Thunder Bay Mountain Biking Club Sees New Growth

Story by Jack Barten, Photos by Jonathan Portinga

Last year, it was nearly impossible to get a mountain bike. Due to increased demand from pandemic hobbyists, bike shops and manufacturers couldn’t keep up. Thankfully however, some people managed to secure one, causing Thunder Bay’s mountain biking club Blacksheep to experience continual growth of 30% in the last year. 

Founded in 1998, Blacksheep has made waves the last few years in particular after securing a grant of $250,000 from the Community Economic Development Commission MAT Fund to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for the growing mountain biking trails around Centennial Park and Shuniah Mines. The organization uses a combination of volunteer work and contractors to construct new trails and access points for the park. 

One priority in particular for Blacksheep is the accessibility of the trail network. “With the new influx of bikers to the club and to the trails, it is important to add more green trails for beginners to navigate the park and also more access points so more people can easily find the trails and enjoy them,” says Jonathan Portinga, who runs communications at Blacksheep. Between new trails, improved accessibility to current trails, and groomed fat biking trails, Blacksheep is securing a better future for Thunder Bay’s bikers. 

However, while building trails is impressive in itself, Blacksheep also runs many programs and events for bikers to enjoy. In particular, Blacksheep is most known for their races. This year, Blacksheep hosted a race with 179 participants of all different ages and skill groups. At these races they occasionally have food and live music as entertainment for observers.

For those who aren’t the racing type, they have group rides, in which one can experience the trails with a seasoned rider guiding them through. And if those three things weren’t enough to consider supporting Blacksheep through membership, they also have tutorials where professional instructors help you to learn more about mountain biking through new skills and techniques on the trails. “We run many different programs with beginner group rides, women’s group rides, and skills trials specifically for kids,” Portinga says.

It seems hard to argue that the $65 annual price isn’t a good deal with all the things Blacksheep does for the mountain biking community. And with Portinga hinting at “talks of looking for a place to build another trail network,” it would seem the growth of the club will continue—even if some of us still can’t find a new mountain bike.

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