BIt will have to be chirping birds, ripping muscles, cheering teammates and perhaps even grazing grizzly bears that make up the soundtrack for competitors in this year’s Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay (KCIBR).
Organizers have made the decision to ban headphones for the 2009 race, meaning that competitors will not have the option of cranking their favourite tunes as they pedal their way to Alaska.
“It is a safety issue and it essentially comes down to two things,” said race co-organizer, Mike Gladish.
“One, we were finding that riders were having troubles listening to instructions from race officials and fellow teammates and competitors and, secondly, we found there were concerns with the headphone cords potentially getting tangled and causing accidents.”
Despite the no-music clause, popularity has not been swayed for this year’s race with more than 1,000 riders signed up already and another 200-plus volunteers committed to the 17th annual race.
A record 45 solo riders are also slated to participate, something that Gladish, admittedly not a big cyclist himself, can’t fathom.
“I wouldn’t want to do it on my own, that is for sure,” said Gladish, who spends his winters running the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club and, as a result, has a plethora of experience organizing big events.
“I guess for most it is looked at as a big challenge and a great goal to have.”
Gladish also notes it is amazing how many first-time long-distance riders are lured to the KCIBR.
“I think part of the appeal is the fact that you get to participate in such a remote race,” says Gladish.
“You can’t get much more remote than cycling from Haines Junction to Haines [Alaska]. Plus, there’s a pretty good party at the end, too.”
According to Gladish, newbie riders should prepare for more than just sore glutes, calves and quads as the weather can be very unpredictable, even in mid-June.
“It can be warm at the start and warm at the finish, but then at the Alaska Summit it could be five degrees and drizzling … you really never know,” explains Gladish.
“I guess the message is prepare for everything.”
Riders should also not be alarmed if they find themselves biking alongside a bear or two as each race has at least one bear encounter.
“It’s never anything negative and is usually just a case of cyclists having to stop and wait while the RCMP handle the situation.”
The 17th annual KCIBR gets underway at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday June 20.