Anyone who has driven the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway knows it’s not for the faint of heart. Former Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby once decided to accelerate funding for repairs to the road after a single trip on it.
So when four members of the Inuvik Cycling Club decided to make the journey one-way on their bikes, the made sure to prepare accordingly.
”Last year I did it solo in less than five hours,” said co-orgnaizer Chris Bruckner. “Probably going to take longer this time. We’ll anticipate more like seven or eight.
“Any time I’ve ever done a gravel ride, it’s so dynamic. Last year, I didn’t stop once, I had sandwiches in the saddle bag and a couple bottles of water.”
He, alongside fellow hard-core cyclists Mike Lee, Mike Bodnar and Jenna Wolki, took to the road to test their mettle for the Tuk Triple T club ride June 13. Following along with them in support vehicles were Meghan Wilson and Wanda McDonald and returning the tired athletes home was Lindsay McPherson.
This is the second marathon-trip for the Inuvik Cycling Club, which also debuted their new team uniform during the ride. Previously, a team of 10 cyclists had taken the trip to Aklavik by way of the ice road on April 18.
That ride was challenge in itself, but get from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk entirely on human power alone has its own share of logistical challenges.
“In a region like this, the weather can change drastically,” said Bruckner. “The Tuk-side is very soupy and sandy. I remember I was averaging something like 35 kilometres an hour until I got past the half-way point, then I encountered really soupy sand. It just sapped the energy out of my wheels and I was sliding all over the place.
“You never know what you’re going to get.”
Because the time it took to make the trip could change depending on wind, rain or sun, the cyclists met at Inuvik Town Hall around 8 a.m. and were on the road by 9.
This turned out to be a wise choice, as the team finally pulled into Tuktoyaktuk 12 hours and two minutes later, enduring light rain, strong headwinds and cooler than expected temperatures along the way.
Not just a display of raw athletic power and determination, the ride was also the debut of the Cycling Club’s team uniform, better known as a kit, which is decked with a host of symbolic imagery.
“Each feature represents the club to date in its evolution,” said Bruckner. “The Canadian Maple Leaf is found in numerous locations on the kit. It represents our national identity and denotes our affiliation with Cycling Canada. The red maple leaf on the front and back of the kit is outlined in platinum and symbolic of our rider development program.
“MH… stands for Matt Hamilton. Matt was an early member of the club, an emergency nurse, father, son, and husband. Matt died earlier this year. Last April the club dedicated the Aklavik Icebreaker in memory of Matt and for mental health awareness. The Heart is symbolic of the club’s commitment to philanthropy, inclusiveness, and community service. 8 has dual meaning: The number eight represents the Dempster Highway and it also is the number of provinces Chris Bruckner rode through in his 2019 across Canada.
“Polar Bear represents the territory in which the club was founded: the NWT. 13/03/49 is Chris Bruckner’s world record time for the 2019 Trans-Canada Cycling project. The numbers represent 13 days 03 hours 49 minutes to cycle from Vancouver, BC to Halifax, NS,” said Bruckner. “Geometric symbolic is representative of a Delta Braid, local indigenous art, and indigenous culture. The club exists on indigenous land. ITH stands for the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.
“We plan to make the Tuk Triple T an annual event similar to the Aklavik Icebreaker.”