Saturday at noon was a hot, sunny day. The wind had a slight breeze, and after a long, cold winter, Yukoners were out of their houses, in droves, enjoying the day. At Chadburn Lake, my husband Ryan and I met Michelle Olesh, entrepreneur and business owner of Yukon Water Bikes.
Olesh is a born-and-raised Yukoner who always wanted to be an entrepreneur. “I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore,” Olesh laughed. “I came across these hydrofoil bikes out of New Zealand. Those looked really cool but didn’t look very easy, so I researched some other alternatives and came across these.”
She pointed to her six yellow-and-blue water bikes sitting in the water, ready to go. “I love being outside and going for swims,” she added. “If I can do that in-between people [renting these], that would be awesome.”
This is Yukon Water Bikes’ third year in operation, and during the pandemic, Olesh found Yukoners were keen to get out, but mostly on weekends. “This year is my make-it-or-break-it year. If I did keep going, I would have two or three pop-ups set up around Southern Lakes. [I want to] leave it to the kids, in a couple of years, and find something new to do.”
So what’s it like actually using these water bikes?
Ryan and I donned matching yellow-and-blue life jackets and got on the water bikes (they are very sturdy). Immediately, Ryan started racing … himself? “Come on!” he yelled. Let’s do a drag race. (My husband can get pretty competitive when he knows he’s going to win. I mean, he is six feet tall and much stronger than I am.)
Water bikes are easy to use, and pedalling can get you out pretty far onto the lake, pretty quickly. We lined up our water bikes and I asked, “So, where are we going to?” (I was wondering how we would measure “success.”) Ryan replied, “We just do a drag race and see who’s pulling away.” Sounded like an advantage for him but, sure, I conceded with those biased-based rules … Then he yelled “Go!”
We pedaled as hard as we could. But since there weren’t any gears, if we both moved our legs at the same pace, we stayed in line. Success—he didn’t beat me!
We headed to shore and the steering worked well at a faster speed, but slow-speed maneuvering required some finesse. It was like driving my husband’s truck (something that takes a three-point turn in my car is about a 99-point turn in his truck).
I took my pup, Phil, out with me. He’s my stand-up paddle (SUP) adventurer, and since my ill-fated camping weekend at Frenchman Lake, with our other pup, Charlie, who has distinctly shown his disinterest in being on the water by bailing from my SUP adventure.
Phil jumped onto the side of the water bike without hesitating and off we went for a little paddle (he loves it), and after a 20-kilometre land-based mountain bike, he was enjoying that I was doing all of the work.
People of all ages can ride water bikes, but depending on your height, they recommend that you be 4 foot 11 to 5 feet tall, to ride comfortably. It’s a great, fun and cheap way to get out and enjoy the beautiful lake and nature.
Look out for Yukon Water Bikes’ Father’s Day special, which is half off for dads. They will even look to have rod holders put in for fishing.
They are running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and once school is out, Thursdays to Mondays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As well, there are other fun additions to their services. They have two isle Megalodon multi-person inflatable stand-up paddle boards that are 15 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, which comfortably accommodate five adults.
Check out yukonwaterbikes.com or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/yukonwaterbikes.