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Dawson to Nome Winter Bicycle Trek - 1900
October 7, 2009 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Winter 1900. You are in Dawson, Alaska. The Klondike Gold Rush is fading. Suddenly... news from Nome - Gold Strike! (on the beach of all things) You are snowed-in at Dawson, and recovering from tetanus. You have to get to Nome before the thousands of other gold seekers. What to do? How about hopping on your bike and riding the 1200 miles across snow and river ice!!!

"Max Hirschberg followed a "two inch trail" with his bicycle much of the way to Nome. It was a rough trip. The journey took him about two-and-a-half months, during which time he suffered from snowblindness, exhaustion and exposure. Crossing the Shaktoolik River he nearly drowned. He was in the water for almost two hours, and during that time he lost his watch and his poke with $1,500 in gold dust. He saved his bicycle, however. Just east of Nome on the ice of Norton Sound his bicycle chain broke. A strong wind was blowing and he made a sail with his coat that he rigged on the bike. Hirschberg then sailed across the ice the rest of the way into Nome."

In Max's own words. Another article.
posted by ecorrocio (21 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like a foreshadow of my commute this winter!

That's pretty awesome, thanks.
posted by bumpkin at 8:26 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 1900, what would his bicycle have been like? I think the second article suggests it would look something like the bike in this photo, but I want more detail!
posted by ericost at 8:28 AM on October 7, 2009


It looks like this could have been a safety bicycle, called such because they were safer than the high wheelers.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:47 AM on October 7, 2009


And... sub-zero temperatures, inadequate clothing, getting wet, sleeping outdoors (must have sometimes), little food. This guy must have been tougher than nails (including the one that gave him tetanus), and totally lacking in the fear gene (or would that be "common sense gene"?). Imagine riding across the Bering Sea... open ocean ice on a bike.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:51 AM on October 7, 2009


In 1900, what would his bicycle have been like? I think the second article suggests it would look something like the bike in this photo, but I want more detail!

Probably the one in the bottom left photo of the history section, here.
posted by Brian B. at 8:53 AM on October 7, 2009


> In 1900, what would his bicycle have been like?

It would have looked something like one of the bikes in this photo. By current standards, the head and seat tubes would be very slack (making for a very stable ride, to the extent the bike might feel like it's fighting your attempts to go faster and make hard turns), and very heavy: possibly as much as 50 lbs (22.7kg). The basic design survives in modern cruising/commuting bikes.

It was also a fixed gear: If the rear wheel moved, the pedals moved; you coasted by resting your feet on the fork crown. If the hill was steep, you got off and pushed.
posted by ardgedee at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2009


The Wright brothers were building bicycles around this time. Here's an example of what one looked like.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


White Horse to Dawson in 5 Days. Overland Bicycle Record, Winter of 1903.

From here. (scroll down)
posted by Floydd at 9:06 AM on October 7, 2009


That Wright brothers bicycle is beautiful.
posted by clearly at 9:07 AM on October 7, 2009


Also worth noting: The bike might have had pneumatic tires (in commercial production from the late 1880s), but they would have been mounted on wooden wheels, heavier than the bike wheels you see today.
posted by ardgedee at 9:23 AM on October 7, 2009


The Wright brothers were building bicycles around this time. Here's an example

A fixie? Hipsters.
posted by Zed at 9:26 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


clear and crisp, 30° below zero

I used to stop riding my bike to work when it got below 55°. I don't think I would have lasted very long as a prospector.
posted by digsrus at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2009


Dawson is in Yukon, not in Alaska. Just sayin'....
posted by sporb at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Didn't the Wright Brothers make some kind of flying bike?
posted by everichon at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2009


Up in Alaska is the blog of a woman who bikes continuously, and recently tried to complete the Iditarod by bike but almost lost her foot from frost bite.
posted by wcfields at 10:18 AM on October 7, 2009


What a bad ass. Live Strong indeed.
posted by exogenous at 10:28 AM on October 7, 2009


Aw, I was really hoping this was a link to a Flash game.
posted by cacophony at 10:34 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


A fixie? Hipsters.

That's flying Hipsters to you.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:21 AM on October 7, 2009


Now fly my hipsters, fly! Bring me that girl and her slippers! Fly! Fly!
posted by Naberius at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, this is impressive. I'm amazed at how indomitable this guy was. From the second link, when he was travelling from Juneau to Dawson his party's supplies were buried under a snow-slide. He went on, while the remainder of the party turned back. When he couldn't find a job, he opened a roadhouse. When he couldn't beat the rush with a sled and dog team, he rode a bike. Alone. Across Alaska. Badass, indeed.

Oh, $1,500 adjusted for inflation would be somewhere around $39,000, although I suspect that with gold prices what they are today, it'd be more. I wonder how he did in Nome?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2009


My poke held gold dust worth $1,500 and my purse contained silver and gold coins. Next to my skin around my waist I carried a belt with $20 gold pieces that had been stitched into it by my aunt in Youngstown, Ohio, before I had left to go to the Klondike.
Great, another trust-fund baby riding around on a fixie.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:44 PM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


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