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Two-wheeled wonders

Soft snow cushions inevitable wipe-outs

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jan 01/01) - They travel on two wheels, completely exposed to the harsh cold and in spite of the snow and ice packed roads of winter.

Some wear gloves and goggles, others don't wear anything extra to protect them from the cold wind they generate while navigating the slippery streets.

"The only time I don't ride my bike is in a blizzard because it's too uncomfortable in the cold and wind," said Allan Shiutiapik, who covers his head with cushy round headphones and a ball cap rather than a toque.

"I never need to wear goggles or extra clothes, it usually isn't that cold."

Not owning a vehicle, Shiutiapik says winter biking is a matter of convenience and the most efficient way to beat paying cab fares and the slow pace of walking.

"On my bike I can quickly get from one place to the other, which is what I need when I'm selling my carvings at night. The faster I can get to the next place, the more carvings I can sell," he said.

He listens to dance music while he rides, which he admits might not be the safest practice, but he says it gets him to his destination faster.

But what about wipeouts? In Shiutiapik's case, he says he never falls, end of story.

But for the younger, hardier folk, falling is all part of the game, in fact, the more spectacular the wipeout the better.

"I fall lots, maybe five or six times every hour, but the best part is I get to take bigger jumps when I ride my bike in the winter compared to the summer," said 12-year-old Jamie Erkidjuk while catching his breath.

"I do worry about the traffic, but mostly I ride up and down the hills, that's where the jumps are, and I try and stay off the roads."

He says the snow breaks his falls, so it hurts less than falling on gravel, unless there is ice underneath. In that case it hurts just as much as wiping out in the summer.