Rebel Without a Bike

Any real rebel knows that it takes more than an odd haircut and a leather jacket. You have to take the road less travelled.

Visitors out for a motorcycle tour get a close encounter with some Rocky Mountain bighorn rams along the road to Jasper.

Visitors out for a motorcycle tour get a close encounter with some Rocky Mountain bighorn rams along the road to Jasper.

Any real rebel knows that it takes more than an odd haircut and a leather jacket. You have to take the road less travelled.

And there’s no better place to do that than in Jasper, Canada’s “other” Rocky Mountain park.

But not everyone has a bike. And not everyone who has one can bring it to Jasper. So for Rebels Without A Cycle, there is Jasper Motorcycle Tours.

For the past four years, the company has become the go-to place for rebels without a cycle — and even for would-be rebels who have decided that for once in their lives they’re going to take a ride on the wild side.

But the closest I ever got to being a biker was riding a scooter in Taiwan — and that felt like Death Race 2000.

So for me, renting my own motorbike and heading for the hills was out of the question. However, I was fortunate to get Candace Ellis, manager of Jasper Motorcycle Tours, to be my guide.

Dressed in a leather jacket and chaps, I sat in the sidecar, feeling like Robin next to Batgirl, or perhaps one of those Hollywood Second World War generals, who always seem to be chauffeured around in a motorcycle sidecar.

Riding with Ellis, I was the envy of all those in their cars and buses. I got the feel of the open road while still being able to look around and take pictures.

I had a choice of routes. We could have gone up the Fiddle River Valley to take the waters at the Miette Hot Springs. We might have taken the VIP tour of the Maligne Lake Road, with its views of the magnificent Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake. Or we may have gone up to The Whistlers to connect with the Jasper Tramway for a true mountaintop experience.

But in our case, we really did want to take the road less travelled: Highway 93A — part of the old Jasper-Banff Highway that winds its way down the Athabasca Valley, following the contours of the land and getting up close and personal with the wilderness.

Those who take their cars and buses down the modern Icefields Parkway will certainly get the big picture. The beauty of taking the old road is that you get to notice the details: the contrasting canvas of wildflowers; the kaleidoscopic hues of aquamarine where the turbulent waters of the Sunwapta River flow into the mighty Athabasca.

“This place is amazing,” said Ellis, as we rumbled down this carefree highway. “In the fall, the side of the mountain comes alive with blazing oranges and reds, as the leaves turn colours.”

She points out that it’s also a great place to see wildlife, and offers some spectacular views of mountains, rivers and waterfalls — views that you won’t get from the main highway.

A particular Rocky Mountain high for me was how the old road showed off different aspects of Jasper’s Jewels — like the resplendent Mount Edith Cavell, the regal Athabasca Falls and the hidden jewel of the Jasper-Banff highway, Sunwapta Falls.

But when you’re on the road, sometimes the whole point is that you don’t always know exactly where you’re going. And we spent a perfect evening meandering on the back roads that ran by the rivers of Canada’s memory.

If you go

• Jasper Motorcycle Tours, 610 Patricia St., Jasper, Alta., 780-931-6100; www.jaspermotorcycletours.com/

• In addition to set tours, Jasper Motorcycle offers customized tours and rides. Sidecar tours last from about 1 1/2 hours to three hours. Costs range from about $100 per person to $175 per person, depending on the destination and the length of the tours.

• All rates are based on two passengers (one in the sidecar and one on the motorcycle behind the driver). Single passenger tour rates are $95 per hour. Children under 10 ride for half-price.

• Helmets, leathers and goggles are provided with tours. Maximum weight per passenger is 280 pounds.

• Motorcycle Rentals (Harley, Honda, Kawasaki) are available for about $140 to $160 for a half-day, or about $225 to $260 for a full day.

• Tour season operates from March 15 until Oct. 15, weather permitting.

You can also get more information about travelling in the province from Travel Alberta, 1-800-252-3782 or www.travelalberta.com