As many paddle the Yukon’s waterways this summer, many may soon be opting to pedal instead!
Michelle Olesh, who heads up Yukon Wild Water Bikes, is set to launch the new business Aug. 1 at the M’Clintock River Bridge south of Whitehorse.
It’s one of three locations where Yukon Wild Water Bikes plans to rent out the six water bikes the business has purchased throughout August and September, with October dates pending weather conditions.
Schwatka Lake along with Nares Lake/Bennett Lake are also on the list of locales where the water bikes can be rented in one-hour or half-day time slots.
The distinct blue and yellow water craft are a mix of pontoon boat and bicycle with a propeller in the back that allow riders to pedal their way around the water. As with any bike, using the handlebars changes direction, though in this case they direct the rudders in the water.
“They’re super fun,” Olesh says, adding it’s her hope they’ll give Yukoners a new way to enjoy being on the water and getting outside this summer.
It was about 18 months ago that Olesh first saw a YouTube video from New Zealand showing enthusiasts out enjoying the bikes, and thought it might be fun if something like that was available in the Yukon.
She later learned of a distributor in Ontario and a spot in Vancouver where you can rent the water bikes and she began mulling the idea of a similar operation in the Yukon.
A couple of friends joined Olesh on a trip down to Vancouver in August 2019 where they rented the bikes, trying them out to see what they were like, if they tipped easily, how easy they were to ride and simply taking in the experience to see if it would be a good fit as a Whitehorse business.
“At first I was kind of scared,” Olesh says, recalling sitting on the bicycle portion of the bike stationed on a platform with pontoons in the water.
Within about five or 10 minutes though it was clear the water bikes weren’t going to tip and Olesh and her friends were making their way around the water.
“You can ride the waves,” Olesh says with a laugh.
Someone starting out on Schwatka Lake could make their way through Miles Canyon, she said.
She continued thinking about ways to bring in water bikes and start up a rental business in the territory, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit and she was laid off from her job in April that she realized the time had come to make it happen.
For many Yukoners wanting to spend time in local locations outside while also distancing, the water bikes seemed a great option for that and work got underway to bring the half dozen water bikes to the territory.
Since then, Olesh has been getting the business set up and having a few people test out the bikes before she opened up shop to the general public. Those who have tried them out have had a lot of fun, she said.
Many more have told her they’re looking forward to getting on the water bikes and out on the lakes.
“They’re excited to try it out,” she says.
Those looking to try out the water bikes will be able to do so beginning Aug. 1 and 2 on the M’Clintock River/Marsh Lake. Olesh has a schedule for each location into September with the water bikes available at the M’Clintock River/Marsh Lake location also from Aug. 19 to 23 and Sept. 9 to Sept. 13.
Meanwhile the bikes will be available at Schwatka Lake Aug. 5 to 8, Aug. 26 to 30, and Sept. 16 to 20 and at Nares Lake/Bennett Lake Aug. 12 to Aug. 16, Sept. 2 to 6, and Sept. 23 to Sept. 27.
Water bikes can be rented on an hourly or half day basis between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.
The water bikes can be used by all ages, provided the user can reach the pedals. For most kids, Olesh says, that’s around eight.
Full details on cost, bookings and more is available on the Yukon Wild Water Bikes website.