I was fortunate enough to get to participate in one of On Course Events’ signature nighttime mountain bike races in South Lake Tahoe. Bike Night was held, of all places, at the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Yep, right down the fairway, over the bridges and through the sand traps. Oh, and did I mention that the entire race takes place at night, thanks to the use of hundreds of glowing pylons, crazy lights and LEDs everywhere?
Brian Walker | Courtesy Tahoe Games
Let’s back up a bit and explain a few things before we dive into just how cool the race was that night. Before the race, I reached out to On Course Events’ director of marketing, Leslie Schultz, to get a little background about the event and the company itself. Given the reputation for — let’s go with — stodginess that many golf courses have, I was curious as to how this one had agreed to allow a bike race across its perfectly manicured facilities.
“If you’ve never seen a tandem bike-riding duo try
to charge through a sand trap, it’s absolutely hilarious
and definitely worth the time to check it out.”
“On Course Events started working with the Lake Tahoe Golf Course in 2014 producing indoor and outdoor concerts for a variety of promoters, all aimed to bring a new energy to the local course,” explained Schultz.
On Course Events has been putting on concerts, special events and the like for more than 20 years, but this particular race is out of the ordinary.
“We know Lake Tahoe has a huge market for cycling, but in all the years both Rob Giustina (the owner) and I have lived in the Basin, we’d never seen anything like it,” said Schultz.
Night mountain biking
Sept. 30 | Tahoe Games Bike Night
Lake Tahoe Golf Course | South Lake Tahoe
Oct. 15 | TAMBA Corral Night Ride
South Lake Tahoe
I showed up at the course during the evening when it was still light out and it was hardly noticeable that anything was about to happen. I was able to easily get checked in, thanks to the helpful staff that makes sure everyone is having fun. I had been told that costumes are highly encouraged, but, unfortunately, I didn’t take this to heart. As soon as a small fraction of the participants had arrived, it was immediately apparent that I was underdressed for the event. People were showing up in tutus, crazy hats/helmets (think modern-day Vikings) and putting on glow and light-up apparatus. My favorite duo may have been the father/daughter combo riding on a tandem bike, complete with a Southwestern-style set of horns attached to the front of the bike. Both had on cowboy boots — the daughter in tutu, as well.
Brian Walker | Courtesy Tahoe Games
As people milled about chatting, getting their bikes and costumes ready and setting up for general tomfoolery, it was clear that these events are intended to be fun and family friendly, with a hint of competitiveness.
According to Schultz, “This company aims to continue to provide unique and exciting events that bring the community together and make Lake Tahoe a better place to live and play.”
With that being the stated goal, I can confidently say that they nailed it.
Courtesy Tahoe Games
Before the race, we were divided up into categories, in order to separate us into heats. Due to circumstances, I was the only competitor riding on a fat-tire bike. I only mention this because it will come up later. The race was divided into two heats, with juniors, odd bikes and tandems going first. The way the course was designed allowed spectators to go and watch the racers charge through one of the sand trap obstacles. If you’ve never seen a tandem bike-riding duo try to charge through a sand trap, it’s absolutely hilarious and definitely worth the time to check it out. Luckily, the daughter was able to harness her rodeo skills and stay on the bike through it all — just barely.
Next up were the adults and fat-bike riders, myself included. Though it’s not a particularly long course – two laps of 3 miles each – it’s more of a challenge to charge along fairways and through sand traps than I would have thought. The event staff does an amazing job lighting up the course, including a great Rasta bridge, complete with music.
Courtesy Tahoe Games
After our ride, it was time for the raffle and awards ceremony. There’s nothing like attending a mountain bike race that hands out awards for Best Glow. And man, was that some tough competition Remember how I said that I was the only competitor in the fat-tire bike category? Well, to quote everyone’s favorite Duff beer-swilling failure of a father: “Default? Woohoo! The two sweetest words in the English language: dee fault, dee fault!” It was certainly a proud moment for me to top the podium that evening.
Whether you’re a novice mountain biker just looking to hang out with some like-minded people or a serious cranker looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, I recommend the night mountain bike race series from On Course Events.
The last night race of the season is on Sept. 30 at Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Registration starts at 6 p.m., the race starts at 8 and an after party with awards and raffle starts at 10. The race is about 6 miles with two, 3-mile laps for most classes. Helmets and lights are recommended. No electric bikes are allowed. The cost is $20 per person, for ages 10 and older.
So, what’s next for On Course Events? As Schultz explained to me, the goal is fairly straightforward: “We plan to continue building the Tahoe Games brand with our sights set on a Tahoe Games Mountain Biking Festival, potentially in 2017.”
Given how much fun their events are, I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to seeing where they take things from here.
For more information, call (530) 600-2233 or visit tahoegames.com.