Gen Gagnon - Mountain Biker

Jul 15, 2015
by John Rathwell  
Not only is Gen Gagnon a passionate mountain biker, she is also a strong and compassionate person, but following her mother’s tragic suicide two years ago she still struggles to come to terms with who she is and what the future holds but one thing is certain, her bike is her outlet.

Gen Gagnon poses for a post ride portrait at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

For as long as she remembers, Gen has always been adventurous. She was about 14 when she got her first mountain bike, a bike that she still finds hard to part with 26 years later. That is probably why she converted it into a winter beater. Back then though, she was riding it to the skate park where her friends spent more time riding it than she did. She spent a lot of time out with her friends, just hanging out, having a good time, trying to figure out who she was just like any teenager. It was also an escape, being anywhere but home was key. “It wasn’t that happy of a home, but I was a happy person, so I got out.” Home was stressful and negative, but skateboarding was exciting and exhilarating. When you are 14 and want to get away, the only place you can go is outside.

Shortly after high school Gen’s passion for the outdoors and nature grew when she started white water rafting and kayaking. Working on the Rivière Rouge in Québec allowed her to develop a connection with nature and to feel the adrenaline rush of pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. To this day, that river is still one of her favourite places on Earth. She also had the chance to meet many inspiring people that helped shape her and her perspective of life. That period had a big influence on her life and who she is now and certainly helped her deal with her mother’s suicide with strength and courage. Working in that environment also gave her the freedom she needed from her family and the excitement to live life to the fullest.

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

Her adventurous ways had her hitch-hiking across Europe, Mexico, and Central America before settling down for a few seasons in Fernie, British Colombia. Her winters were full of snowboarding but she still had to find something to fill her summer days! Finally, friends took her mountain biking. That was it, the next day she bought her first proper mountain bike and hasn’t looked back. After three summers of mountain biking in the amazing Elk Valley it was time to go back home to Ottawa. Although family is what sort of drove her away in the first place it also pulled her back. “As we age we realize what is important and being there for our parents was becoming more of a priority for me”.

It was still a difficult and strained relationship, especially with her mother, but Gen was shaping her life the way she wanted it. Working in hospitality and tourism does not allow for weekends or vacations. She went back to school and secured a career in administration that finally allowed her to pursue goals and plan ahead with financial stability. “Younger, there was no way I would have thought I’d be working a desk job, but work doesn’t define me. I work to live, I don’t live to work. It might sound cliché but that’s what it is.” From 2004 until 2011 she raced downhill mountain bikes with full abandon. Her life was dedicated to racing and along the way she picked up 4 consecutive Quebec provincial championships.

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

Working full time, training every day and competing, started to take its toll as one cannot keep such a pace, neither financially nor physically. Now she just rides to ride, because she loves riding. What keeps her motivated? “It’s that feeling, the balance, the zone, the moment when your heartbeat and pedal strokes are synced”. You just have to see Gen on a bike to know how happy it makes her. Whether it be the most intense ride or a simple ride at her local trails, the smile she carries along is magically contagious. Still, Gen remembers her favourite moments riding from races. “When you give that extra push, when you give it your all and you know that it was that extra pedal stroke that helped you win, it’s the best feeling.

Unfortunately, life is not always a flowy singletrack. Around the turns there are sometimes unexpected drops. Gen’s was brutal. Easter 2013 will be forever remembered as the time her mother took her own life. All she recalls from the weeks after the suicide was biking and starting her vegetable garden. And crying, lots of crying. “The guilt associated with continuing your journey when your parent has ended theirs is tremendous. I remember riding by myself and trying to explain to my Mom’s spirit how amazing riding made me feel. It was like, ‘look Mom, now do you get it!?”

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

There was Gen before her Mom’s suicide and there is Gen now. “I want people to realize how hard suicide is on the survivors, how traumatizing it is.” Getting out and enjoying life is a big part of her therapy. Whatever the sport or activity, Gen needs to be outside and on the move, otherwise she feels depressed and gets down. It’s always been that way. It is part of her balance.

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

These days she’s doing much better. She tries to grow from the events life threw at her. “It made me a more patient and compassionate person. I realize to what extent people all around us can be wounded. I am also trying to be more patient with myself.” Being more patient with herself is how she manages to go through the down times. Luckily for her, she knows how to live a balanced life, how to get to that happy place. There are the hard days for sure, but she has surrounded herself with friends, family, an amazing partner and her bike. Gen has all she needs, you just have to see her ride to know she has got it figured out.

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

Special thanks to Camp Fortune for supporting Gen’s story and making it possible.

Want to see more photos? Head to SearchingForSero.com

Gen Gagnon rides at Camp Fortune. Read Gen s story and see more photos at www.searchingforsero.com

MENTIONS: @JohnRathwell


  • + 12
 I am really glad everyone is enjoying Gen's story. We will be doing more features like that as we travel around North America for the next 2 years in our 1991 VW Westfalia. Give us on follow on Instragram (@SearchingForSero), Snapchat (@Searching4Sero) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/SearchingForSero. If you want to tell us about you story connect with us using the hashtag #MySeroSearch!

John Rathwell
  • - 3
 Which reminds me, I still need to replace the brake line on my 87 westy.
  • + 8
 I wish her the best. It must be a very hard thing to deal with. I am currently supporting my mom through cancer treatment - of which I know there will be no miraculous recovery. I find riding to be one of the most consistently effective methods of therapy. For me nothing keeps me in the moment more than being on a bike.
  • + 6
 Keep riding Gen, there's nothing like the surge of self-induced dopamine to cure all. Get back to Fernie whenever you can, it's a beautiful town.

I lost my only sibling, a younger brother, to suicide when he was 33yrs old. That horrible day was 13yrs ago and I can say already having had cycling, road and mountain, (plus skiing of all types) as my foundation was and continues to be integral to moving on. Make the effort to book off time, daily and outdoors, with your bike/skis/running shoes/whatever. It's not being selfish, it's the best thing you can do for your long-term health.

Last week my girlfriend, who never met him, pointed out a phrase which so succinctly sums up the after-effects of suicide. "Suicide only kills the victim once, it kills the family and friends a million times over."

OK, enough desk time, I'm going for a ride.
  • + 3
 this is a remarlable women and in the winter her face lights up the local slopes, wheather it is -25 or puking snow Gen is on it all day and finding the stoke in all the nooks and crannies!!!! Love you Gen. and ill see you on the weekend!!!!!!
  • + 4
 An inspiring story, bikes can be a lot more to people than just Stoke, High Fives and Race Results. Thanks to Gen for sharing!
  • + 2
 "a lot more than just stoke"

I agree
  • + 2
 She knows it but .... Your one of the best Gen! I'm sorry to hear of the tragedy this way, but you have always been in my mind as one of the most respectful cyclists in O-town! Great read John.
  • + 4
 Great to see how the bike can help one heal.
  • + 5
 Moving article Gen...
  • - 7
flag deeeight (Jul 15, 2015 at 18:44) (Below Threshold)
 The article was by John Rathwell, the subject was Gen.
  • + 2
 Great story Gen ..I miss the days when we used to ride in Fernie
  • + 2
 Sorry about your Mom Jen.
  • + 3
 Merci Geneviève.
  • + 1
 They don't just call you "Genny Winner" because your last name is Gagnon.
  • + 2
 Keep shreddin Gen!

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