Cycling event returns to the streets of Las Vegas
By Renée LiButti
The recent arrival of fall means Las Vegas’ oppressive heat is waning. So it’s no coincidence that the city’s biggest bike ride is taking place this weekend. The fourth annual Viva Bike Vegas gets into gear Oct. 15. It’s sponsored by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), Vector Media and about 50 area businesses.
VEGAS.com talked to Jacob Snow, the general manager of the RTC, about the upcoming two-wheel extravaganza. In addition to steering the city’s transit authority for the past 12 years, he is an avid bicyclist and has ridden in all the previous Viva Bike Vegas events.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie between myself and the other cyclists,” said Snow. “There’s just a great feeling of mutual support, and we have a great time.”
Without a doubt, biking is a wonderful way to see a place – especially a visually stunning city like Las Vegas. Through Viva Bike Vegas, cycling enthusiasts can select from three route distances: a 17-mile circuit, a 60-mile trek and a 103-mile century ride. Designed to appeal to all ages and skill levels, the RTC plans the routes based on what the city has to offer at the time, making every effort to direct cyclists to points of interest in urban areas and into the breathtaking vistas of Southern Nevada.
For example, last year century riders in Viva Bike Vegas took a one-of-a-kind route that featured crossing the Mike O’Callaghan/Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge – before it was open to vehicular traffic. And this year all of the riders will have the opportunity to pedal under the glittering lights of the world-famous Strip.
“We’re really excited and pleased to have the cooperation of Clark County and the city of Las Vegas and all the resorts along the Strip to make this happen,” said Snow. Consequently, the ride will start at its earliest time ever, 5:30 a.m., and be led by a police escort. “We really wanted to have it be dark and have the effect of all the lights on along the Strip. That was one of the things we thought would be memorable for all the participants.”
Plus, riders who continue on and do the longer routes will enjoy the scenic loop at Red Rock Canyon as well as trails near Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Viva Bike Vegas begins and culminates at the village-like Town Square shopping center on the south end of the Strip. Cyclists are generally expected to complete their ride in two to six hours, depending on their selected route. Afterward, everyone is invited to relax and share stories of their experiences at the RTC Viva Bike Vegas Beer Garden sponsored by Miller’s Ale House and Bonanza Beverage.
There will be plenty of rest stops conveniently located along the routes with an array of food and beverages as well. Snow said that it’s a good idea for riders to keep eating and drinking. That will fuel your energy and help you avoid dehydration. Getting off your bike for a short break at these stops is important as well. In addition, professional help is available if needed.
“It’s a very well-supported ride. We have extensive SAG support, which stands for ‘Support and Gear,’” said Snow. “If people have a flat tire, need a bicycle mechanic or need equipment to keep going, we’ll be there to make sure that happens.”
Although Las Vegas may not stand out as one of the country’s best cycling cities, the progress being made here is impressive. According to the RTC, there are currently 65 miles of bicycle routes, 280 miles of bicycle lanes and 181 miles of bicycle paths throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
That’s part of what the organizers of Viva Bike Vegas hope to convey – while emphasizing the many positive aspects of riding a bicycle. Along with the health benefit of the exercise itself, there are economical and environmental benefits, such as less gas purchased and less traffic on the road.
“The primary purpose for this ride is to promote cycling as a viable form of transportation, and the more cyclists we have on the road – which is what we’re starting to see – the more understanding and respect there is from drivers to be on the lookout for cyclists and to have experience in dealing with not just pedestrians and automobiles, but pedestrians, cyclists, buses and other cars on the road,” said Snow. “I think that’s a good thing to improve our safety and our culture by enhancing respect for different modes of transportation.”
Nearly 2,000 people from around the world registered for Viva Bike Vegas last year, and even more are expected to participate this year. Two-time World Series baseball champion Aaron Rowand is among them. He has been training in Las Vegas recently with his friends in order to do the 60-mile route.
“As an athlete, I always look for new opportunities where I can challenge myself, like at Viva Bike Vegas,” said Rowand. “The greatest thing, though, about this event and cycling in general is that anyone can do it. I am excited to join the thousands of cyclists that will be at the starting line on Saturday.”
Although locals tend to make up about two-thirds of the participants in Viva Bike Vegas, visitors are encouraged to come out and take a spin. Bike rentals will be available at Town Square on the day of the event from Las Vegas Cyclery. The parade of cyclists always creates an unforgettable scene.
“There are some unique bikes entered every year. There are lots of tandem and recumbent bikes. There are people who will attach a stereo to their bike and blare it all throughout the ride,” said Snow, who fondly recalled the year when his son rode with him to fulfill a merit badge requirement with the Boy Scouts of America. “People occasionally dress up in costume. We had an Elvis rider one year. So we see all sorts of shapes and sizes of bikes – and all sorts of shapes and sizes of riders.”
For more information, go to vivabikevegas.com. Early registration has ended, but last-minute registration is available through the day of the event for a fee of $150. Proceeds from Viva Bike Vegas will benefit three local charities: the Nevada Cancer Institute, After-School All-Stars Las Vegas and Nevada Child Seekers.
And if you can’t make the ride, but still want to enjoy a cycling adventure in Las Vegas, the RTC publishes a bicycle map of the valley that is available at rtcsnv.com.