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We’re preparing another season of single-track trail-building here at the Sitka Cycling Club. Three more trails off the Sitka Cross Trail are on the docket, to add to our existing five trails near the high school. We begin our season on Saturday, April 3. 

But, these trails don’t build themselves. While we use (and so much appreciate) our volunteer labor, we still need to purchase gravel, shovels, wheelbarrows and other supplies. That’s where you come in, please donate to our efforts today. 

We are applying for a grant to help finance more trails, and the grant requires matching funding. We need people to pitch in so that we can match dollar for dollar. Please send a few bucks (or a few hundred) to the Sitka Cycling Club through our PayPal site, which accepts PayPal as well as credit/debit cards. You also can mail checks to Sitka Cycling Club, c/o Charles Bingham, treasurer, 405 Marine Street, Apt. No. 6, Sitka, Alaska 99835.

We also are looking for people to volunteer on our trail-building teams, with work parties from 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday and at a time TBA on the first Saturday of the month. We now have an online volunteer registration page, where people can sign up for specific work parties so we can make sure we stay Covid-safe on the trails.

We appreciate everybody’s help on this project. Thank you for your assistance. For more details on how to volunteer, contact single-track project leader Amy Volz at amy.volz@outlook.com.

The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Thursday, March 25, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include visioning for the new year (where do we want to be at this time next year), a look at our current status and realities, a chance to brainstorm club goals for 2021, an evaluation and selection of broad paths forward, a review of our recent Sitka mountain bike trail plan survey results and discussion about our upcoming trail plan, an update on the Salty Spoke Bike Cooperative, setting some monthly club rides starting in April, a discussion of steering club committee roles and recruitment of new members (we need a VP), a discussion of club membership and possibly adding annual dues, and setting our next meeting for April (usually at noon on the fourth Thursday of the month). We also might start planning National Bike Month events for May.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Thursday, Feb. 25, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include visioning for the new year (where do we want to be at this time next year), a look at our current status and realities, a chance to brainstorm club goals for 2021, an evaluation and selection of broad paths forward, a review of our recent Sitka mountain bike trail plan survey results and discussion about our upcoming trail plan, an update on the Salty Spoke Bike Cooperative, setting some monthly club rides starting in April, a discussion of steering club committee roles and recruitment of new members (we need a VP), a discussion of club membership and possibly adding annual dues, and setting our next meeting for March. We also might start planning National Bike Month events for May.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

Sitka’s weather on International Winter Bike To Work Day, Friday, Feb. 12, was cold and sunny, with no real moisture in about a week, which may have helped Sitka finish in the top 100 in the 2021 overall standings. Sitka beat several cities with more than a million people.

Sitka finished in a 13-way tie for 98th overall, with seven points (riders who recorded their rides on the international website). That put Sitka ahead of several larger communities around the world, such as Talinn, Estonia; Warsaw, Poland; Hannover, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; and Vienna, Austria. Communities earned points for the number of cyclists who rode and registered their rides with the International Winter Bike To Work Day website. The only other Alaska community among the top-250 places in the standings was Anchorage, which was in a 117-way tie for 230th place with two points.

Sweden dominated the top spots in the standings, with four cities in the top five. Linköping was the 2021 winner with 412 points, followed by 2020 overall winner Uppsala with 352 points. In third place was Umeå with 253 points, while Göteborg and Ismir, Turkey, tied for fourth place with 218 points. Rounding out the top-10 places in the standings were three-time winner (2015-17) Zagreb, Croatia, in sixth with 191 points; Montréal, Quebec, Canada, in seventh place with 159 points; 2014 winner Oulu, Finland, in eighth place with 155 points; and two more Swedish cities with Stockholm in ninth place with 132 points and Falun in 10th place with 127 points. Other former champions included 2019 champion Denver, Colorado, USA, in a tie for 65th place with 12 points; 2018 champion Novi Sad, Serbia, in a tie for 347th place with one point; and 2013 champion Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in a tie for 32nd place with 27 points. (In 2013 the event was almost entirely Canadian and it didn’t become a true international event until 2014.)

There were 93 communities from the United States that show up in the standings. The top five United State cities in the standings were Boulder, Colo., in a tie for 29th place with 32 points (the top American city); Traverse City, Mich., in a tie for 32nd place with 27 points; Denver in a tie for 65th place with 12 points; and Olympia, Wash., and Lincoln, Neb., both in a tie for 76th place with 10 points. Sitka, in its tie for 98th place with seven points, was the sixth American city. Other than Anchorage, no other Alaska communities showed up in the standings.

Participants in Sitka could enter a drawing at Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop on Feb. 12 when they recorded their rides, which could include loops around town due to so many people being out of work or working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. James Poulson won a reflective rain jacket from SEARHC, Greg George won a Mako Nite Rider headlight from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, Davey Lubin won a Serfas Seat-Stay tail light from Yellow Jersey, Sharyn Ferrick won a Herrmans Safety Wing reflector from Yellow Jersey, Doug Osborne won a Sayre reflective band, and Ronan George won a Cycloq mounted bike holder (for the wall) from an anonymous donor. Thank you to all who donated prizes.

Photo by Lione Clare

The Harry Race Soda Fountain, which donates its tips to a local nonprofit organization each month, will pay it forward to the Salty Spoke Bicycle Cooperative in February.

The Salty Spoke is a membership cooperative (with a sliding fee based on income) located in the back of the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, providing bicycle maintenance and classes on bike repair. It also helps repair older bikes for lower-income riders, especially kids. The Salty Spoke opened in October 2019 and is usually open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We are beyond excited to hear that Harry Race Soda Fountain has selected us to receive their soda fountain tips this month,” Salty Spoke co-coordinator Alyssa Russell said. “As a budding cooperative, this support from our community means so much to us, and we are excited to put the funds towards our youth education program. Thank you Harry Race.”

The Salty Spoke will host three bike maintenance workshops from 11 a.m. to noon on the last three Saturdays in February (Feb. 13, 20, and 27). Subjects covered likely will include routine chain maintenance, rust prevention techniques, safety checks, prevention techniques, and brake adjustments.

The workshops are $20 for the general public and free for Salty Spoke members. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the workshops are capped at eight participants and masks and social distancing are required. For more details, contact the Salty Spoke at thesaltyspoke@gmail.com.

Sitka cyclists are hardy souls, and many of us ride our bikes all year round, not just in the summer. Now Sitka cyclists can ride and win prizes by participating in the ninth annual International Winter Bike To Work Day on Friday, Feb. 12. This year, since so many people are working from home or are out of work due to COVID-19, the event has been rebranded as WinterBikeALoopza, with people encouraged to ride loops around town if they aren’t actually riding to work or school.

Our celebration of winter cycling in Sitka will be simple. First, go to the International Winter Bike To Work Day website, https://winterbiketoworkday.org/, and commit online to riding to work on Friday, Feb. 12 (people who work at home can use a bike ride for errands or sport as their bike commute for the day). Then, on Friday, Feb. 12, during your bike commute, stop by the Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop (329 Harbor Dr.) between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to enter your name and phone number in a contest to win prizes, including a reflective vest from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop and other goodies from businesses around town.

This is the ninth year of International Winter Bike To Work Day, which started when several communities in Canada challenged each other to see which one could have the highest number of bike commuters. In 2014 the event expanded outside Canada, and Sitka and Anchorage hosted events along with several other communities around the world’s polar regions. Sitka ended up having the second-highest number of participants per capita, trailing only Oulu, Finland, in 2014. We also were the smallest community to have at least 20 participants. In 2015, there were even more winter cyclists participating around the world, and Zagreb, Croatia, became the first community to have more than 1,000 cyclists participate. Zagreb also had the most participants in 2016 (Sitka finished 107th overall, even finishing ahead of some large cities). Zagreb won again in 2017, but in 2018 Novi Sad, Serbia, ended Zagreb’s three-year reign as the top winter biking community. There now are ways businesses and schools can compete.

The 2019 event saw the first winner from the United States, as Denver, Color., had the most points (1,405) and participants (1,207). Boulder, Colo., took second place with 1,174 points; followed in third place by Zagreb, Hrvatska (Croatia), with 520 points; Gdańsk, Polska (Poland), in fourth place with 287 points; and Varaždin, Hrvatska, in fifth place with 264 points.

Sitka finished in a six-way tie for 98th place overall in 2019 with 20 points, matching New York City; Durham, N.C.; Osijek, Hrvatska (Croatia); Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland (Germany); and Getxo, España (Spain). Communities earned points for the number of cyclists who rode and registered their rides with the international website, inviting friends to ride, sharing photos, hosting an event, etc. The only other Alaska community ranked in the top 200 cities was Anchorage in 41st place with 67 points.

In 2020, Sitka finished in a 30-way tie for 180th place overall with six points/riders who recorded their rides on the International Winter Bike To Work/School Day website, matching Warsaw, Poland; Zurich, Switzerland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Madrid, Spain; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and several other much larger communities around the world. Communities earned points for the number of cyclists who rode and registered their rides with the international website. The only other Alaska community ranked in the top 200 cities was Anchorage in a three-way tie for 113th place with 14 points.

The 2020 overall winner was Uppsala, Sweden, with 879 points. Taking second place was 2014 winner Oulu, Finland, with 791 points; followed by Helsinki, Finland, in third with 571; Linköping, Sweden, in fourth with 479; and three-time winner (2015-17) Zagreb, Croatia, in fifth place with 468 points. Boulder, Colo., was the top city from the United States with 413 points.

We encourage all cyclists to be safe in their rides. They should wear helmets, wear bright reflective clothes, and have working solid white headlights in front and blinking red taillights in back. They also should follow all rules of the road, such as riding on the right side of the road (not on the sidewalk) and stopping at all stop lights/stop signs.

We are still gathering door prizes, and businesses or people wanting to donate door prizes to the event can contact Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com or Doug Osborne at douglaso@searhc.org for more information. We are looking for items such as gloves, reflective safety vests, water bottles, helmets, etc., although some businesses donated gift cards, bike books, or non-biking and non-winter items in past years.

In honor of American Heart Month in February, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion program invites any resident of Southeast Alaska to sign up for a new 28-day health challenge that is tailored to you. The Heart of the Matter Challenge starts on Monday, Feb. 1, and ends on Sunday, Feb. 28.

During February, participants will choose a personal health goal such as improved nutrition, increasing physical activity, stress management, quitting tobacco, or anything that enhances your physical and emotional well-being. This event is open to all ages, and is free for people in all SEARHC communities. There are weekly prize drawings for all participants who submit their progress reports.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Heleena van Veen at 907-966-8914 or heleenav@searhc.org.

The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Monday, Jan. 25, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include a review of 2020 goals and accomplishments, visioning for the new year (where do we want to be at this time next year), a look at our current status and realities, a chance to brainstorm club goals for 2021, an evaluation and selection of broad paths forward, a review of our recent Sitka mountain bike trail plan survey results and discussion about our next trail, a discussion of steering club committee roles and recruitment of new members (we need a VP), a discussion of club membership and possibly adding annual dues, and setting our next meeting for February. Other topics include possible upcoming grants, our recent renewal as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community, and the International Winter Bike To Work/School Day on Friday, Feb, 12.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

The Sitka Cycling Club will host a monthly steering committee at noon on Friday, Jan. 8, using Zoom. This meeting is open to the general public.

Meeting topics include a review of 2020 goals and accomplishments, visioning for the new year (where do we want to be at this time next year), a look at our current status and realities, a chance to brainstorm club goals for 2021, an evaluation and selection of broad paths forward, a review of our recent Sitka mountain bike trail plan survey results and discussion about our next trail, a discussion of steering club committee roles and recruitment of new members (we need a VP), a discussion of club membership and possibly adding annual dues, and setting our next meeting for February. Other topics include possible upcoming grants and our recent renewal as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community.

For those wanting to participate in the meeting, contact Doug Osborne at 738-8734 or douglaso@searhc.org for the meeting log-in info.

KK Prussian, left, and Laurent Deviche work on the Middle Machete Loop during a recent Sitka Cycling Club work party. The loop is nearly finished and when completed will be the fourth loop built this summer. The Sitka Cycling Club finished the loop in early October 2020.

In late November 2020, the Sitka Cycling Club initiated a survey to begin a master plan for mountain biking trails in Sitka. Our ultimate goal is to provide more mountain biking opportunities to the Sitka community.

With more than 70 responses, the club received a community-wide picture of respondents’ desires for trail length, difficulty and location as well as long-form comments to the four trails built in 2020. If you took the survey, we are thankful for your involvement in the project, and we are so happy to have a chance to develop this fantastic sport here in Sitka.

For context, half of respondents classify themselves as intermediate level bikers, and are most likely to bike between 20-60 minutes an outing. As far as near-term projects that entail a low budget and volunteer labor, the most requested advancement was adding to the current network of single-track in and near the Sitka Cross Trail in town. Development of No Name Mountain also received strong support.

In the long term for projects that require more fundraising and partnership with other entities, expansion of the Indian River Trail to bikes received the most interest by a fair margin. (It’s important to note that if any work were to happen here, we would ensure that trail expansion is permitted in the area and that there is consideration put toward those who walk the trail.) The Green Lake area received the second most interest.

Regarding difficulty, preference was split between easy and more difficult, with the latter carrying more interest. Additionally, close to three-fourths of respondents showed interest in both a skills park and a pump track individually. However, when asked to rank them, more interest was shown in a skills park.

In the longer answer sections, we saw patterns in responses requesting more opportunities for flow, jumps, smaller gravel on the track, and longer trails. Another interesting point that was mentioned multiple times was interest in a Harbor Mountain downhill trail. While only 36 percent of respondents flagged it as a near-term preference, the written responses regard it as an ideal opportunity for the jumps, flow, and length that many riders want to see developed.

As for next steps, based on this information, we plan to start developing a comprehensive plan schedule to prioritize, budget and plan for work parties. We will brainstorm ways to collaborate with other Sitka organizations throughout the project.

Thanks go out to Amadea Wilhite and Reese Jacobs, both students at Outer Coast, for leading the survey effort. The club hopes to enlist more Outer Coast students in the coming months to continue the master planning process.

As well, our partners in trail building during 2020 were crucial — Raven’s Way, Youth Advocates of Sitka, Joel Hanson of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Rotary Club of Sitka, Troy’s Excavation, Sitka Trail Works, Sitka Conservation Society, Outer Coast, City and Borough of Sitka, and our donors.

We began our efforts to build single-track mountain bike trail loops last spring, and have completed four loops to date — 907, Ewok, Little Machete, and Middle Machete. When added to the new Xóots Dei trail recently constructed by Sitka Conservation Society’s Community Conservation Corps, we now have about a half-mile of dedicated single-track mountain bike trail close to town.

Thanks to all who hauled gravel, stomped on trail, cut logs, and sent moral support messages along the way; many hands make light work. We are gratified to see so many Sitkans responding to the survey, indicating their interest in volunteering to help build trail or donate money to help fund the work. We will post progress updates on our website, https://sitkacycling.wordpress.com, and on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling.