Bruce MacPherson feels he's most free while riding through the woods around Truro.
Often, he takes his wife Kim and sons Spencer and Dante with him on their many cycling holidays across Nova Scotia and North America, but it’s right here in Truro where the MacPhersons can tap into a thriving mountain biking scene.
“One of the things I love about cycling is no matter what’s going on during the day, or if you’ve had any trouble in the week, none of that matters,” said MacPherson. “It’s just the next eight feet in front of you.”
Originally from Prince Edward Island, MacPherson has settled in Valley, from where he bikes up to five times a week with his family through Victoria Park, down the Cobequid Trail or across Fitzpatrick Mountain.
Meantime, his wife Kim often cycles with a local ladies’ group and she is on the trails with family and friends two or three times per week.
The family have made plenty of like-minded friends in Truro, testament to a vibrant biking culture that includes an extensive trail network.
MacPherson said cyclists can track each other on a heat map phone app linked to GPS – and Truro always has people riding its trails.
It is in this setting their younger son, Spencer, 14, is taking his ambitions a step further; he started cycling as a sport and is now on Nova Scotia’s provincial development team.
One of his favourite hangouts is Victoria Park’s skills area located at its southern end, where bikers can practise their tricks and techniques.
Spencer said he enjoys “that type of freedom – I can just ride and do whatever I want.”
But he still has a ways to go, as his father has biked across Canada from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, surviving a brush with death on the highway near Hope, B.C.
Cycling downhill, MacPherson was doing 77 km/h when he came up against a semi-truck travelling at only 50 km/h, forcing him to suddenly veer away.
“My rear tire blew as I was going around that turn,” recalled MacPherson. “It was definitely an interesting time for the nerves.”
The MacPhersons are currently biking through the more sedate countryside of rural Vermont, exploring tracts of woodland hundreds of years old.
“We saw our first American wild turkey today in Vermont, with 12 babies,” said Kim on Thursday. “Mountain biking is good for clarity of the mind, when you’re alone in the woods you can hear birds in trees.”
New trails open across the province
Upon their return from the United States, the MacPherson family will find new trails open to them just down the road from their home in Valley.
As of last month, the province opened roughly three kilometres of trails previously off limits to cyclists in the Calvary River Wilderness Area near Kemptown.
Bruce MacPherson, a volunteer firefighter with the Valley-Kemptown District Fire Brigade, is already somewhat familiar with the Calvary River area as it is within his area of operations. Other stretches of trail are now open in the Polly Brook, Economy River and Wentworth Wilderness Areas, all of which are relatively close to Truro.
All told, the province has opened more than 100 km of previously off-limit trails in Nova Scotia’s backcountry to bikers, including ATV tracks, gravel routes and logging roads, among others.
MacPherson welcomed the province’s move, as a similar policy enacted by P.E.I. drew new visitors to old-growth Acadian forests.
“Those were some of the most actively-used systems, because they were not accessed before and they were relatively untouched,” said MacPherson of the trails in his native province.
Back in Truro, municipal officials are working with cycling groups to develop the Railyard Mountain Bike Park, which includes the skills area where Spencer MacPherson and his friends ride.
It is presently lacking basic infrastructure such as washrooms and bike racks.