Picture of bikers

Happy peddlers roll through the high desert outside Vernal, Utah. Photograph by David Epperson

Four days, 360 miles, 51 riders, 20,000 feet of climbing, 15,000 calories burned per rider, ten flat tires, and a whole heck of a lot of fun. For some, it’s the biggest athletic accomplishment of their lives. For others, it’s time to step out of everyday life and reflect on why they chose to work in the outdoor industry. For all, it’s an amazing adventure they’ll remember for years to come.

Mark Satkiewicz, president and general manager of SmartWool, is the brainchild behind the bike ride to Outdoor Retailer, which is the outdoor industry trade show that takes place in Salt Lake City twice a year. He lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, so this is no cakewalk. He wanted to do something unique, and create an opportunity to build community within the outdoor industry. After all, people chose this work because they love the outdoors and a little taste of adventure.

The idea was a hit. This marked the sixth year SmartWool has led a group of cyclists on the supported ride. For four days, 51 riders—from all different companies and job titles—rolled along back roads en route to the show, sharing stories, saddle sores and good times.

“My whole idea with this ride is to build camaraderie, and to show how committed SmartWool is to the outdoor industry,” recounted Satkiewicz when I sat down with him last week at Outdoor Retailer. “We’re about people. This ride is a chance for us to bond with our employees and customers, as well as others in the industry.”

It seems to work. People clamor for a spot in the peloton, which takes a slightly different route each year. This year’s ride followed winding roads in four stages: 123 miles from Steamboat Springs to Rangely, Colorado; 80 miles to Vernal, Utah; 51 miles to Altamont, Utah; and 101 miles for the final push to Salt Lake City. Notice that kicker at the end. Just when you think you’re almost there, you have to do a century. Ouch.

Despite the challenge and inevitable adversity that comes along with it, the riders had big smiles all around. One guy even fell off his bike because he was so distracted by the scenery. No kidding. He wasn’t injured—in fact, no one got hurt the entire time. This is a testament to the supportive nature of the ride. Everyone takes it at his own pace. There’s no competition. (Well, maybe a little.) And anyone can hop on the SAG wagon at any time. The group shacks up in hotels along the way, swapping stories at day’s end while scarfing down giant piles of pasta to carbo load for the journey’s next leg.

The prize at the end is the greatest show on earth: Outdoor Retailer. If you’re not familiar with it, let me tell you, it is awesome. It draws 27,000 outdoor junkies—manufacturers, retailers, reps, media, nonprofit do-gooders, athletes—who descend on Salt Lake to talk business, make friends, and check out an endless sea of the latest and greatest gear for any outdoor adventure you can imagine. It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for outdoor lovers. Gotta love it.

Hats off to SmartWool for making the show even more memorable for a bunch of industry folks. It’s a testament to their love of people, the outdoors, adventure—and Merino wool socks, arm warmers and base layers, of course.

Avery Stonich is communications manager for Outdoor Industry Association. Follow us on twitter: @OIA and @averystonich.