The first bicycles arrived in Alaska during the gold rush, hauled over Chilkoot Pass by stampeders who planned on using them for transportation upon arrival in Dawson City. It was there that Edward Jesson, a prospector and shopkeeper living along the Yukon River, purchased one after hearing that gold was being scooped from the beaches of Western Alaska and rode more than 1000 miles to Nome, mostly along the frozen Yukon River. A century later, riders would do similar things for fun.

In the 1980s, Jesson’s account of his journey caught the attention of historian Terrence Cole. A cyclist himself, Cole started digging into the archives, located four additional stories from early Alaska cyclists, and in 1985 published them in a small book called “Wheels on Ice: Bicycling in Alaska 1898-1908.”

David James is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks. Creating Alaska is an ongoing series documenting the lives of artists and creators in Fairbanks. Feedback and suggestions for future interviews can be emailed to

Disclosure: Author David James has an essay in the book. Contributors were given free copies as compensation but are not receiving royalties, and he will receive no financial gain from sales of the book.