“Want to ride?” That was the first thing Matt Yaki said to us. Not “Hi! Nice to meet you”. No. That would have been a waste of time. Straight to the point! That’s good because we knew exactly what to expect. Epic rides! For the following two days, we followed Matt who took us around on some of his favourite local trails. He showed us why Revelstoke is a world class mountain biking destination and why he chose to make it his home.
Matt grew up with bikes. Back in Ontario, he lived by a conservation area where, with his friends, he would spend most of his free time biking, building trails and jumps and making short videos on his parents VHS camcorder. Biking took care of his summers and skiing of his winters, keeping him active and busy. Then, later in his teens, he discovered music.
“I really feel in love with playing my drums, learning and studying music. That’s all I ended up doing, I really got into that. I went to college for Jazz Performance at Humber College. That’s when biking took a back seat to school, work and real life.”
Going to college on the outskirts of Toronto, then staying there trying to make it in the music world wasn’t easy. Between working at a grocery store, commuting and trying to focus on music, there was little time left to play.
“I found some happiness, a different style, through Jazz. I think one of the things that really started to wear on me was the big city life. You can’t really get out in the forest, it’s congested. There are so many people, so many cars. That really started to dwell on me. I was trying to get into the music career and having all these side jobs in retail and stuff. Ultimately it was a contributing factor to why I pulled the plug.”
After almost ten years in the big city, Matt decided he had had enough. A phone call with a friend that lived on the West Coast made him realize he needed a change and when she mentioned the small town of Revelstoke, his curiosity spiked. A quick search on Google told him everything he needed to know about this small mountain town blessed with some of the best powder skiing you can get! His decision was made, he would move to Revy.
“I think a lot of it was my circle of friends at that time were living a lifestyle I wasn’t interested in and a lot of the musician I knew that were professional, were still struggling, working their asses off to live their dream. I was thinking about committing to a promotion, that would have had me even more trapped. That’s when I decided to get out of there and come out here, because I didn’t want to be trapped. I wanted to take this chance before it was too late.”
Banking on his previous experience, he found work at Revelstoke’s local grocery store remotely and flew over for a long weekend to meet his new employers and find an apartment. He came back to Toronto to quit his job, pack his car and drive across the country to his new life. A life that ended up being so different, despite looking similar from the outside.
“When I was working full time at the grocery store in Revelstoke, it was a different life. You live in a small town in the mountains, you can get out for a world class mountain bike ride right after work. The winters are obviously incredible. I lined up a lot of closing shifts at the store to be able to ski in the morning. I had some of the best ski mornings ever. Then I would go to work and have the best fucking grin on my face all day long, talking to all the people in town about how amazing that ski day was. It’s a different focus.”
He could have kept going like this for a long time but for some reason, he wanted more. Matt moved to Revelstoke for the skiing, but he stayed for the biking. The riding community reignited his passion for the sport. He kept exploring the area and finding more gems in terms of trails and people. It inspired him to try and make a living out of it.
“There was a lot of young people that I was looking up to in this town that were doing these cool things, whether it’s starting their own business or doing non-profit and volunteer work. People were just getting out there and doing amazing things. As I immersed myself in the community, I saw this opportunity for a bike business here. It was nothing new, people had been doing this style of business around the world in bike communities and it seemed to be working so I thought I’d take the chance. It was the next step.”
With his partner, they decided to take a leap of faith and they started Wandering Wheels, a mountain bike guiding and touring business. Matt could now do what he loved the most and show people what makes Revelstoke so amazing to him.
“My passion is still as high, if not more 7 years later. It’s all I do, It’s all I think about. I wake up in the morning and I either think about riding my bike for fun or developing my business, promoting mountain biking, education and traveling. Meeting and getting to ride with people from all over the world is definitely the best part of my job. When I see them glowing and smiling from ear to ear. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hear the comment “The best ride ever, best ride of my life, best day ever!” That’s really rewarding for me. I’ve taken what I wanted to do and what were the best rides of my life and made it accessible for other people that might not otherwise be able to get that. Sharing that experience with them is the best thing ever.”
Matt made sure his life would revolve around “The best thing ever!” Isn’t that a good idea? And although he spent more than 100 days riding last summer, he still treated us with the greatest things a mountain biker can hear. “Want to ride?” That’s what a passion is made of and if you can find the thing that drives you, you need to treasure it and make sure it’s still part of your life. Matt almost lost that, but managed to get out before getting trapped and he’s got one piece of advice for you.
“Don’t waste time thinking about what you want to be doing, just do it. Follow your dreams. Don’t let the what ifs and the chances stop you from at least trying. There are a lot of people working the 40+ hours grind and they would much rather do something else and the only thing stoping them is themselves.”