Flying down a narrow trail with twists, turns, jagged rocks and protruding tree roots, I couldn’t help but laugh in the face of the danger. As I made it to the bottom of the hill, I lowered my gear, and began pedalling uphill, distracting myself with memories of how I managed to find myself Mountain Biking in the Yukon.
I was picked up by a shuttle bus from Whitehorse, a small city of approximately 30,000 – home to the S.S Klondike and what locals like to call “the colourful 5%” – a cute name for the quirky individuals you’ll find in the North. Our group was driven 20 minutes out of town, along gravel roads lined with lush northern trees and pull up to a massive black trailer being unloaded with mountain bikes.
My group anxiously barrage our Mountain Bike Guides – Marsha, Sylvain, and Kate – with questions. “Will we see bears?” – “How hard is the terrain?” – “I’m new to this, will I survive?” – they politely smile and ensure we’ll all be safe, all have fun, and see some incredible sights along the Yukon River. Marsha concluded it all with, “As for the bears, the Yukon’s big, they have better places to hang than around us.” We were then given safety waivers to sign – just part of the process for being able to do an adventure tour worth.
Fit for Comfort & Safety
Our group is a mix of those who’ve never seen a trail in their life, to those who casually partake in Mountain Biking whenever they get the chance. Experience level aside, everyone is getting along fine and eager for the ride. After being fitted with some premium mountain bikes by Sylvain and observing Kate – Mountain Bike Guide/Instructor – perform her magic (she appears to be able to accurately guess head circumference and fit helmets in one go), we go through a brief but thorough safety overview. Once everyone is feeling comfortable with their new rides, we start along the single track.
Easy Does It…
The first ten minutes we take it slow – feeling out the mountain bikes and acclimatizing to the hyper-sensitive disk brakes. I’ve flipped my personal mountain bike twice with the same setup (once in the middle of traffic, another time on a trail, graceful…I know), so I was glad to see our guides ensure everyone felt confident, including clumsy ol’ me.
Pro-tip (Care of Kate)
Keep only 1 finger (two at most!) on the front & rear brake to ensure you don’t hammer on them too hard, resulting in a painful face-plant. Disk brakes are awesome – but particular.
The simple single track track gradually builds in intensity. Brief inclines keep our glutes hard at work, while fast and bumpy downhill sections give us time rest our bodies, and increase our adrenaline. We dodge roots, jump fallen flora, and bounce gracefully over stoney outcrops. Twisting, crouching, bracing then stretching as we weave through some of the Yukon’s best mountain biking trails.
A Stop at Miles Canyon
We rested at Miles Canyon, a small fjord surrounded by trees, and crossed by a suspension bridge. In the heat of the summer, locals have been known to jump the bridge and cool off in the frigid northern waters. A photo op ensues and we quickly discover who’s the “photo traveller” and who’s the “moment traveller”. We rehydrate, saddle up and push on.
Our guides lead us along the Yukon River, gradually pushing our group towards harder, and more exciting terrain. The conversation with the trail picks up – “Ahwwoooooooo” – followed by bursts of laughter. The screams of adrenaline (and fear) echoes through the valley and a smile refuses to leave my face.
Breathe In That Yukon Air
I breathe in the fresh mountain air and gulp down some water. Our guides ask if anyone is willing to do some tougher trails. I’m covered in sweat, slightly out of breathe, but happily raise my hand and am joined by five others. We separate from the herd with Sylvain and proceed to the more extreme side of Mountain Biking. Steep declines grace almost every inch of these trails. The front suspension absorbs the brunt of the force of jumping roots & rocks, my elbows and knees take the rest.
More speed, more adrenaline
Our final hour of the tour was spent chasing one another through advanced trails. Our nouveau group of six quickly became close friends, sharing water and “did you see that?!” tales from meters behind. We concluded the day back on a gravel clearing where the tailer was parked. High fives finished off the adventure and we agreed that some cold Yukon Brews were going to taste good tonight!
Special thanks to Tim Hogan for photographing the entire ride!