This Man is Cycling from New Brunswick to BC to Raise Awareness for Mental Health
A post appeared on the Northern Ontario subreddit. It read: “Fat and out of shape, I'm biking through Ontario on my way to BC. Wave, honk, say hi!”
The author was Chris Aubichon, a 44-year-old Indigenous man who until recently hadn’t touched a bike in 30 years. On May 11th, 2023, however, he left his home in New Brunswick to cycle across Canada. As he biked, sometimes more than 100 km a day, he posted about his progress online—Reels, Reddit, and TikTok. And gradually, as he made his way through Quebec and into Ontario, he gained an enthusiastic following for his raw, honest, and often touching videos about life on the road.
“Biking saved my life, I hope it saves yours too,” reads one anonymous comment. “Chi-miigwetch brother, you are an inspiration to anyone looking for a better future,” reads another.
We chatted with Aubichon to find out more about his mental health advocacy and what inspired him to begin this unlikely journey.
An Adventure Inspired by the Past, Present, and a Desire to Change the Future
Born on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, “I was raised a ward of the court,” Aubichon explains. Descended from a residential school survivor, he says he is “directly a result of the failed children and family systems, three generations deep.” At the age of 18, he was left to fend for himself. “BC at that time just kicked ya to the street,” he says. He never lost sight of his desire to get a higher education, however. And with new policies in place that extend support to people after they “age out,” he is now eligible for school funding. This gave Aubichon, working in New Brunswick and going through some personal upheaval, an idea.
“I've wanted to go to school for years, I want success. But you know how it is, kids, work, etc. and the years fly by. So very recently I had a really hard break up, my job was a dead end despite being really good at what I did and so I said screw it, I'm going to go to BC and go to school.”
And that would have been the end of the story, had it not been for a key decision by Aubichon: A desire to do something different. Something a little bit out there. Something that might just change the course of his life, for good.
“I got to thinking, I could fly out there and be there in 12 hours. If I did, I would be the exact same man who left. Or, I could do something crazy. Ride my bike across Canada.”
“The man who can do that,” he says, “can do school. The man who can do that, can defeat the darkness and be a better man.”
And so his trip began.
The Journey So Far
“The biggest highlight so far has absolutely been the people,” he says. “The generosity, kindness, from complete strangers I've talked to on a whim has been pretty amazing.”
Aubichon’s adventures and his optimism have clearly touched a nerve with the Canadian public and beyond—the comments on his posts are full of encouragement, awe, and lots of advice from fellow cyclers and locals along his route.
“Every single message I get is touching, people either pouring their hearts out to me or supporting me.”
"I feel like we're building a community here," he says. "We're having an open, honest sometimes emotional conversation about mental health and wards of the court and it's a productive supportive conversation, which is the first step in healing and in change."
The journey has been healing personally, too. “I was in a really dark place when I left and I still have dark moments, but the absolute best thing I've ever done for my mental health was this.”
"Without seeing the beauty of the land, interacting with the beauty of people, I don't know where I would be.”
Raising Awareness About Mental Health
“At the end of the day I'm doing this for two reasons,” Aubichon says. “To bring awareness to wards being forgotten and cast aside. We need help. We need funding for more than just school.” The second reason is mental health awareness. “Specifically depression,” he says.
What is it that he wished people knew about mental health?
“That 82% of all kids in care are diagnosed with some form of special needs,” he replies. “That the weight of depression is crippling and can slowly destroy the potential of that person if left untreated.”
He also speaks of the barriers to getting good or timely treatment: After seeking help himself, he waited six years before a doctor was available. “Because I wasn't physically hurting myself or anyone else I was low priority,” he says. “But depression has consumed me and wasted decades of my life. I would want people to know that wards need help—well past their age out dates.”
Honesty, accountability, and envisioning a path to success has been key to his experience with depression, he says. And while he acknowledges a cross-country road trip isn’t possible for everyone,
“The support people can and will give you, the incremental improvements, will become that snowball of progression. Getting bigger and bigger. You just have to get off that couch. Start now. Today.”
Posting on social media about his journey, by the way, is a result of encouragement from his sister, Jenn. “She told me then I had to share this,” he says. “I didn't want to. It was embarrassing and frankly, I've had a deep mistrust of people for years.”
But, he says, he did as she asked. “It's certainly worked out so far.”
So What Does One Take on a Cycling Trip Across Canada? Chris Gave Us the Rundown.
Noting he had a tight budget, his Sirrus X mountain bike is “as low-end as a bike can get.”
“It's really not a bike you should be traveling across the country in, to be honest,” he says. “The problem with cheap in my case is that a cheaper bike is always heavier, they break down faster which is what I'm experiencing frequently.”
Aside from the bike he has some waterproof panniers for the back of his ride, plus smaller ones for the front (thanks to a donation), along with a handlebar bag, two water bottles, a lock, and frame mounted pump.
The poles on his ultra-light, single-person tent broke during his trip, so he’s purchased a bigger, heavier one from Canadian Tire. “The real issue, however, is because I ‘stealth’ camp, the bigger the tent the harder it is to find a place to sleep,” he says. He’s on his second sleeping mat, but the three-season sleeping bag has held up: “It's a Hotcore R-200 bag and it's perfect.” In the panniers, he carries tools, emergency items, toiletries, electronics, a rapid boil (a thermos contraption that boils water in seconds) and fuel, clothing, and bags of dehydrated food.
Follow Chris on His Journey West
At time of writing, Aubichon has left Sudbury and is on the way to Sault Ste. Marie. His plan is to take Highway 17 around the top of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, before heading further west. If you see him, say hello.
“Getting outside in the vastness of this country, meeting the people along the way—it's truly opened my eyes to what this country can offer,” Aubichon concludes. “It’s our greatest strengths: our people and our vast beauty.”
Follow Chris on Instagram: @nothingfancy_justpedal