Recovery Ride

Cross Canada cyclist Kyle Williams stares down addiction through the power of fitness

Recovery Ride
Photo: Adam Deunk

Kyle Williams went from spinning out of control to cycling across the country. Struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, the 27-year-old Calgarian made fitness his salvation on the road to recovery.

A long bender put a broke and destitute Williams in hospital in April 2016. It was the final straw before he turned to Fresh Start Recovery Centre for help. Workouts, runs and long rides — including a 650K journey from Penticton, B.C. to Calgary that summer — were the therapies that kept him sober.

“Once I finished that ride, I knew I wanted to do something bigger,” says Williams who was looking for a way to pay forward his good fortune. “After talking to friends, figuring out what a cross-Canada ride might look like, it started to take shape and become real.”

That ride was the inspiration behind Changing Gears, a movement Williams started in partnership with Fresh Start to inspire those living in recovery to incorporate fitness into their lives. The coast-to-coast ride was his next mountain to climb.

Williams set out from St. John’s, N.L. on June 1, and arrived in Victoria, B.C., on July 29, cycling more than 8,000 kilometres. He averaged 160K a day and on his longest day logged 356K. Williams lived off instant oats, protein shakes and complimentary hotel breakfasts. But most importantly, he stopped and shared his story at 11 treatment centres along the way.

“Hearing people say I’m making a difference and the story is inspiring and that people are much more driven to try out fitness because they see how much better off they can be has meant so much to me,” he says. “I didn’t realize how gratifying that would be.”

Williams’ dive into alcohol and drugs began when he was 14 years old and continued unabated for years. Now sober for more than 18 months, he is grateful for a supportive fitness community in Calgary and is a spin instructor.

Riding solo for 8,000K leaves a lot of time to get lost in your thoughts and Williams says the final pedal strokes were anticlimactic upon arriving in Victoria. “There was no line of people, no finish banner, but by the time I was done, it made me realize I had spanned the country on bike and met amazing people.”

Recovery Ride