Inveterate cyclists have a love affair with bike riding that makes the relationship between car and driver look like a one-night stand. If you’re indifferent to or can overcome the hardships (hills, trucks, rain and wind, bugs, time, security considerations, and sore muscles), the advantages of bikes are unassailable. They’re free to operate, nonpolluting, easy to maintain, and great exercise. They also slow down the world and attract the immediate friendly and curious attention of the locals.
Almost all of the bus companies, ferries, and railways will carry your bike as accompanied baggage for a nominal amount, although a few want you to have it in a box. Most airlines also accept bicycles as luggage, as long as they’re boxed before check-in (you will pay an extra charge). Before you buy a ticket, compare prices, then ask each airline about taking a bicycle.
Alaska can be just as hard on bikes as on cars, however, if not harder. Fifteen-speed mountain bikes are recommended to handle the rough roads better. Know how to fix your own bike, and take along a good repair kit, as bicycle shops are few and far between. At the minimum, you should have spare tubes and tires, a patch kit, a pump, extra cables, a spare chain, and a chain tool.
Carry your gear in saddlebag panniers lined with plastic bags. Fenders are nice in wet weather. Warm waterproof clothing is essential, particularly rain pants, a poncho, a rain hat, a wool shirt, wool socks, and waterproof shoes. Bicycling gloves, shorts, and clear goggles are also necessary. You could buy everything you need in Anchorage.
Short-distance bicycles are available for rent in every major town and are an excellent way to see the local sights, especially in fair weather.
The Anchorage-based Arctic Bicycle Club (907/566-0177, www.arcticbike.org) organizes road races, mountain bike races, and tours, and its website is an excellent source for anyone interested in cycling in Alaska. Useful books are Alaska Bicycle Touring Guide by Pete Praetorius and Alys Culhane and Mountain Bike Alaska: 49 Trails in the 49th State by Richard Larson. A few companies offer guided cycling trips around Alaska.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition