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Contests Challenge Commuters to Bike in May

If getting in shape, having fun with co-workers, and breathing fresh air during Bike to Work Month isn’t enough for you, perhaps the chance to win prizes will get you back in the saddle.

Contests Challenge Commuters to Bike in May

The Biomedical Bad Boys are doing it. So are the Loose Links, Rain City Rollers and Bellevue Isotopes.

Those are four of the nearly 600 teams currently registered to compete in the upcoming bike commute “challenge” in the Puget Sound area.

But you don’t have to have a rad team name. Companies big and small are putting their names on bike-commuting teams that will pedal to work in May. The month has been designated across the U.S., and it is being celebrated with contests, classes and events.

The biggest draw may be the commuting contests, which aim to get you riding with your co-workers. The commuter challenges in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are expected to get more than 10,000 commuters heading to work on two wheels.

There are no minimum requirements to participate (but there might be to qualify for some prizes). People are just asked to log their trips by bike onto a website so the entire effort can be calculated.

Those miles can really add up. Last year, in King County alone, 10,372 riders on 1,677 teams from 723 workplaces biked more than 1 million miles. (To be exact: 1,082,885.83.) No tally on the number of flat tires.

Interested? Here’s how to get involved in one of the three regional contests:

King County

The Group Health Commute Challenge, sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club, is for Seattle-area riders. Kicking off a month of events is the annual Vulcan Bike to Work Breakfast (pdf) fundraiser, held on Wednesday, April 27, from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. Team members logging five or more trips get entered into a drawing for prizes, and teams logging the most miles will also get awards (along with coveted bragging rights). What’s more, a roving “prize patrol” of cyclists will hand out goodies to bike commuters throughout the month.

Pierce County

If you’re a Tacoma-area cyclist, try the Bike to Work Commuter Challenge, which has been extended this year to run through May. Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club is working with Pierce Transit and other agencies to put on the event. Prizes from sponsor REI include gift certificates of $250 and $100, Novara bike gear, bike tune-ups, light sets and team pizza parties. The challenge starts April 30 with two events: a bike expo event at the University of Puget Sound, and the second annual Trails Uniting Communities event on the Riverwalk Trail in Puyallup.

Snohomish County

BIKES Club of Snohomish County is sponsoring the Bike Commute Challenge up north, supported by Community Transit and Everett Transit. Note the different set of dates: it runs May 16 to June 17. The kickoff event is Thursday, April 28, at Everett Station, from 3 to 6 p.m., and will feature local bike shops and a commuter bike display.

How to Participate

It’s pretty easy to get a team together. That is, if you have active co-workers or friends who commute. Simply log onto one of the commute challenge websites and register your team and yourself as the team captain. Then send the link out to colleagues and see who antes up.

Teams should have four to 10 members, and organizers ask you to break into multiple teams if you have more riders. Clever team names are encouraged.

Many teams are formed among co-workers, but it isn’t mandatory. If you have friends who bike to work but aren’t on a team, get together with them. Typically, the challenge rules say you all must live or work in the area covered by each organization.

The programs offer some support to get you going. You might get some information to use to motivate your team members to ride. As the miles add up, team members can see how they stack up against other teams, and maybe set goals to build those miles.

And you don’t have to ride a ton of miles. Your team members might be required to log at least four or five trips to qualify for the prizes. But partial trips count, which means you can take a bus or vanpool in and ride home, or vice versa. But they do want you to log only your pedaled miles. And if you ride the long way home, you should probably just log your normal work distance rather than your entire ride. Of course, it’s all on the honor system.

It’s also Bike to School month, so students can participate, individually or as teams.

Regardless of this invented event, biking to work can be fun and rewarding, and May is a great time to try it. The weather is warming up (sure it is), the days are noticeably longer, and we’re just getting into the biking season.

That last point is key, because if you’re planning to do any long summer rides, like the STP or a biking vacation, bike commuting could be a reliable way to get regular training miles.

Bill Thorness is the author of Biking Puget Sound: 50 Rides from Olympia to the San Juans. Contact him at bill@bikingpugetsound.com.

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