"It's going to be extremely difficult," Greg Van Tighem said while nodding and staring at the table.
Earlier this year Jasper’s fire chief raised eyebrows—and more than $93,000—when he cycled the length of Highway 93 in support of Multiple Sclerosis research.
Now, he is planning another charity ride, but this time he’s upped the ante.
Van Tighem has pledged to ride the nearly 3,000-kilometre length of the Yellowhead Highway, starting in Haida Gwaii and ending in Winnipeg, once again to support the MS Society of Canada.
But this time he’s going to do it in March; on a fat bike.
Van Tighem’s assessment of the ride’s difficulty is spot on. A fat bike’s thick tires and unique frame are built for snow-covered trails, not 3,000 kilometre tours. He said altogether he expects the trip to take five weeks to complete.
Where Van Tighem was averaging about 160 kilometres a day on his road bike during his last trip, he will only be able to go about 80 kilometres a day on the fat bike.
Add to that the shorter days and colder temperatures, and Van Tighem is preparing for a trip twice as tough as his last.
“I’m going to have to go, basically from sun up to sun down,” he said.
While the additional effort required to simply move the fat bike is challenging enough, riding solo through cold winter temperatures will be mentally taxing as well.
But that’s what Van Tighem wants. He wants people to take notice when they hear about “this crazy guy in Canada riding a fat bike.”
He explained that while his last trip was successful, he doesn’t feel like he accomplished everything he set out to.
“The last time my goal was to raise $93,000 and to raise awareness. I beat the $93,000, but I don’t think I succeeded in raising awareness,” he said.
On this trip he’s going to push hard to engage a wider and more international audience. He’s keeping his fundraising goal the same, but he doesn’t want to put as much pressure on Jasperites to come through with the money.
“The community of Jasper has been so tremendous with this last project. If I lived anywhere else it never would have happened,” Van Tighem said, adding that this time around he wants to look abroad for support, and even try to secure some sponsors.
“By doing it in the winter, by doing it on a fat bike, by doing it solo; those are all things that make it more challenging, and I think those are the things that are going to make people pay attention,” he said.
“The ultimate goal is to raise some money, raise awareness and raise hope.”
Van Tighem’s good friend, Luigi Caputo, has suffered from MS for years. Van Tighem often points to him as one of his main sources of inspiration.
Caputo said he was surprised when Van Tighem told him about his plans, but he was also flattered to hear that he inspires his friend.
“I might be part of what motivates him, but he’s kind of my motivation to keep moving forward,” Caputo said, explaining that having a friend like Van Tighem working so hard to help find a cure for his disease gives him hope.
“There’s very few people I would say I want to have in my corner, but he is definitely one of them.”
Van Tighem plans on kicking off his ride Feb. 28. For more information and to follow his progress, visit endms93.com.