Biking Whitehorse to Haines Junction

Welcome to the first of four articles on beginner bike touring around the Yukon. I’ll share a rundown of trips and some tips, as well as the official judgment from my quads, on which hills are the absolute worst.

I’m a musician, not an athlete. “Built for pleasure, not speed,” I like to say. I love biking, traveling light, and camping out in new places though. I’m training for my next big bike tour. If I can do it, you can do it.

First off, Google Maps has a bike option. Use it to scope out the terrain of potential rides. Strava and Mapmyride are popular cycling trackers. Your smart-phone most likely has a built-in fitness app. Get familiar with it before your trip. I didn’t, and had to keep starting new ride logs and totaling kilometres in my head while a barking robot voice told me I “may start biking now”.

Tracking speed and distance can help you plan your rides better.

Bike tour with a friend if you can. You can share the weight of bulkier gear like bear spray, tent, and stove, and hopefully at least one of you will remember to bring the all-important chocolate. I biked this trip with my friend Ali who signed up for half of the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay this summer.

Day 1: We left on a sunny Sunday afternoon from Porter Creek with a tailwind. FYI: the road to Haines Junction is not as fl at as you think. That said, my legs felt that the worst hill of the two-day ride was early on, at the Klondike Highway junction.

We made short stops to add or remove clothes, filled up on water at Stony Creek, and ate dinner at the Kusawa rest area after about three hours of biking. We rested our sore bums for an hour, then hopped back on our bikes and rode a few kilometres past the Mendenhall River, which is about halfway to Haines Junction.

It really looked like rain ahead, so we set up the tent in a clearing, well off the highway. Day one was complete and we were not exhausted. Halfway in 5 hours. Success!

Day 2: The hope of being in Haines Junction for lunch was dashed when we didn’t actually break camp until 11 a.m. The sunny day turned cold on and off, and I had to bust out my gloves. Plan for all weather.

The second day involved a lot more gradual uphill cycling, and the views of the mountains were amazing. I’d say eat lunch at Otter Falls, just maybe not the burger and the fries — because of the hill right after crossing the Aishihik River.

The tailwind from yesterday had sadly switched to a headwind. I kept trying to coast downhill, because I felt entitled to. But no, I was pedaling downhill, crouching down, all the way to town. In Haines Junction, I rode straight to the Kluane Park Inn for a victory beer. 

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