A PURPOSE RIDDEN:
Q+A WITH RYAN CORREY
Interview by Billie Norman
Photos courtesy Ryan Correy
From cycling across Canada at the age of thirteen to starting up his own bikepacking business and writing a book, adventure cyclist Ryan Correy has done it all. In this interview, Billie Norman gets behind-the-scenes of Ryan’s book, A Purpose Ridden, and uncovers how he got into bikepacking, when his passion turned into purpose, and the troubles he had along the way.
Billie Norman/ What motivated you to write the book?
Ryan Correy/ The book has actually been in the works for around ten years. As my adventures became more complex I found myself speaking about them quite often. I became a sort of storyteller. And, over time, a story arc began to form, which paved the way to writing the book.
BN/ What was the turning point in your life where you decided to turn your passion into purpose?
RC/ The turning point occurred during my first solo bike tour from Calgary to Arizona when I surprised my then girlfriend after high school. It was the first time that I had to do everything on my own and fend for myself in the wilderness. The lightbulb moment was waking up near the Grand Canyon and seeing the sunrise with its amazing colours and incredible landscape. Nobody else was around. It was in that moment, with that feeling, that I decided to make bikepacking my path in life. I wasn’t sure what that meant and it took many years to figure it out, but I knew that it was what I was destined to do.
BN/ What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learnt through cycling/bikepacking?
RC/ My takeaway from bikepacking is realizing that a life worth living is one in pursuit of adventure and challenges, whether it be cycling or entrepreneurship. Ultimately, you find meaning when you have a strong desire to do the tough things and discover the beauty in them. Find that undiscovered country and make your own path.
Ryan and his dad riding down a volcano in Maui. Photo courtesy Ryan Correy.
BN/ Your father features quite prominently in the book. How did he feel about you publishing the book?
RC/ When I was writing the book, it was during a period when I didn’t have the best relationship with my father. I had to be quite transparent about what I was going to talk about. Where I am today didn’t just happen; there were a series of events that led me to want to be this person, and my father is the cornerstone of that part of the story. My father came to terms of how I was going to cover him as being a bit of a hardass. However, he didn’t come to terms with me writing about private family events, which I deemed necessary as they were part of the formative phase to my bikepacking life. I found a way to talk about them without actually talking about them. Whilst I was writing, my father didn’t talk to me for months on end. When the book came out, I gave my father the first copy. I didn’t know what he would do with it. A couple of weeks later, he came up to me and said, “Ryan… one day there are going to be some things we chat about more but I just wanted you to know it’s a really good book.” Having that validation was really important to me.
BN/ As we know from the book, nothing will stop you in your endeavours. So, where is the remotest place you would like to cycle?
RC/ With road cycling, to some extent, you’re kind of limited to asphalt. But once I got into mountain biking in 2009 this whole new world opened up to me that I never really realized – the backcountry. There’s a lot of undiscovered right around the corner. My focus right now is getting to know the Canadian Rockies region. And, to be honest, Canada is where I want to explore more. You can go a whole lifetime and not see everything in Canada. You don’t have to spend $2000 and fly halfway around the world. Adventure abounds right next door.
Photo Left: Riding into Monument Valley, Utah. Photo courtesy Ryan Correy.
BN/ Have you ever wondered what might have happened had you not taken on ‘Manhood Training’ when you were 13?
RC/ I would love to think that I would have still found this on my own, but I don’t think it would have happened without my father’s guidance. When you’re young you need the guidance of an adult to let you know that it’s okay to explore and have someone lead you onto that path. My father being a hardass has opened my eyes to the world and taking on challenges. So I think it comes down to leadership and parenting. I have many adult friends who fell into the conventional path, as they didn’t have parents doing stuff for them like my father did.
BN/ You’ve recently moved to the Canadian Rockies. Do you have anything interesting in the pipeline?
RC/ I am currently working on a guidebook to bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies, which has been a very different experience compared to writing my first book. For a guidebook, you must be an expert in the area you are talking about, and with bikepacking you cycle to many untravelled spots that aren’t even shown on Google Maps. It’s a lot of legwork, a lot of getting lost, and a lot of navigating your way out of it. I have also started up Bikepack Canada where we’re trying to organize the conversation that’s coming up among enthusiasts, event organizers and industry leaders. To try and bring together the local bikepacking community in the Rockies, we have created the Canmore Bikepack Summit in October. And I am also encouraging my wife, Sarah, to go on a solo bikepacking adventure and have that experience too.
Ryan at the halfway point in Colorado. Photo courtesy Ryan Correy.
BN/ Do you have any words of advice for those wanting to start bikepacking?
RC/ Reach out to me at Bikepack Canada. I love having conversations about gear, bikes, routes and events. It’s such a niche community right now that I want people to know that I am available to have that dialogue. Where to start… Don’t overthink your bike. If it’s got fat tires, then it’s rideable. All you really need is a backpack, pannier bags and a sense of adventure. The fun thing about bikepacking is that a lot of it is ‘do it yourself’. Find the gear that works for you, and there’s a lot of things that you can make on your own. You don’t have to go out and buy expensive gear.
BN/ Anything else you’d like to add?
RC/ Learn more about this off-road adventure cycling at the Canmore Bikepack Summit this October 21-23, 2016. There will be a variety of workshops, including bikepack hacks, tyke-packing, and the future of bikepacking, as well as group rides and guest riders.
Billie Norman fell in love with Canada at the age of seven and writing at the age of 21. After studying History & Politics at Loughborough University and enjoying a couple of winter seasons in the Rockies, it felt right to merge her two passions together. She started a travel guide website called Voyage Collective to inspire others to get out there and explore.