British cyclist takes on 186-km Tuktoyaktuk ice road during 'end of era' season
Yellowknife company also organizing ice road tour for beginning of April
British adventurer Mark Hines says he was trying to think of "something bigger and better" when he came up with the idea to fat bike from Tuktoyaktuk to Vancouver.
"I'd always wanted to do a big bike journey and everything else had been on foot," he said. "So it made sense to do a top to bottom of Canada which is what I have time for and take in the ice road for the last year that we have it."
Last year Hines hiked the Yukon Quest Trail, from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, in winter — pulling a sled filled with supplies for the 1600 kilometres.
He's not a new visitor to Northern Canada; he's been coming to the North ever since travelling to Yukon eight years ago.
"I think it's the most beautiful place I've ever been," said Hines. "It's the landscapes and it's the people as well."
Hines begins his cycling odyssey in Tuktoyaktuk on Saturday. He's anticipating taking a day and a half to pedal the 187-kilometre winter road, which is in its last year. (The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk all-weather road is expected to have its grand opening in November.)
"It's always exciting just before the start…The bike is all set up and ready to go. The fear isn't there anymore. I just want to get going and start getting the miles start adding up."
And although Hines plans to get to Vancouver in two months, he says he's flexible and it's more about soaking in the experience.
"It's always about celebrating the places you are travelling through, enjoying being out here and just passing through the great outdoors."
Hines is currently finishing up his PhD in biomechanics, and says after that he hopes to move up to Yukon.
He's not the only cyclist attracted to the ice road in its last season before an all-weather road opens between Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik.
Vicky Gregoire Tremblay, Inuvik's economic development and tourism manager, says there has been an increase in the number of people choosing to travel the ice road by their own manpower instead of automobiles.
"It's really an end of the era, right? People are interested in having those unique experiences on the ice road."
David Stephens, who runs Borealis Bike Tours Unlimited in Yellowknife, is trying to organize a bike tour from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk at the end of the month.
"I think it's a very unique thing that's very Canadian," said Stephens. "To actually ride a bike on frozen water with a great degree of safety. It's kind of a bucket list thing to do now."
Stephens says the company announced the tour in the last couple of weeks and will need at least eight people to sign up to do it. It'll take place Mar. 31 to Apr. 5.
"We are actually staying in a hotel throughout the whole trip," explained Stephens. "It's not so much an expedition where people are camping in tents. It's actually what you might say a five-star-type trip."