I was born and raised here and this year marks my 29th summer here if my math is good. And yet, I’m shocked every year by how quickly fall approaches.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. One minute it’s June: the sun seemingly never goes away, the bugs are buzzing, the energy is nearly infinite and going to bed early (or even on time) is a form of heresy. Then, as if in a blink, the leaves begin their change, the sun is more elusive, and it’s September: officially “sweater weather” again. I never take Alaska summers for granted, and I really feel like the kind of person that seizes every opportunity. Yet, by now, I find myself scrabbling at every possibility that August has to offer before it’s too late. Again. So, this month let’s talk about our end-of-season cycling opportunities and a few that are a bit out-of-the-box.
Road Bike Events
There are a few road races left. On August 8th the Moose Run Time Trial will happen for the last time this year. The women’s course record was broken earlier this summer by Sheryl Loan, and who knows what will happen at the August 8 race. On August 22, the final hill climb of the season will take place at the Potter Hill Climb course. Finally, the last Criterium (a small closed road loop where you ride in a pack and get the benefits of drafting off other riders) of the season at Kulis takes place August 29. Maybe this is the first time you make it to an official ABC-road event this year, and that’s okay. Wrap up the season with us, see what we’re about, and whet your appetite for next year!
Road Bike Triathlon
The Moose Nugget Triathlon (only in Alaska, right?!) is set for August 12 this year. This is an Olympic-distance triathlon (1500m open-water swim in Jewel Lake, 40k road bike ride in the Dimond/Kincaid area, 10k out and back on the coastal trail). This event is well-organized, personal, fun, and incredibly well-spirited. If open-water swimming or running a 10k isn’t your thing, think about hitting up a friend or two and forming a relay team. The 40k ride was my first of that length last year, and I found it a great stepping stone for me to think in new ways about cycling and my body’s potential. If you’re definitely not participating but still curious, they’re always looking for course volunteers or extra cheer support.
Other Things You Can Do With a Bike
Anchorage to Seward
A friend of mine has biked to Seward multiple times already this year. He enjoys it immensely, and he doesn’t let the weather hold him back. He leaves early, rides to Seward, and then takes the train back to Anchorage at the end of the day. I see great possibilities for riding there, meeting friends for a beer and some camping, and then carpooling back the next day, as well. High visibility gear and bike lights (front and rear) will offer the best road-side safety.
An elevation profile map (reversed, because it’s for a Seward to Bird Point course) is available on the AlaskaMan Extreme Triathlon website. That crazy, inspiring group of folks swims 2.6 miles in Resurrection Bay, cycles from Seward to Bird Point and back to Girdwood, and then does a marathon in Girdwood. If you’re feeling pessimistic about the abilities of the human body just check out the course maps of what some people just did in late-July on that course. I mean, come on, 2.6 miles of swimming in Resurrection Bay!
Bird to Gird
The last stretch of the AlaskaMan Tri bike course is one of the most famous stretches of Anchorage-area trail: Bird Point to Girdwood. “Bird to Gird” is 13 miles one way. I’d wager it boasts some of the best views of any bike trail in the world, and in late August you have a chance of seeing belugas in the inlet during your ride (although your odds are better in early September). The downsides are highway noise and some wind, but those are outweighed by an open trail, incredible vistas, and the chance to see Dall’s sheep, moose, bear, belugas, and our other smaller critters. If you’re going to do this course, consider planning to take your time. You might be fast on the bike, but there are some great informative plaques along the way, and there’s no need to rush this gorgeous ride. If you’re doing the whole thing remember to bring layers and snacks so that you’re warm enough and well fueled.
What summary of cycling options in the Anchorage area is complete without at least mentioning the coastal trail? Starting at Kincaid and ending at the Northwest end of downtown, this trail is excellent for a relaxed ride, people watching, and animal spotting. Because of the many access points along the trail, this is a great one for families. There are restrooms (or port-a-potties) at a few key points along the trail (Kincaid, Lyn Ary Park, and Westchester, at least) and often snack/food truck options at Westchester and Kincaid. The Coastal Trail is 11 miles one way, but with so many on and off points, it’s easy to make your ride as long or short as you and your clan desire.
Mountain Biking Options
Maybe this end-of-summer season you’re looking for something off-road. Well, options abound. Check out activities offered by the Arctic Bicycle Club – Mountain Bike division, or Anchorage’s Single Track Advocates group. A few inspiring mountain biking options include Hatcher’s Pass, Denali Park, and the Russian River Trail. For rides like these don’t forget your bike helmet (as always) and a bear bell (or two), so that you don’t surprise any bears.
Emma Haddix is an attorney who was born and raised in Anchorage. When she’s not chasing her toddler she is working, trying to fit workouts in, and hunting for the best gluten free cupcake. To reach Emma, email: firstname.lastname@example.org