Matt Surch is an inspiration to all cyclists - and travelers too!
It was a pleasure to interview fellow blogger, cycling enthusiast, and community fundraiser Matt Surch to learn about his enthusiasm for sport, some of his favourite cycling trips, and his latest project: organizing the Champlain Folly’s fundraiser ride for the Ottawa Velodrome project.
An Early Passion for Cycling
Matt soon graduated from doing skids and wheelies to embracing the fantasy of BMX in the late 1980s. While he dreamed of being one of the endlessly cool pros in the movie RAD, Matt had to settle for the infinitely more affordable yet slightly less cool Sears “Free Spirit”. The product of a year’s worth of flyer route money (and an angel donation from key investors, Mom and Dad), the Free Spirit might have lacked a certain, um, robustness, but made up for it in other ways. Its dependable ability to fall to pieces helped Matt gain critical skills in building, repairing, and saving bikes.
Taking to the Trails
Matt’s 14 year old brother pulled his weight at the grocery store, while Matt himself was a flyer delivering, grass cutting, snow shoveling machine. (Note: My congratulations to their sister for managing to protect her own financial resources!)
When he finally upgraded to a bike that could actually handle the trails without falling apart, he wrangled up friends to province-jump to Quebec and attack the trails of Gatineau Park. The freedom, the exhilaration, the sheer fun of biking – REALLY biking – was a heady, intoxicating feeling. 8 hour excursions, mechanical disasters, and the occasional crash didn’t deter the boys at all.
Discovering the Racing World
The varied terrain of Maui presented him and his steel all-road bike with some unique challenges that were unmatched after years of cycling in the desert, mountains, and everything in between.
Hooked on the experience, Matt became a regular participant in the Camp Fortune Sunset Series and left other sports behind in order to maintain his focus on cycling.
After years of cobbling his own bikes, Matt worked as a part time bike mechanic in high school and university and was able to help fund his education.
Childhood Obsession Becomes Adult Passion
The 10,000ft volcanic peak climb, surrounded by ancient rocks, rare plants, a curious nene here and there, capped with incredible ocean views.
Deerfield is home to family run farms, artisanal foods and crafts, and is rich in history –especially the race route, which includes some of the oldest carriage roads in the United States.
The success and excitement of “Ride of the Damned” motivated Matt to be part of something even bigger and led him to collaborate with others to develop a fantastic fundraising event for the Ottawa Velodrome project. Pouring over maps with Ian Austen, a bike racer and race organizer with decades of experience, they came up with a unique and compelling route, eventually settling on one that headed West of Arnprior, taking in some of the Opeongo line. Matt was captivated when Ian told him about the area’s spicy history of draft dodgers and ghost towns, but he really knew they had hit upon something special when Ian started talking about the lost astrolabe of Samuel de Champlain.
400 Years of Lost and Found
Along the way he lost his precious astrolabe, a key piece of navigational equipment, which turned up 254 years later near Cobden, Ontario. The combination of Champlain’s legacy, his alleged folly at seeking a route to China, the proximity to Ottawa, and the mesmerizing tale of the lost astrolabe made for a perfect combination to launch Champlain’s Folly as a premier cycling event and fundraiser.
Where Cycling and History Buffs Meet
A Huge Effort, a Great Cause
While most people have only seen a velodrome while watching the Olympics, the training centers aren’t just for the elite. It’s a place for cyclists at all levels keep fit in the winter and to learn from each other and hone their skills. Children, community groups, and cyclists with physical disabilities can all benefit from having an indoor facility for fitness and fun. A velodrome also offers an opportunity for runners, cross country skiers, speed skaters, and hockey players to cross train.
Building a Velodrome, Building a Community
How You Can Learn More
Matt Surch's Bio
In recent years, Matt developed a love for epicmerinowool dirt road riding, and has been leading annual pilgrimages to the US for the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee since 2009. Matt is Tall Tree Cycles’ event coordinator, team captain, ‘editor-at-large,’ member of the Ottawa Velodrome Project’s board of directors, and Champlain’s Folly Cyclosportif’s management team.