It’s time to get moving. A day off in Whitehorse has become two-and-a-half days of supermarkets and new shoes, some singletrack and a new SRAM PC-950 chain. You should have smelled my old shoes, which have almost a year of touring and commuting engrained within. If you recall, I posted an open invitation a few months ago to join me at any point along the summer, which I entitled Open source touring. I listed my approximate plans, asked for suggestions and ultimately, for riders to join me. Sean, an internet friend and real life acquaintance from the 2nd Cycles co-op in Tacoma, WA will be joining me in Missoula on July 22 for some Divide riding. He’s got close to two months time and has a highly capable bike with 2.3 Kenda K-Rads(!), so we’ll likely dig up some cool dirt riding along the Divide and then in Colorado, perhaps en route to Utah. Ever ready for adventure, Lael will be flying into Denver for my birthday in late August. The plan is to ride the Colorado Trail or assorted dirt routes to Utah– a trio above treeline. The catch: she’s got the Cannondale Hooligan, which might have to turn into a real mountain bike in Denver somehow. Likely, we’ll sell the Hooligan and source a capable used mountain bike. I’m still dreaming of getting her on a fatbike for the fall, but I’d have to build a lighter-weight version of the Pugsley she rode this winter. When the bike is essential transportation, you don’t complain about frame and rim weights, but since the snow has melted and such a bike is more of an overgrown XC mountain bike, it’s not easy to grab a fatbike over a more lightweight steed. Before you point fingers about being weight conscious, try commuting ten miles a day on Large Marge rims and fat tires. Lael did it at 7:30 AM every morning this winter, and never did it rain or shine. It was cold and dark every morning. She’s earned something that rides nice.
Google Maps tells me it’s 1800 miles to Missoula and I say I’ve got 22 days= 81.8 miles/day. Alright. I’ll be in Missoula soon enough. Reminds me a bit of what I was doing last year, riding to the start of the Divide from Maryland. I ride more to get to the Divide than I actually spend riding it. Somehow I’ve biked over 1500 miles and am still less than 800 miles from my starting point in Anchorage. Somehow, about half has been on dirt roads. It’s time to quit touring and start biking.
Leaving Dawson City at 8 PM about a week ago, I encountered a mass of smoke emanating from wildfires somewhere up north on the Dempster Highway. Surrealistic night rides are my favorite; riding down the middle of the lane on empty roads at 1 AM in midnight sun wildfire surrealism is even better.
Moving south, away from the fire. The sun, of course, is to the north at this time of night.
In Whitehorse, I met Tristan at the Icycle Sports bicycle shop. Nearly a small warehouse, the shop is well stocked and rents space to a coffee roaster that operates a small coffee bar. Bikes and espresso– just about perfect. Tristan will be in Banff around August 1 to ride the Divide, and beyond. He shared a sampling of local Whitehorse singletrack with me, including the famed Yukon River Trail on a sandy embankment above the river. The city has four full-time employees building and maintaining trails, and it shows. Each trailhead has a fully legible signboard with route descriptions, difficulty ratings and a map. Each trail junction features a micro map indicating the trail name and difficulty. These facilities seem obvious, although I’ve never seen anything quite as refined. Whitehorse has well over 300 km of signed and maintained singletrack, right out the backdoor. Other dirt rods and trails go further, especially with local knowledge. A borrowed full-suspension Marin smoothed out some of the more challenging downhill routes. None are pictured here; as you can imagine, I was heavily invested in gripping the handlebars and avoiding obstacles.
Thanks Tristan. For three consecutive years he has planned to ride the Divide, but three (annual) collarbone injuries have kept him grounded for the summer. Last year’s incident broke a steel Salsa El Mariachi frame. He’s currently riding a Niner SIR 9, a Reynolds 853 steel 29er, although he’s most often found atop a burly Cromag steel hardtail all-mountain bike. He’s a “seat down” kind of guy and pedaling the Niner all day on the Divide will take some practice, not that he doesn’t have the legs for it. If he can keep his wheels on the ground for a few more weeks, his Divide dreams will become a reality.
Finding a good campsite in Whitehorse isn’t hard either. Cross the river and head uphill on some singletrack for some great views and secluded spots; this one is just behind the hospital on the Hospital Ridge Trail.