For the past 3 winters, Myself and some friends have taken it upon ourselves to do some cool “firsts”. Usually these are very cold trips that involve 6-10 days of winter camping and travel in cold regions. First, we “Crossed Algonquin” which was a 10 day ski trip across a popular summer destination, which is mostly unvisited in the winter. Then we rode our Fat bikes down the “James Bay Descent” a 7 day trip down the western coast of James bay on a seasonal “Ice road” in February. And this March, we rode the World’s Longest Seasonal road, the Wapusk trail. This road goes along the south shore of Hudson’s Bay, straight through Polar bear country. We saw most days around -30f to -40f. Brrr! When we returned from the end of the trip, the world was on lockdown and Covid had started to push its impacts into everyone’s lives. Every year we do these trips and raise money for the remote indigenous communities that we travel through.
Along these lines, I was looking at riding the longest, most remote road in Easter North America, the “Trans Taiga ''. I originally wanted to do this in the winter, but my friend Tim Johnson suggested a summer trip. Less snow, more bugs. Why not? With Covid making extended travel difficult and frowned upon, we thought a trip to our backyard of Northern Quebec was the perfect plan!
Tim Johnson: Former professional road cyclist and considered the best Cyclocross racer that North American has ever produced. Tim is now my neighbour, quarantine training partner and a fun guy to be around.
Buck Miller: Also a former pro road cyclist, Buck is the quintessential outdoorsmen. A man from the north, Buck will fillet a fish faster than most people can eat them and regale you with facts about his favourite fish, the Speckled trout, aka “Brook Trout”.
Ryan Atkins: I am a professional Obstacle Course racer and Athlete. I am a multiple time World Champion. I used to race bikes but now I do most of my competing on foot.
The Trans Taiga is a 690km / 428mi long gravel road that was built to service the James Bay Project. This is a Hydro-Electric generating project, of which covers the size of New York State. The road is unique, in that there are no towns or communities along it. It's literally just a road heading east, into the middle of Quebec, reaching almost all the way to Labrador! We drove north from Montreal for 18 hours, then got picked up by float planes and we were flown to the eastern terminus of the road. We then rode our bikes west for 7 days, camping along the route.
Along the way, we mostly ate candy and sports nutrition to fuel our rides. We ate Oatmeal for breakfast and dehydrated camping meals for dinner. We also brought fishing rods and we would stop and fish along the route. We caught, cleaned and ate many Brook Trout, Walleye and Northern Pike. We didn’t “need” to eat the fish, but we were pretty low on the calories that we brought, so every delicious morsel of fish that we caught was very much appreciated.
We raised funds for the Chisasibi Emergency food bank. This is a fund set up to provide relief in the indigenous town closest to where we started the ride. These communities are fairly cut off from society in normal times and with the global pandemic they have shut down all outside access to the communities. We did our ride through their lands and wanted to give back in some way.
What I learned:
I learned the value of disconnecting from the world. There is so much confusion, anger and blame circling around today and it was refreshing to get away from it all. Our focus of the day was to stay warm, catch fish and ride our bikes. Distilling the world into a few simple tasks was exactly what I needed to refocus myself. We did the whole trip in our home province, minimized risk and exposure to other people and had a great time doing it. I also learned that a cold Athletic beer at the end of a week in the bush tasted better than ever.
- Ryan Atkins