Great Western Bicycle Rally: A Wheel of a Time

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in California Bicyclist, July 1992

In a sport where a century ride can cost $40 or more, the 28th annual Great Western Bicycle Rally must be the deal of the century. This three day cycling extravaganza was held over Memorial weekend in and around Paso Robles, CA. Over 2,200 cyclists converged on this rustic town some 40 miles north of San Luis Obispo to ride, race, and most of all, relax. The cost of all this? Just $10, plus maybe a whopping $1 surcharge for late registration! Break the bank!

Over 25 routes ranging from 9 to 67 miles were available, plus metric and full centuries, a 10 mile time trial, a hill climb, a bicycle "roadeo," and many other riding events. Needless to say, participation was high in all of the events and rides. In fact, it was impossible to ride anywhere within 50 miles of Paso Robles without seeing at least a few (or swarms of) Rally riders. Ironically, Paso Robles is also the annual Memorial Weekend location for a hot rod and low rider convention. It's quite a contrast between the cyclists and the auto enthusiasts, but conflicts are next to nonexistent as both groups are in town for fun and cruising.

Off the bike festivities proliferated as well, all centered around the fairgrounds. Films and slide shows were presented about bicycle trips across the States, around the perimeter of Japan, or even a 20,000 mile round-the-world trip. A Concours D'Elegance, coupled with a wine and cheese tasting party, allowed Rallyists to display their svelte machines. Various cycling-related companies were on hand to show off and sell their latest items. Ongoing free technical support was provided by Shimano and Bicycling Magazine. Two time Olympian Ron Skarin and his wife Sue Skarin had ongoing clinics concerned with training, positioning, and nutrition. Barbecue pits were available as well, with various performers providing musical entertainment. Even a 2k run was offered for those who really wanted to get away from their bikes! Of course, the weekend was capped off with a huge party on Sunday night. Awards were given out for all of the competitive (and non-competitive) events, plus truckloads of door prizes.

All in all, the Great Western Bicycle Rally is an event not to be missed by any who enjoy the sport and lifestyle of cycling.