During Alaska’s summers, sun-worshipping adventurers eke out every ounce of fun from the long days, oftentimes forgoing sleep, meals, even work to take advantage of these moments. Alaska is a vast place and there is so much to see – it’s why cycling here is such an efficient way to play.
Exploring Alaska by bike is rewarding and challenging. My first forays occurred on the Kenai Peninsula, where I first arrived more than 20 years ago. Pedaling my aging mountain bike on the relatively flat terrain of the Kenai Soldotna area was a gentle introduction to the area, and I basked in the ease of Kalifornsky Beach Road and other equally as benign locations.
Then a friend invited me to the Resurrection Pass Trail, and I changed my tune. Navigating my discount-priced, low-level mountain bike over the rocks and roots, steep inclines and technical turns, I fell more than my fair share. I vowed after that bruising weekend to save up for a bike worthy of Alaska’s off-road challenges.
Years later I would discover road cycling, and then racing. First dabbling my toes into the skinny-tire world, I went on long rides with my brother, an avid road cyclist who would visit each summer and lure me off my mountain bike for the smooth asphalt of the city’s extensive multiuse trails system, as well as such gems as Bodenburg Loop Road, Hatcher Pass, Eagle River Road and beyond. Before long, I was hooked, graduating from long road rides, to a time trial hosted by the Arctic Bicycle Club, then onto road racing and hill climbing.
This month, we highlight all things two-wheeled, celebrating the fact that while most of Alaska might still be inaccessible and covered with glaciers, there is still quite a large chunk of it where cycling is possible. Janice Tower, one of Alaska’s best-known cyclists, shares two stories with us – one on the annual Tour of Anchorage stage race, and another on the efforts of Singletrack Advocates, a mountain biking advocacy nonprofit.
As a longtime supporter of Alaska cycling, Tower is revered in the community as a coach, founder of Singletrack Advocates, supporter of youth cycling (with such programs as Mighty Bikes, and junior coaching with the Kaladi Cycling team). Her expertise is unparalleled. See her stories on pages ## and ##.
Singletrack Mind columnist Rosemary Austin tells us how to get the most out of our fat-tire bikes. For many, putting their winter bikes away for the winter is a sad occasion, but it needn’t be so, Austin tells us. See her column on Page ##.
We also list for you the cycling opportunities in Southcentral Alaska – from mountain biking to road racing to long-distance riding for pleasure (ever heard of Randneering? If not, look no further than here) – so you can mark your calendars and get motivated. See Page ## for the roundup.
Cycling motivates me to this day. While I don’t race anymore, I still remember the first road race I entered nearly 10 years ago. Janice Tower writes about cycling queen Sheryl Loan and does not exaggerate when she calls her WHAT. As I pedaled alongside this petite, power-packed athlete, I had a “what am I doing here?” moment trying to keep up with her that lasted only as long as it took for Sheryl to destroy me in the sprint to the finish. Afterward, Sheryl came up to me and congratulated me on surviving the first pack-riding experience of my career and encouraged me to keep it up. As is the case with the awesome women of this sport, she demonstrated that racing does not have to be intimidating.
So, cycle away – whether it’s a trail or road or the streets in your neighborhood – the fun starts now.