By David Ward — The Salt Lake Marathon Bike Tour is not my kind of ride. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great ride. How often do you get the opportunity to pedal your bike for 26 miles around a busy metropolitan Salt Lake City and not have to stop, not even once? Nor do you have to negotiate, or even worry about, traffic. That is the draw of a marathon bike tour, and the Salt Lake Marathon Bike Tour is one of the best.
So why is it not my kind of ride? Two reasons: Too early and too cold. The marathon itself starts at 7 a.m., and understandably they want to have us cyclists well out of the way of the runners. So we get to start at 6 a.m. That means a 4:30 a.m. alarm setting. With 4 hits on the snooze button, that gets me up by 4:45 a.m. I am then able to be ready and out the door by 5:30 a.m. I live about 5 miles from the start of this event, so I just jump on my bike and head to the start line. That’s the too early issue.
Since this event usually takes place around the third week of April, it is a pretty good bet it will be chilly, and maybe even downright cold. Like 2017. When I rolled out my driveway at 5:30 a.m., it was 34° F. Basically freezing. Now, I naturally run a little on the cool side, always a little chilled when others are comfortable, so I generally don’t like cold.
Wimp, you say. Many of you regularly arise in the wee hours, and simply find the cold refreshing. Good for you, but that doesn’t change me. I generally stay snuggled in my warm bed for at least a couple hours more. And in my defense, I did do the ride, and enjoyed it, thank you very much. And why was I able to enjoy it? Good, modern gear.
When I arose, I first donned my long-sleeved undershirt, made of some wonderful wicking synthetic material, complete with thumb holes to keep it pulled down to my palms and inside my gloves. Next came my bib shorts. I love bib shorts since they guarantee my lower back will be covered at all times. I followed that with my socks and long lycra (or some similar modern fabric) pants that are tight yet comfortable. I then put on my jersey, light vest and insulated jacket. Finally I donned my skull cap, helmet, cycling shoes, insulated booties, and last but not least, my long-fingered, insulated gloves.
Sounds like quite the process, and when done, you would think I looked like the little kid in “The Christmas Story” movie. But remember, this is lightweight, modern gear, and though I had 4 layers over my core (4½ if you count the tops of my bib shorts), I didn’t feel bulky or restricted. Nor did I feel cold. A little chilled at times, especially riding to the start, but not cold. And it stayed cold, so I also never felt too warm.
I really do like the Salt Lake Marathon Bike Tour. When I say it is not my kind of ride, I really mean that, on my own, I would not set my alarm at 4:30 a.m. to start a ride at 5:30 a.m., especially when it is freezing outside. But this is an event, and a good one. For me and those I often ride with, it marks the end of the ski season (though we will still sneak a few days in) and the start of the days we ride and train regularly on our bikes. And modern gear makes it possible for me to enjoy this event.
Speaking of gear, I remember the days (yes, I am a 60+ guy reflecting back on the days over 30 years ago when I got into cycling) when we rode steel frames, had friction shifting with shift levers on the down tube, pedals with toe clips and sew-up tires. Now, everyone is on carbon fiber, and has indexed shifting with shifters incorporated into the brake levers. Plus, we all have clipless pedals and light-weight clincher wheels. That’s just the major stuff, and it has transformed cycling.
And now we even have electronic shifting. I must admit, I have a bit of an issue with that, since it requires an outside source of energy (a battery). I have always admired how a bicycle is powered solely by human energy, becoming a synergistic unity with one’s body. Still, I bought my wife a new bike with Shimano Di2 electronic shifting, and she loves it. So, while it seems a hole in the dike, it is here to stay I suspect, and who am I to stand in the way of progress and something that helps people enjoy riding?
So, here is a shout-out to modern gear and equipment. While I may balk at electronic shifting, I am no retro freak. I am grateful for the advances in these machines I love to ride. And I am grateful for good, warm and comfortable gear in which to ride them.
And here is a second shout-out to the Salt Lake Marathon people for incorporating the bike tour into their event, and getting me up early and out in the cold for this great ride. It was fun.
April 23, 2022 — Salt Lake City Marathon Bike Tour, Salt Lake City, UT. Ride the closed 26.2 mile marathon course through the most iconic sites of Salt Lake City! All abilities welcome! Start at 6:00am, just north of the Legacy Bridge on the University of Utah Campus., Steve Bingham, 720-608-1783, [email protected], Jennifer Nelson, 801-455-9623, [email protected], saltlakecitymarathon.com