Healthy Living in the North

Cycling in the north: a Warrior’s perspective

With the arrival of spring many northerners have geared up and hit the roads for this year’s bike season. What better time to reach out to cyclists across the north and get their take on biking in the region? I connected with Karin Piche, Founder of the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North and a Licensed Practical Nurse in Prince George, about cycling, her team, and why she loves biking.

When did you first get into biking?

I had ridden a bike as a kid but it wasn’t until August of 2012, two months after my dear friend Nola passed away from cancer, that I bought my first road bike. My plan was to start a local team in the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer; I’d had the idea for a while but the first step to forming a team was buying a bike and I knew nothing about bikes! Luckily I was able to find some help at a local bike shop and purchased my first bike for the Ride. This is now my sixth year riding!

Tell me a little bit about the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer.

The Ride is a two-day cycling journey through Canada’s Pacific region that takes place every summer. Each rider must raise a minimum of $2500 individually to participate in the event and all funds raised benefit the BC Cancer Foundation.

What made you keep getting on a bike?

My friend Nola. My first Ride to Conquer Cancer in June 2013 was to honour her but it was bittersweet; I got 33 other riders together to form a team that year and on day two of the event, on Nola’s actual birthday, a 16-year-old boy who was participating as a rider was tragically killed. It was traumatic for me and after going through that experience, I thought I was done with the Ride and cycling. The next year the boy’s mother rode and was a speaker at the 2014 Ride. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it. The other thing that keeps me going is the Ride family. Over the years, I’ve met many dear friends and mentors. At this time of year, I tend to get tired from all the planning of our annual fundraiser, the Free Wheelin’ Dinner and Dance. Friends and other team captains will reach out and ask how they can support me so that helps.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

I always enjoy the fresh air when I’m out biking. For me it’s therapeutic, and clears my head, and helps me connect with nature. Being under the sky with the earth under me – it helps me enjoy the little things. When I was 49 I decided to go back to school as a nurse. That summer, I graduated as an LPN at 50 and started recruiting a team for the 2013 Ride! The nice thing about having a team is that we train together so they force me to get out more. There’s days I don’t want to ride, yet I always feel good after I go. My team motivates me that way.

Woman standing in street holding helmet.

Karin holding her coveted golden helmet – a special gift for riders who have reached their 5th Ride milestone.

In your words, what are the health benefits?

I think getting outside and being active is some of the best medicine there is! For me though, it’s the giving back and making a difference that is most beneficial. In the beginning, I was doing it for Nola but now it’s so much more than that. I’ve been blown away by the ideas that the team has come up with for fundraising. They’ve shown me that there are endless ways. Since inception in the fall of 2012, the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North have raised over $740 thousand dollars for cancer research. I think we’re very close to bringing that total to a million dollars.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into cycling?

To anyone looking for a bike, I recommend you ask yourself what your biking needs are. Go to all the local bike shops in your community and get professional advice. Do some research and talk to people who have biked! The local bike shops in Prince George have been very supportive and I’ve definitely seen the cycling community grow since I started my team in 2013. There have been over 120 people become Wheelin’ Warriors over the years. Like me at the beginning, not many come in with a lot of biking experience.

Are there any local resources or routes you’d recommend?

Some of my favourite routes in Prince George include going out to Miworth, Blackburn (it’s so beautiful!), and out to Salmon Valley. In the north we’re very lucky to have rural riding opportunities. We don’t have as much traffic and pollution like the urban riders do. It’s definitely different.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Looking back, it blows my mind how far the team has come and all the good it’s done. To me, everyone on the team is a hero. No matter what their motivation is, they’re all exceptional. I don’t think of myself that way – I just want to inspire people and make a difference.

To learn more about the Ride or the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North, please visit:

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Four benefits of riding your bike now

Gloria cycling next to the Fraser River.

There are so many benefits to riding your bike, at any age! Why not use this year’s Bike to Work & School Week as a good time to start?!

This year’s Bike to Work & School Week runs from Monday, May 28 to Sunday, June 3. Think riding bikes is just for kids? Think again!! Riding bikes with friends may be one of your favourite childhood memories, but that “feeling of flying” doesn’t have to stop when you reach adulthood. In fact, the benefits of cycling at any age are so numerous, it really makes sense to continue this activity as much (and as late in life) as possible.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll experience by hopping on two wheels:

Health Benefits:

  • Increases your physical activity levels. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week to achieve health benefits. A bike ride or two can help make this number easy to reach and/or beat!
  • Lowers your risk of chronic disease by lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
  • Improves your focus and overall mental health.
  • Cycling is a low-impact way to get your heart pumping while taking it easy on your hips and knees – a great alternative to pounding the pavement on a run!
  • Lets you get a better rest! You sleep better when you’ve been active throughout the day.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Reduces pollution levels. Every time you choose to ride rather than drive, you are benefiting the environment and air quality. Don’t buy it? I believe the saying goes something like this: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”

Financial Benefits:

  • Getting around by bike is free! No fuel costs or parking fees.

Personal Benefits:

  • Saves you time!
    • In many cases, if you live within a reasonable distance from your destination, you will actually get there faster by bike than by vehicle.
    • No need to waste time circling in search of a parking spot!

Worried about safety? Research shows that safety increases as the number of people cycling increases!  Reasons for this include: more bikes mean fewer vehicles on the road, and drivers become more aware of the cyclists on the road simply because there are more of them! Are there safety risks to cycling? Yes, BUT the potential benefits outweigh the risks. To be better prepared to share the road, there are some great resources out there to help you brush up on your skills:

Start your cycling season off right by participating in Bike to Work & School Week May 28 to June 3, but don’t stop there! Use Bike to Work & School Week as your jumping off point and keep on riding throughout the summer to experience some (or all) of the benefits listed above. Registration is free, and if you log even one ride you’ll be entered to win the grand prize of a cycling trip for two in Portugal! You can join an existing team (I have one you can join! It’s called “Health’s Angels” and we happily accept new members OR challenges!), start your own team, or sign up as an individual.

If you have school-aged kids, register them for Bike to School Week, and check with the school to see if it is registered – get everyone on board! If your kids’ school sends us photos or stories about their Bike to School event (email: Healthy.Schools@northernhealth.ca), they could have the chance of having Spirit the Caribou visit their school during International Walk to School Month in October!

Let us know if you’ll be participating in Bike to Work & School Week this year; I hope to see you out there!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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An ode to helmet hair (and biking!)

Author wearing orange glasses in the shape of a windmill.

Did my Dutch heritage inspire my cycling? Absolutely! Bikes are everywhere in the Netherlands!

When I first received the invitation to join a Bike to Work Week team, I was visiting my family in the Netherlands. There were bikes all over the place – young people biking to school, professionals biking to their offices, families biking to the grocery store, seniors biking to community spaces, friends biking to their favourite restaurants, and thousands upon thousands of people biking to train stations. Inspired in part by all of these active commuters and my Dutch heritage, I decided to join a Bike to Work Week team.

Now, after a really fun and eye-opening week, I’m considering adding a new activity to my routine: biking to work!

I loved the chance to dip my toes into the water when it comes to biking to work. I think that I’m ready to take the plunge!

Map of bike route.

Don’t let distance keep you down! Drive part of the way to your work site and then find yourself a nice, manageable route to start and end your day.

Here’s what I learned this week:

  1. Biking to work is a great way to get my (minimum) 150 minutes of physical activity as per the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. My route took 10-15 minutes. Multiply that by 2 (it’s a return trip, after all!) and a week’s worth of bike trips brought me to 100-150 minutes of physical activity!
  2. Biking to work is quicker than I thought! Or maybe the issue is that driving isn’t quite as fast as I thought it was? I was surprised that I didn’t have to get up much earlier than usual (maybe 10 minutes to give myself a cushion) and didn’t get home noticeably later than driving days.
  3. Co-workers and others embrace (or don’t notice or remark on!) helmet hair!
  4. Hills can be tough, but people are very impressed when you tell them that your route includes a hill! Their oohs and aahs – along with my sense of achievement – more than make up for the sweaty brow at the top!
  5. Walking your bike up hills is allowed, of course!
  6. Don’t let distance keep you down! On some days, my commute is over an hour as I travel from Vanderhoof to Prince George. 100 km is admittedly a little far for a daily bike commute but I realized that just because I’m in my car, doesn’t mean I have to stay there! I threw my bike into the car, parked 5-10 km from the office, and got to enjoy a 15-minute bike ride to start and end my day! The same might apply for you! Do you live out of town? Drive in and bike the last few kilometres. Live on top of a hill? Drive to the bottom and start your bike ride from there!

So, what do you say? Will I see you on your bike this year?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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6 tips to stay safe while biking to work

Two cyclists with bikes and helmets in front of workplace.

Biking to work is a great way to be active every day and reach the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that adults need every week. Follow a few safety tips to ensure that your commute is both fun and safe! Are you biking to work this spring and summer?

It’s Bike to Work Week all over northern B.C. and I’ve had a great time logging my trips as part of a team of cycling commuters from Northern Health!

It’s also been an eye-opening experience to see how easy and accessible cycling to work can be! To think that I’m staying active, reducing my environmental footprint, and arriving at work and at home energized without significantly adding to my commuting time is amazing! I’m thinking that this may continue well beyond just this week!

To help me and my fellow riders stay safe this week and into the summer, I chatted with Shellie O’Brien, a regional injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health. Cycling is the leading cause of sports-related injury so to make sure that I can take part in this great activity as safely as possible, Shellie provided some great safety tips!

Why is safe cycling important?

When done safely, cycling is a great way to get active and decrease environmental emissions. Following safe cycling practices, such as wearing a helmet and having a properly adjusted bike, means you and your kids can be safe on the road.

What can drivers do to keep cyclists safe?

Drivers should actively watch for cyclists – including shoulder checking before turning right and watching for oncoming cyclists when making left turns. Remember to always scan for cyclists when you’re pulling onto a road, like from a driveway or parking lot.

When you’ve parked, remember that opening your door can be a hazard. Watch for cyclists before you or your passengers open a door.

Bike to Work Week has great tips for drivers.

How can cyclists like me stay safe?

  1. Protect your head – wear a helmet. A properly-fitted and correctly-worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 85%. When fitting a helmet, use the 2V1 rule: 2 fingers distance from helmet to brow, V-shape around both ears, and 1 finger between chin and strap.
  2. Maintain your bike. Ensure it is adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly. The beginning of the cycling season is a good time to tune up your bike.
  3. Know the rules of the road. Use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs. Always ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going and stay as far right as possible.
  4. Use designated areas for riding when available. If designated areas aren’t available, choose to ride on streets where the speed limit is lower and where traffic is less busy.
  5. Be seen and heard. Wear bright reflective clothing. Ride in well-lit areas and use bike reflectors and lights if you’re planning to ride in low light areas. Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing, if not, use your voice!
  6. Be a role model. Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. The best way to do this is to role model the behaviours.
Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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