Mark Matthews is a force to be reckoned with. When he sets his mind on something, not much can stop him. Over 10 years ago, he decided to make his passion for mountain biking his profession and has only looked forward since, despite the struggles and injuries. With poise and quiet determination, Mark tackles life like he does a race course, one jump, one obstacle at a time.
“I started biking when I was 13 or so. There were kids at my school and a lot of other people that got me into it. There was a really strong scene where I grew up, mostly for BMX. Then, I got pretty big into dirt jumping and not long after I started mountain biking, just because there were more places to ride and more people to ride with.”
Mark was loving it, but living in a rural area, he had to either make the 30 km to the city to ride or come up with his own spots. Not afraid of hard work, he would spend many hours a week working on his jump lines.
“I would just see photos on the internet and places where I wanted to ride and told myself I could just create them myself. All I needed was a forest and simple tools. I guess I was just being inspired by the footage I saw in videos and photos. I was always trying to replicate things that I saw and then put my own take on it. It never left me, I kept digging to give myself something to ride that was close by and I wouldn’t have to go on a day mission on the bus to get there.”
Between crown land, private land owners that would allow him to use their properties and working with the town, Mark has made sure there would be riding to be had around North Saanish. That allowed him to be on his bike regularly and progress quickly.
“I always wanted to be a pro athlete. I was into different sports and really big into hockey when I was super young but biking was the first sport I felt I was really god at. By the time I was 16, I really knew I wanted to do it, but I was also really scared. I was shy and although my parents have always been supportive, I didn’t want to tell them.”
Being scared didn’t stop him though. It only made him work harder, quietly, in his corner to convince others, and maybe also himself that his dream was a worthwhile dream. His efforts paid off. Mark was picking up more sponsors, riding in front of camera and getting noticed and his invitation to the infamous RedBull Rampage was a chance to prove his skills. To make the most of it, Mark decided on a risky line, but had a serious crash while trying it out before the race. With a shattered femur, Mark had a lengthy recovery ahead of himself.
“They had to perform a special surgery to make sure both my legs were the same length. It resulted in a lot of pain, lots of scar tissue. Six weeks in, I went and had x-rays, it hadn’t healed at all. It was a non-union fracture because the blood wasn’t flowing properly. I had to do everything in my power to heal.”
When Mark says everything, he means everything. He worked on his health, eating perfectly, taking supplements. He worked on his mind, tried positive psychology and on his body, sticking with physiotherapy, a gym routine, ultrasound therapy, yoga. And again, his efforts paid off. Six months after the accident, he was back over a saddle.
“That period really sucked because I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything. I lost all my sponsors at the same time. I had no plan, no job; it was quite a stressful time. As soon as I started riding again, I was glad for the escape. It gives you that moment where nothing else in the world matters. I started using the #funisthebest quite a bit after my Rampage injury because for me to really get back into biking, I had to really just focus on having fun on my bike and not worry about progressing or be the very best rider out there. Your priorities shift after a situation like that. When you can’t do what you love for months at a time, it changes your outlook on things a little.”
Mark was happy to be back on his bike, but he was well aware that the struggles were far from being behind him. It took him another year and a half to get back to his full riding potential. That didn’t stop him. It only opened the doors to new adventures and experiences.
“I’m shifting directions to adventure riding and inspiring people to get out and ride, to have fun. I want to show them all the places you can see and the things you can do from a bike. Progressing my riding is still important to me but it’s not the main focus anymore. It’s shifted into riding every day, being healthy, being out there. A new experience is a new destination. I’ve traveled a lot more in the last few years. It’s been pretty cool.”
Moving forward in all circumstances, working hard, never giving up. His determination and strength is impressive to say the least, but what is behind Mark’s motivation? What drives him?
“You’re whole project has the same philosophy. It’s following your passion and searching for happiness really. That’s what kept me motivated through my injury, even in the down times when I was doubting myself. I knew if I’d go on with my life without it, I wouldn’t be happy so I might as well keep going this way and find a way to make it work.”
Just like Mark, work for your happiness, follow your heart. It’s going to be worth it!