You may as well call him Superman when it comes to the world of stunt bike riding.
Ryan Leech, 31, a native of British Columbia, defied gravity inside the Cape Breton Highlands Academy in Belle Cote Thursday and if the oo’s and ah’s, screams and applause can be a measuring stick to the joy he brings, you might want to take in his only public performance this weekend to see what I mean.
Leech, a former Cirque du Soleil performer, is bringing his mountain bike and breathtaking act to Sydney—behind FrameWork Cycle and Fitness, located at 273 Townsend Street—this Saturday, May 22.
The free show behind the bike shop will start at 11am, and is just a brief stop before Leech continues his cross-Canada Trials of Life tour which is designed to inspire others to follow their dreams no matter the odds and obstacles they may find along the way.
The tour is named specifically after his unique sport—Trials Riding—a very specialized form of mountain biking where speed is definitely not a factor.
Instead, he uses his 26-inch Norco mountain bike in a very precise, deliberate, slow ride that’s more about balance and assessing risk before making giant leaps onto narrow, impossible surfaces like a swinging chain or the top of a picket fence.
As he performs, it’s clear he uses his sport to demonstrate, in more literal ways, how to avoid pitfalls or obstacles, and even to use them to your advantage to reach new heights.
On Thursday, he decided to pop a wheelie and jump over four adults who agreed to lie on the floor. He also propelled himself over a meter high into the air from a stopped position standing on his pedals, and slowly rode along a rounded steel beam that was smaller than the width of his tire.
Jacob Stepaniak, a Grade 12 student watching the first Cape Breton show at school Thursday, and several of his friends who are part of a new bicycle program there, seemed overwhelmed to meet such a world-class superstar.
“We’re so glad you’re here,” he said with a big smile. “It’s an honour, a real honour.”
Josh Murphy, another student who rides his Norco-made mountain bike in the Northeast Margaree mountains, said he bought his bike because his “role model” Leech rode one.
“It’s a really good bike, tough bike…but I tried what he does and I can’t do it,” Murphy said. “I think I’ll stick to going down hills instead, racing is my thing…but I’m going Saturday, too, to see him in Sydney at Framework’s. When someone like this comes around, you just can’t miss it.”
This is the first time Leech has included Cape Breton in his speaking tours of North America. The film producer has made several teaching videos and can easily be viewed on You Tube by punching in his name. He has also performed on several television shows.
“I worked so hard to get where I am as a pro mountain bike rider…I’m in a real fortunate position,” Leech said Thursday. “I love riding… I love all the business stuff, all the bookings and behind the scenes stuff that goes with the shows.”
“Mark Twain once said ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’…interesting words. True.”
His motto is “practice, patience and persistence,” and it’s obvious he has put those words to good use.
“I feel really grateful,” he told WGO before leaving for Sydney. “I’m fortunate to get a chance to do this…I have gotten hurt.” Leech has been injured doing what he does, but he says he’s learned to do it safely. “What I do can be dangerous but there is a way to do these extreme sports in a safe way.”
Neil MacDonald, the school’s vice-principal, seemed as happy as the hundreds of kids who left smiling and wanting autographs.
“You’re an amazing man,” he said to Leech. “There’s no other way to put it.”