29 December 2014

Winter camping by bike

Arctic Cycles is a local rental company run by Billy & Erica Koitzsch, they specialize in bike rentals and winter adventures.  Billy has a wealth of experience and love for camping and biking in the winter, not only has he cycled to Nome (about 1000miles) on more than one occasion but also continued on to Fairbanks during the winter of 2013.  (see arcticle here)
As well as renting fat bikes Billy and Erica now also run the Iditasport race which was resurrected for 2014.  (see website here).  He also has a significant collection of fat bike memorabilia charting the progress of fat bikes (see Nicholas Carmens article here)

Billy decided to run a free clinic to share some of his knowledge of winter camping onto people who were expecting to complete in the Iditasport race either this year or the following year.

The riders all met between 14:30 and 15:30 at Kincaid Chalet.  I decided to ride to the event the long way (loaded miles are always good to have in the bank) and meet up with a couple of my friends on the way.
Joining Chester Creek Trail

Here is a picture from before we set off.

We rolled out, down the hill off to find somewhere to camp for the night.  Billy our guide had found a nice secluded spot at the edge of Kincaid park approximately 3miles riding distance from the start point, it was also very close to the airport surprisingly the planes didn't keep me awake.

Our group was a mix of experienced and first time winter campers, which is where I put myself, although I have camped in the winter before it was with very different gear and a handy pub near by to plan a route and relax by a warm fire.

Getting some tips from the master
Did someone say flight path - Photo Credit Fred Stewart

A perfect sunset
We rode into our secluded camping spot and set to work on what Billy told us, the basics are get yourself warm, make water from melting snow and setup camp.

Making water and cooking food
Billy was the perfect guide and he coached when required.  He also carried a bunch of extra equipment, this is important if like me you forget your spoon.
Once all fed, Billy proceeded to talk through his equipment and answer any questions we may have had about gear, setup, staying warm etc.

Sleeping bag selfie
After a warm night (20 to 25F or -6 to -4C) sleeping under some stars and a fair few clouds it was time to get some breakfast and pack up and head home.
Making breakfast
Fred Stewart all packed up and ready to ride

Stopping at Uranus.... yes I am 12 years old :)

Thank you Billy and Arctic Cycles for putting on this event.  I am already planning my 2016 Iditasport trip and will continue to expand my knowledge of winter camping with the information you taught us.
See you soon

This is an hour long video which covers some of the Iditasport Extreme the precursor to the ITI more history can be found here


  1. Curious, do some bikers opt to go without a tent? I guess you don't have to worry about rain or mosquitoes, so a tent wouldn't be essential. In fact, if you get a big snowfall, a tent could be a liability if it collapses. A nice waterproof bivy sac might be the way to go.

    1. Most people I know use a bivvy system Charlie, weight and condensation being the main reasons.
      Billy used a shelter for his big trek which enclosed his whole bike.
      Sadly we still get rain up here during the winter, especially if a chinook rolls through.