This story first appeared in print in the Summer 2020 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Read the e-edition here:
This article appeared in our Summer 2020 Revelstoke Recovers issue as part of a series exploring the path forward for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pretty much every day, you can find Chris Miller riding around town. Whether he’s cruising across the flats on his fat bike in winter, up Mont Revelstoke on his road bike, or cruising for a coffee on his townie, he’s constantly pedalling forward. It’s a passion that’s been with him since he was a kid growing up in Smithers, B.C., where he raced BMX, and followed him to Revelstoke 20 years ago, where he was part of the group that pioneered downhill mountain biking on Boulder Mountain around the turn of the millennium.
A stroke in January 2014 forced him to find new ways to enjoy his passion. He now rides a variety of trikes to get around.
“The thing I missed the most is I lived for being at the top of the mountain before, but I don’t get there now,” he told me. “Sometimes it’s a bit hard, but I enjoy it from a different perspective. Winter on the flats, you’re in the middle of our beautiful valley, it’s stunning.”
His stroke impacted his vision, his speech, and his nervous system. He’s lost many of his fine motor skills and senses on the right side of his body. He says he feels pain, but doesn’t discern between hot and cold. Everything he used to do easily with his right hand, he had to re-learn with his left hand. For several weeks he couldn’t eat or drink and had to be fed through a hole into his stomach.
Fortunately, he was surrounded of people that stepped forward to help — karma returning from his outgoing, friendly, helpful nature. A trust was started to help him and his family while he recovered and went through months of physio. They also worked together to buy him a trike with fat tires, the perfect tool for him to get around Revelstoke year-round. He’s since added a pedal-assisted road trike and a townie to his stable of bikes.
Cycling has become a metaphor for his recovery.
“There’s constant movement and stimulation,” he said. “You’re pedalling and moving forward. To me, it’s the next chapter.”
Miller used to get his thrills skidding down Boulder; he helped build the trail Redneck’s Revenge, one of the hardest in the network. Now he finds them in different ways, like simply watching the flowers on his way up Mount Revelstoke, or enjoying the beauty of the valley from the middle of The Flats.
“My stroke left me with a lot of discomfort but there’s a huge distraction in our natural beauty to keep my mind off that,” he said.
His ability to move forward following a life-changing incident is inspiring. He moved to Revelstoke to work as an electrician, but in recent years has worked at the Revelstoke Visitor Centre, greeting tourists to town. It’s a great position for someone as social as he is, and one that he loves. He has a nine-year-old daughter, Regan, who’s taken after his love of mountain biking.
“I wouldn’t be here if I thought, ‘Poor me, I can’t do this,’” he said. “There’s so much I can do. The more you do, the more opportunities you’re given to do other things.”
One of his inspirations is a friend who has “harder” tattooed on their hand. When Miller asked what it significant, the friend replied it was a constant reminder that both life can be harder, and to work harder. “I remember that. You always have that little bit more in you that you can push just a little bit harder,” Miller said. “I think if you stay at a certain level and you’re really comfortable at that level, you’re never going to get better. If you go just a little bit further, you get better.”