Last year, 22-year-old Elissa Cummings rode a mountain bike from Jasper to Mexico. By herself.
It took her nine weeks. She rode for 3,500 km. She passed through two provinces, seven states and two countries. She slept in a tent for 50 days, navigated poorly-marked trails and, while biking through the desert, was forced to drink water that “looked like chocolate milk.”
At one point, Cummings got uncomfortably close to a mother bear and her cubs; at another, she faced hypothermia after getting rained on for a week straight.
“I remember stopping to hold my hands and toes because I was so cold and just screaming,” she said.
But she kept going. On November 12, after arriving at the U.S./Mexico border, Cummings sent out a message to her parents: She made it. Her journey was over.
And now she’s starting a new one.
Cummings is the proud owner and operator of Journey Bike Guides, a brand-new company in Jasper. Cummings is offering guided mountain bike services to people wanting to explore the trails on two wheels. Hanging her shingle at Vicious Cycle, she’s targeting families and visitors with limited experience on mountain trails.
“I think the large market will be people who haven’t done a lot of riding, or are nervous to go out on their own,” she said.
Cummings has experience as a bike guide. Last summer she worked in Whistler, mostly coaching cross country riders but also taking laps in the famously intimidating bike park.
“It was cool to see an entirely different style of riding,” she said. “And it felt good to help other people learn the sport better and fall in love with it.”
Cummings herself fell in love with mountain biking at an early age. Born and raised in Ontario, she got into racing and even won some big events before she took a nasty fall and concussed herself. It was a serious injury. She missed an entire semester of school.
“It was a very long time before I felt like I was myself again,” she said.
What helped her get back on the bike was a visit with her osteopath, a few coaching sessions with her Whistler crew and the goal she set to bike from Jasper to Mexico. Since she’s met that challenge, her next one is to share her passion with others.
“For me biking is freedom,” she said. “A bike can take you almost anywhere. It’s an opportunity for people to explore beyond their limits.”
Now Cummings wants to explore beyond her limits, and bring others along for the Journey while she’s at it.
Bob Covey // email@example.com