Motorcyclists leverage social media to enhance safety on northern highways

Motorcyclists are using social media to help each other stay safe on northern highways in the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

Riders on the Dempster and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highways report frequent changes in road conditions, ranging from smooth riding to loose, pea-like gravel that can challenge even seasoned motorcyclists.

Through Facebook groups like “Dempster Highway Adventure Riders,” riders now post their departure times and arrange meetups. These groups allow members to share information, ask questions about current conditions, and discuss necessary equipment for the journey.

Tom Roozendaal from Duncan, B.C., a member of the Facebook group, finds it useful but advises caution. “It’s super helpful. I can’t imagine 20 years ago not having a lot of information about the road conditions,” he said. “But it’s kind of like a double-edged sword because you have all kinds of abilities of riders chiming in to that Facebook group and some people are like, ‘It’s a piece of cake, you can do 80 the whole way,’ and other people were like, ‘We turned around.’”

Roozendaal and his travel partner Natalie Jones reached the Arctic Ocean but noted that the last 100 kilometers of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway were very rough, even for experienced riders. Jones emphasized the importance of preparation due to the limited services available on these northern highways. “Make sure you have good tires and proper tire-changing equipment, patches, tubes. We rescued four other riders now, so it’s important that you’re prepared,” she advised.

Jones also shared tips on riding on loose gravel. “Be comfortable standing on your bike and being loose. Relaxing. It’s hard but you have to be able to do that,” she added.

The online group has 9,400 members and is updated multiple times a day with visiting riders sharing their experiences or seeking advice.

Daniel Quan-Watson from Edmonton found the group’s shared experiences invaluable. He transported his bike to Dawson City, Yukon, and rode up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik in one day, camping at Happy Valley campground before heading back south. Quan-Watson had considered continuing to Tuktoyaktuk but decided against it after reading online reports about the conditions.

“Make sure that if you’re going to do it alone that you understand it’s going to be an awful long way without seeing an awful lot of people. But if you can get past that, it is the trip of a lifetime,” said Quan-Watson.