Ride Report: The Great Canadian Adventure

I and Lenka decided to explore the far North and here is what we found. We started from Inuvik which is the most northern point you can bike from on “regular” road in Canada. Navigation from Inuvik is pretty straightforward: there is only one road – the 770 km long Dempster Highway heading south. Services are rare along the road (Tsiigehtchic-80km, Fort McPherson-120km and Eagle Plains-350km); and hence, we brought almost all the supplies from Edmonton. Also you should be prepared for the possibility of getting stuck in mud for a couple days. We estimate that we both of us carried over 20 kilos of gear on the bike (many thanks to Joe and Shari for lending their trailer and food dehydrator to us).

Jan pedaling his big rig on the Dempster Highway.

Biking the Dempster Highway was really hard work but who doesn’t need power training, eh? Our speed went rarely over 15 km/h. The weather didn’t make it easier for us either. We experienced almost all the elements: strong wind, heavy rain, extremely hot days (but it didn’t snow on us). Road conditions changed accordingly and there was a point where the mud was so bad that we thought we would have to stop and wait in the middle of nowhere until it dries out. Fortunately, everything started to improve once we reached the half point in Eagle Plains. On the 10th day we could even enjoy a 70 km long downhill enhanced by a strong tailwind and light bikes since all the food had been eaten. Strangely, we felt sad that it is done and there are only ordinary paved roads ahead of us. The Dempster Highway is definitely worth trying. And did I mention that the Dempster is the all-season road crossing the Arctic Circle?

The Dempster Highway (Jan for scale).

The traffic on the Dempster is very low and you can almost feel like the first explorers fighting their way through the wilderness. Also all drivers are very polite and slow down when they see you. Some even add a smile or a gesture of admiration. Little unpleasant is the road maintenance that is going on all summer long on the entire length of the road. As soon as the road dries out after the last rain and you are looking forward to getting rid of mud, a watering truck comes followed by a grader changing the surface of the road back into a muddy field. Good for cars, not so much for bikes.

After finishing the Dempster Highway we spent a couple of days in Dawson City trying to get some gold (no luck though). Then we headed 550 km southeast on the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse. That road is paved (or chipsealed as we learnt). It felt really easy after the gravel and muddy hell on the Dempster and our butts appreciated that too. In addition, there are places where you can buy food every 100 km. For those who love big portions (like me) we can recommend the Breaburn Lodge. Their baked goods are immense! If you think the High Level Dinner serves big cinnamon buns, they are 10 times bigger in Breaburn – no kidding. We arrived fresh to Whitehorse and before flying back to Edmonton we participated in a ten-miler organized by the Yukon Athletics. The race was really painful after two month of not running but we enjoyed the beautiful Yukon scenery and made the organizers happy that somebody came from Edmonton to take part in their race. Also, it was our last race in Canada. Results here.

Civilization is a “chipsealed” road surface.


One response to “Ride Report: The Great Canadian Adventure

  1. Hello, I am planing on riding on Dempster highway this August.
    can you guys let me know how much water (lakes/rivers) are around the road? Is much of it drinkable (filter + bacteria killing tablets)?
    let me know at iohan.gue@gmail.com

    thanks, and congratulations on your amazing journey on Dempster highway

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