Juneau Freewheelers encourage community biking

The 2010 Tour of Juneau Stage 3 Eaglecrest 4.5 mile Hill Climb is shown. The Juneau Freewheelers Bike Club hopes to get more riders of all abilities into events to enjoy the sport of cycling or just to enjoy getting out on bikes, including moutnain bikes and social biking.

Known for their sleek racing wear, helmeted torsos, bulging muscles and fast spinning racing bicycles, the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club is shifting their focus (much like the smooth transition from a steep climb into a sprint grind) on the race circuit to involve more of the community.


“We want to get the community in general out and involved,” Juneau Freewheelers treasurer Scott Jones said. “We would love to see like-minded bikers, not just racers, but people who like to ride a bike having a place and time where they can go and ride with other like minded groups or individuals.”

The Freewheelers have a new website being hosted by Cycle Alaska.

Clicking on a link to Juneau Freewheelers on the Cycle Alaska site will show information on group rides, time trials, road races and the Tour of Juneau race, among other events, and a special new addition of Mountain Bike races and activities. The schedule will be encouraging a community spirit in biking events.

“Our last annual meeting was really interesting,” Juneau Freewheelers president John McConnochie said. “There was people attending who were not die hard cyclists but who enjoyed cycling. It was a different perspective than what we normally went in with, just going in and setting a racing calendar.”

What was noticed at the meeting is that there is a large community in Juneau who don’t necessarily want to race but want to participate in cycling. As with many outdoor sports there is the attraction to less competitive venues and group meeting venues and the sharing of wisdom among riders of all skill levels.

Juneau Freewheelers is planning “No Drop” group rides or “Drop and Reconfigure” rides. That would mean, for instance, that riders could enjoy an outing together without being left far behind or if left behind on a steep incline an individual rider would find his group riders waiting for him or her at the top. Almost like the summer tour rides seen around the city.

“So if someone wanted to go faster they could,” McConnochie said. “But then they would back off and everyone would be back together again. It was an ‘ahha’ moment in a lot of ways. All of us were thinking the same thing. We need to have a broader appeal.”

That broader appeal is just like it would be in the running, softball, soccer, or even fishing community. Cycling is a lifetime activity.

“It is great exercise,” McConnochie said.

In addition to race events and times being listed there will also be group ride listings stating how long and where the rides will go, how fast, what to wear or bring, where to meet.

Continued McConnochie, “So people can just say, ‘oh yeah, that is me, I can fit into that group.’ I think we will find as we start off in a small number of groups is that more subgroups will form.”

At present the Juneau Freewheelers have their wheels churning with ideas. A Youth Group ride (14-18 year olds) is scheduled for Thursdays starting in June that will target road riding. An intermediate group is currently deciding on dates and times to meet. A Sunday morning group, led by Rob Weldon, has been very popular, especially when Rob discusses the Tour De France Bike Races he and wife Rose have attended over the years. Group rides for bikers of all abilities are in the works.

In road cycling races there will be a Sport Class added. When the Advanced Group has a long ride the mileage will be decreased for the Sport Class to make it a user-friendlier outing.

The mountain biking community, led by Jaime Kissner, is actively organizing group rides that will meet in areas such as Montana Creek Trailhead and ride to Windfall Lake and back on a Saturday morning, or such rides. Mountain bike races are also being formulated and expanded on. Historically mountain biking was a part of the biking season in Juneau, a road race would alternate on weekend days with a mountain bike race.

“There was some crossover,” McConnochie said. “There was a more active mountain biking community. We had over 25 people show up for the Tour of Eaglecrest which is really short races, not long endurance events.”

The current race schedules have been set for the year, with an interest in time trials as well.

The time trials hold interest for individuals or groups that participate in triathlons, such as Tracy Rivera who holds training camps for triathlon participants and John Bursell who is an avid competitor.

However, the time trials are also for people who just want to see what their time is. The events are not about racing against your opponent, per say, but can be enjoyed as competing against yourself. Sometimes knowing how long it takes a rider to get from point A to point B can make an outing a better-planned experience.

“There are a lot of people who are taking Rivera’s class in the winter,” Jones said. “Triathlons are different from road racing. So that will be a new thing for us this year, a time trial series that will rotate between False Outer Point on North Douglas, Peterson Creek Shrine Area, and Eaglecrest Road.”

The time trail series will go every other week on Tuesday at 6 p.m. starting May 1, the road races go every second Saturday in May, June and July; and one mountain biking race, possibly the third Saturday, in every month in locations such as Dredge Lake, Perseverance Trail, Montana Creek, Windfall, or Herbert Glacier Trail (depending on the permitting process for these areas). A bike park is also being considered at Eaglecrest and a crossover race that would involve street cyclists racing up Eaglecrest road, switching to mountain bikes in the parking lot, and continuing up the mountain.

“We still want to have a competitive element in races,” McConnochie said. “But we also want to include the group element. Mountain biking, technically, there is a lot you can do with that. And there is a lot you can learn in road cycling as well.”

For more information and to share send ideas go to the Juneau Freewheelers website listing at cycleak.com/Juneau-freewheelers/ or call John McConnochie at 723-1876.

“We want people to see that all sorts of folks can be on bikes,” McConnochie said. “That they all can do that. The focus and direction is changing. We see this as an activity as well as a sport, it is a long-term life activity to ride a bike.”

Added Jones, “If you know that people are going to meet on a Saturday or Sunday for a ride at 9 a.m. it makes it easier to get up and get out.”

The website will also be invaluable for new riders to Juneau or riders passing through.

“We get a lot of people who just want to get in touch with a group to enjoy a ride when they are in town,” McConnochie said. “This is Alaska after all. We need to get out and enjoy it.”


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