In the previous iteration of the Living Streets Alliance’s 2-Mile Commuter Challenge, roughly 250 riders signed up, 189 of whom regularly logged trips on their bicycles.

However, with the help of a handful of convenient smartphone applications, participation in the recently concluded Tucson Bike More Challenge shot up: this time around, 815 people signed up and 522 were actively putting in miles.

Lots of miles.

The final tally shows that between Oct. 30 and Nov. 30, participants rode well over 80,000 miles, a distance that includes commutes, errands and recreational riding. That works out to well over 300,000 calories burned, assuming an average cyclist weight of 155 pounds and a leisurely 10 mph pace.

Colby Henley, one of the event’s coordinators, chalked up part of the success to the Love To Ride application, a social media platform for tracking rides. For events like the Bike More Challenge, it can also help promote some friendly competition between individual and team participants.

In real time, bikers can see where they and their workplace stack up against competitors.

Additionally, riders can link ride tracking apps like Strava and Ride Report so that any bike trip is automatically logged.

Apart from a few “glitches,” Henley said the higher-tech approach “certainly makes it much easier.”

“We didn’t have to press stop or go,” said Holly Bryant, a registered dietitian who led the team effort at the El Rio Community Health Center, of the new approach. With 2,410 miles ridden over the month by staff, El Rio earned itself a respectable third place in the 500+ employee category.

(Full disclosure: your humble columnist’s office took 11th place out of 40 teams in the seven-to-19 staff members category, with a respectable 3,877 points and cumulative 330 miles ridden).

The Road Runner reached out to a few of the top performers — in no small part to learn their secrets for next year.

Bryan Little, a mechanical engineering senior at the University of Arizona, bikes at least a portion of his commute to campus from Vail every day. However, most of the impressive 1,455 miles he put in over the month were ridden on Tucson trails. Little recently became a sponsored mountain biker, and the auto upload feature of Love To Road proved a boon to his effort.

“Every single mile that’s recorded on there, I pedaled it,” he said.

While not quite as prolific as Little, IBM retiree Steve Wilson earned the distinction of putting in the most individual trips. The official figure is 214, but Wilson pointed out that the app he used would often record single errands as two separate rides, meaning the actual figure might be about half that. Whatever the actual number, Wilson certainly spends a lot of time in the saddle, resorting to driving as infrequently as possible.

“I try to be as car-free as I can,” he said.

It turns out that the woman behind the most successful team effort this year, Pima County’s, isn’t even a regular biker. Karen Wilhelmsen, with the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, has used public transit for years to get to work and told the Road Runner she didn’t even get on her bike once during the competition.

She did, however, work hard to get the word out to colleagues, who together put in more than 5,400 miles. For Wilhelmsen, cutting down on pollution and congestion were her main goals. She’d be pleased to learn that if participants had driven the miles they rode, they would have added nearly 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

“Promoting little things like this can spark a great change in someone’s life,” Wilhelmsen said of biking to work. “It’s really worthwhile.”

Given this year’s success, Henley said LSA is going to stick with the Love To Ride approach for future competitions. Beyond the convenience for participants, Henley said the ride data they generate can be very useful for local transportation planners.

“We’re excited to keep this thing rolling,” he added.

Here’s the full list of individual and team winners:

Individuals
  • Top New Female Rider — Angie Avalos, 224 miles
  • Top New Male Rider — Nathan Clark, 108 miles
  • Points Leader — Carissa Sipp, 4,909 total points
  • Top Commuter — Carissa Sipp, 618 commute miles
  • Top Encourager — Jenn Choi, 10 riders encouraged
  • Most Trips — Steve Wilson, 214 (Because the apps often count single errands as two trips, Wilson told the Road Runner the actual figure is likely half that figure).
  • Most Miles (Men) — Bryan Little, 1,455 miles
  • Most Miles (Women) — Carissa Sipp, 1,459 miles
Organizations
  • 500+ staff — Pima County, 5,423 miles
  • 200-499 staff — Pima County IT Department, 1,050 miles
  • 50-199 staff — University of Arizona Libraries, 1,533 miles
  • 20-49 staff — Watershed Management Group, 3,061 miles
  • 7-19 staff — Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona, 2,462 miles
  • 3-6 staff — University of Arizona Office of Sustainability, 1,240 miles
DOWN THE ROAD

There will be lane restrictions near Sahuarita on southbound Interstate 19 on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Only one lane will be open during that time to allow for maintenance work near El Toro Road. No ramps will be affected.

Contact: mwoodhouse@tucson.com or 573-4235. On Twitter:

@murphywoodhouse