Campus to host discussion on cycling anthology

“Wheels on Ice: Stories of Cycling in Alaska” is a collection of stories, fiction and nonfiction by authors across the state

On Sept. 7, Kachemak Bay Campus will host a discussion of “Wheels on Ice: Stories of Cycling in Alaska” with editor Jessica Cherry and a presentation by local extreme bikepacker Bjorn Olson.

“Wheels on Ice” is a collection of stories, fiction and nonfiction by authors across the state of Alaska, on how bicycles have been used in the state. The collection includes new material as well as reprints a 1985 compilation of stories edited by Terrence Cole, “Wheels on Ice: Bicycling in Alaska 1898-1908.”

Cole served as a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic and Northern Studies program from its founding in 1992 until his retirement in 2018, according to an in memoriam announcement from the university.

Olson and Cherry will provide background information on the history of both publications at the discussion on Sept. 7. The newly published anthology was also coedited by UAF faculty member Frank Soos. In August 2021 Soos died in a cycling accident, according to Cherry’s preface to the book.

The newer collection of stories was designed to look at all of the innovations with cycling that have happened since the turn of the century, Olson said. When the call went out for contributions five years ago, Olson submitted several essays on extreme bicycle trips that he has participated in. His essay included in the book is called “There is No Tomorrow,” about a 450-mile summer fat bike and packraft trip from Point Hope to Utgiagvik in 2017.

“This anthology is a little more diverse than the first one. It’s not just about radical or pioneering routes — the focus is more broadly on Alaskan cycling stories,” Olson said. “When I write about cycling trips I like to include details that are about more than just the trip. This essay has some focus on climate change and the repetition of coastal erosion up there.”

Olson, a lifelong Alaska and wilderness adventurer, originally from Slana, first biked the Iditarod Trail in 1998 and said he’s been “really devoted” to biking since 2007.

“This is my passion.”

Olson said Alaska culture has played a unique role the development and popularity of fat biking.

“This is where the first fat bike was inspired to be built. For a long time there was a shop in Fairbanks that made wide rims that fit some mountain bikes,” he said.

Interest in biking Alaska’s rugged outdoors, also helped drive interest in the sport, he said.

”All of the energy was coming from Alaska because people were interested in biking the Iditarod Trail; some of it was even inspired by original trail musher Joe Redington. Now we have the Iditaski, Iditabike and Iditasport,” Olson said.

In all of those winter events, Alaskans were pushing the boundaries and fat biking now has an international appeal, Olson said. Since fat bikes entered the commercial market, Olson said he’s seen an “exponential growth curve in public interest.”

“When I moved to Homer in 2008 and there were only two people in Homer who had fat bikes and now the bikes are as common as any other bike in Alaska,” he said.

“Wheels on Ice: Stories of Cycling in Alaska” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 at the Kachemak Bay Campus, located at 533 East Pioneer Avenue in Homer.