performance. This is how I work through the impacts of colonization and continue to heal myself from the effects of what happened to Indigenous people.

Like Anishinaabe Aki, the traditional territories of the majority of Nations here in BC are also unceded. Does this impact how and where you ride in BC?

I love to ride anywhere that good people have been involved with the trail building. I believe we don’t own the trails as this is Mother Earth that we all share. I’m also aware and understand that I am a guest here in BC, I respect the land and support the surrounding Bands when we defend land from future developers. I feel very honoured when I’m invited by a community member to ride in their territory and often chat about the history of the people and celebrate how biking has brought families together. I’m stoked that First Nation communities are becoming part of the trail building process and rebuilding their communities in healthy ways.

What does the mountain bike community need to know about where they ride?

I think everyone in the biking industry should be aware of the traditional territories their bike races take place in and acknowledge the original peoples that have resided for thousands of years. Also, maybe in the future, when trail building happens, involve the community and consult with them about Indigenizing the trail names. Incorporate medicine rides that teach people about the plants they are riding into.

Do you see mountain biking as something that helps you connect with the land?

When I’m riding my bike, I’m reminded of the all the plant and medicine diversity that is utilized to heal. As I ride through the trails, I’m mindful that Mother Earth has all the answers for me when I’m encountering a complex decision. Mountain biking always takes me far into beautiful backcountry that is full of plants, all of which have a role to play when we talk about holistic health with Indigenous people.

For example, while riding in Kamloops – the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people – I noted the sage that has been planted on the hillside for thousands of years. I always stop and reflect on the use of these plants and others by the Secwepemc people for food, medicine, technology and ceremonies. Around spring time, the smell of sage reminds me to clear my mind when I’m having a difficult time. It is when I’m out on the trails in the hills that I remember how important our traditional foods and medicines are to keep us whole. The only plant that I try and steer clear from would be stinging nettle! It was the worst pain and rash experienced when I rode a trail in Ontario.

Talk to us about identifying as a woman in sport known for its masculinity.

I think the sport has evolved within the few years I’ve been biking. There are more women entering the sport at an early stage. More are racing, coaching and guiding. I used to be the only lady riding with men at the park and typically ran into men on the trail. I was lucky to have some patient guys who would wait for me at an intersection and cheer me along the way. I haven’t really noticed a difference of whom I’m riding with. All genders can become competitive for the same reasons and I’m grateful for my riding friends. Actually now that I think of it, I have a lady rider pal who loves to chat during a climb which is really helpful for me to keep on going. I find most men will have smaller conversations but want to focus on their breathing.

Another important trend that has changed quite a bit is women’s biking attire. I remember only owning one pair of riding shorts before and they were men’s. I think within the last 5–10 years, there’s been a lot more of a selection of women’s riding attire.

On that note, what are your favourite MEC products?

I have a lot from MEC, including a camping dish set, tent, sleeping bag, water bottles, hydration packs, clothing, and rain jackets to name a few.

What are your favourite trails to ride?

Within BC, I think my favourite is 7th Secret in North Vancouver on Mount Fromme. Also Full Nelson in Squamish, Beer Run in Kamloops, and Cupcake and Two-in-a-Juice in Cumberland.

Tell us about your perfect day outside.

Loading up my bike and camp gear and venturing to a new mountain. I love exploring with my wheels of health. That post-ride feeling of relief is the satisfaction I strive for on my weekends. I also enjoy good company of friends who share that passion for biking too.

What is your hope for the future of the mountain biking community?

I hope there will be more First Nation communities encouraging their people to ride and spend time in the beautiful forests and hills. I hope more young people will give biking a try and keep at it as a hobby.

Are there bikers you follow or look up to?

I just started using Strava and have been following my friend Carolyn, a Kamloops local. She’s a mother as well and reminds me to encourage my little ones to ride once I start a family. She’s also very kind and encouraging when we do weekly rides.

Melody Markle
Melody Markle

Algonquin from Long Point (Winneway) First Nation in Quebec. Comes from the Bear clan and has many ties to her Anishnaabe family. Advanced mountain biker, kicking up dirt on downhill and all-mountain terrain from Ontario to BC.