Lifelong Winnipeg cyclist hoping to get more Indigenous youth on two wheels

Adrian Alphonso, a self-taught bike mechanic, wants to get more Indigenous youth in the sport and involved in cycling associations and repair groups.

Self-taught bike mechanic Adrian Alphonso wants to make the accessible sport more equitable

Adrian Alphonso is a self-taught bicycle mechanic who's hoping to pass those skills on to Indigenous youth. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Adrian Alphonso remembers falling in love with the first bike that his dad bought for him. That first bike has sparked a lifelong passion for cycling.

"A bicycle can be transportation and it can be recreation," he said.

"When you got a tool that combines both, maybe it can better a person's day for sure."

Alphonso is Anishinaabe/Guyanese, and grew up in Winnipeg's Riverview neighbourhood, near Churchill High School. It's a neighbourhood near the river, and near lots of off-road bike trails.

Those off-road trails eventually got him into competitive cycling.

"I entered my first mountain bike race just outside of Winnipeg and placed well. After that I was hooked," he said.

Learning bike repair

When he was around 12, he and his friends would go to garage sales to buy cheap used bikes. They would ride a bike for a week, destroy it on the trails, and hit more garage sales on the hunt for more bikes.

After a while, the broken bikes started to pile up.

"Eventually we started buying tools," he said.

"With those tools, we would fix those broken bikes, then we would purchase more tools."

He bought a bicycle mechanics book, which led to him opening up a small service shop in his community.

Now he's a full-time employee at Olympia Ski and Cycle and has been working in bicycle retail for a number of years. In his spare time, he coaches and volunteers within the cycling community, where he is working to create more cycling trails in Manitoba.

He's a four-seasons cyclist and cycle commuter who enjoys the exercise before and after work.

"After work it's a great way to decompress," he said.

Cycling equity

Alphonso is also hoping to get more Indigenous youth involved in the activity that he loves. He volunteered this past weekend at The WRENCH's West Broadway community bike bazaar.

The WRENCH (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub) is a non-profit, community bicycle repair and education centre. It trains volunteers to refurbish old bikes and gives bicycles to Indigenous and newcomer youth in the West Broadway neighbourhood.

"It's all about bringing equity to a sport that is very accessible," said Alphonso.

"Any cultural background, age, gender could ride a bicycle. Step two is ... finding where to service your bicycle. We need to make sure that community and retail bike shops, bicycle groups and associations are open to having Indigenous people a part of their programming."

About the Author

Lenard Monkman

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1