A line of young men and a few adult leaders on bicycles, all in matching white shirts, black shorts and helmets, pedaled triumphantly into sunny St. George with sore muscles and fatigue Wednesday afternoon.

As the group rolled to a stop near the St. George Utah Temple, another youth walked among them, aiming a water gun and squirting cool liquid on each rider.

A group of Latter-day Saint young men and adult leaders stand in front of the St. George Utah Temple.
A group of Latter-day Saint young men and leaders stand in front of the St. George Utah Temple on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the conclusion of their 300-mile bicycle ride from Lehi to southern Utah. | Ryan and Kristin Kirby

The party of young men and support staff, members of a Latter-day Saint church congregation in Lehi, Utah, had just covered more than 330 miles on their bicycles in three days, stopping at eight temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along the way. They called their trip the “Tour de Temples.”

Despite all the flat tires, leg cramps and uphill climbs, there was a deep feeling of achievement, said Ryan Kirby, the bishop and group’s leader.

“There was a sense of extreme accomplishment and also unbelief that they were able to accomplish such an incredible thing,” Kirby said.

What started the ‘Tours de Temples’

Six years ago, the Eaglecrest 3rd Ward young men wanted to go to Lake Powell for their big annual activity. The adult leaders encouraged them to consider something more challenging than just “going to play.” One boy suggested they ride their bikes to southern Utah, according to Ryan Kirby’s wife, Kristin.

The leaders laughed, but realized the boys were serious. So they did it. The group rode their bikes from Lehi to Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powell. They made it and learned valuable tips for planning future rides.

Two years ago the young men wanted to do another bike tour. They came up with the idea of riding from Lehi to Logan and Bear Lake, stopping at every temple in northern Utah along the way to perform proxy baptisms for deceased ancestors.

60 Latter-day Saint temples will move to the next phase of opening

“That was pretty spectacular,” Kristin Kirby said. “When they started talking about being able to do something this year they said, ‘We’ve got to finish the temples in Utah. Let’s go south.’ So this is obviously the biggest ride they have done.”

What they did to prepare

The young men and their leaders began planning “Tour de Temples 2” last fall, despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Training started in January. A local exercise facility allowed the boys to use their stationary bikes twice a week. Once the weather turned warm, they began riding outside, eventually tacking on distances of 30, 40 and 50 miles at a time.

Young Latter-day Saint cyclists take a break during their 300-mile ride across rural southern Utah.
Members of the Latter-day Saint Eaglecrest 3rd Ward take a break during their 300-mile ride from Lehi to St. George, Utah. | Ryan and Kristin Kirby

“It was weeks and weeks and weeks, and months and months of training,” Kristin Kirby said. “It was working out and cycling classes.”

Graphic designer Michelle Ellis helped the boys design a shirt to wear on their trip. The front includes the church’s name and a motivational quote from each young man. The backside of the shirt depicts a “Tour de Temples 2” bicycle logo with images of the eight temples along their route.

Young men cycling from Lehi to St. George, Utah, designed these shirts to wear on their 300-mile trip.
Left, Taden Parker shows off the front of his shirt designed by the young men and Michelle Ellis. The back side depicts the eight temples the cycling group visited on their trip from Lehi to St. George. | Ryan and Kristin Kirby

What route did they follow?

The 330-mile journey started in Lehi on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31.

That first day included stops at the Mount Timpanogos temple, the Provo temple, the Provo City Center temple, the Payson temple and one final haul to the Manti temple, a distance of roughly 120 miles over 10-12 hours. They stayed the night at an RV park in Manti, said John Durling, a member of the support staff.

On Day 2, they rode about 180 miles from Manti to Cedar City. This time the boys and leaders broke up into smaller groups to ride Ragnar relay style, taking turns riding 20-30 miles three times.

The last leg of the trip stretched from Cedar City to St. George (Cedar City, Red Cliffs and St. George temples). The route, which followed a lot of two-lane highways, included several uphill climbs that went on for miles.

“It’s a grueling feat,” Durling said. “It’s humbling to watch these guys climb these hills. ... But it’s good to see them off their cellphones, away from video games and out of school, doing stuff like this out in the open air.”

Three young men ride their bicycles up a hill to the Cedar City Utah Temple.
Three members of the group pedal up the hill to the Cedar City Utah Temple on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. | Ryan and Kristin Kirby

Durling was part of a support crew that drove vehicles in front and back of the cyclists. He, along with Randy Wells, Josh Kapp and Aaron Parker, kept the boys safe and well hydrated. Wells, a registered nurse, also provided medical treatment as needed.

Young men Braxton Kapp, Carson Kapp, Mason Kirby, Jacob Kirby, Taden Parker, Breck Parker, Jad Durling, Royce Durling, Matt Merritt and Preston Kargis pedaled the entire distance. Sam Newbold and Hayden Brennon supported their friends but didn’t ride.

Zach Bowers shows off his tan line and sunburned arms after a 300-mile bike ride from Lehi to St. George, Utah.
Zach Bowers, one of the leaders, shows off his new farmer’s tan in St. George, Utah, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. | Ryan and Kristin Kirby

Three of the 12 boys participated in both the northern and southern Utah “Tour de Temples.”

Adult leaders Ryan Kirby, Zach Bowers, Robert Kitterage, David Wilkes, Justin Kargis and Alex Dubious rode alongside the boys during the southern Utah tour.

The group suffered at least 15 flat tires and a few minor crashes, Ryan Kirby said.

“We’ve had a few crashes, a little bit of road rash, but thankfully, nothing too major,” he said.

The group will conclude its trip with a few days of rest and recuperation at Sand Hollow Reservoir.

“That’s the reward,” Durling said.

Justin Kargis smiles as he watches Braxton Kapp and Taden Parker sleep in the back seat after their 300-mile bicycle ride.
Justin Kargis smiles as he watches Braxton Kapp and Taden Parker sleep in the back seat following their 300-mile bicycle ride from Lehi to St. George, Utah, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. | Justin Kargis

Highlights and lessons learned

Ryan Kirby described the scenery in some places along their route as “incredible,” but the lessons and takeaways — the power of teamwork, the value of preparation, positive thinking and more — will be just as memorable.

Braxton Kapp, a youth leader and the bishop’s first assistant in the priest quorum, joked about gaining new perspective for the importance of “drinking a lot of water.” On a more serious note, Kapp expressed appreciation for the unity that has been developed among the boys following the isolation of the pandemic. He also applauded how everyone encouraged and cheered each other on during the hard moments.

“When COVID hit, it was like the bonds were separated. We were all doing our own thing. Now we are together again,” the 18-year-old said. “The quorum has your back. Everyone has been helping each other out. I love spending more time with the quorum.”

“We far too often underestimate what the youth are capable of. We just need to give them the opportunity and not remove the obstacles that are in front of them, and let them go.” — Ryan Kirby

Ryan Kirby echoed Kapp’s thoughts on teamwork and positive peer pressure, adding a few thoughts of his own. The bishop observed that when the boys rode and worked together, they were generally happier and covered more territory.

“We far too often underestimate what the youth are capable of,” he said. “We just need to give them the opportunity and not remove the obstacles that are in front of them, and let them go.”

Those who went on the first “Tour de Temples” missed performing baptisms for deceased ancestors this time around. Even so, focusing on the temples as landmarks added a spiritual element to the activity.

“It’s really changed our high adventure from just being something fun that we do to something meaningful,” Kirby said. “It has really provided a purpose for our high adventures and made the temple a center point for what we are doing. ... There’s a sense of accomplishment for the ride, but there’s also a spirit that accompanies when we were able to go from temple to temple.”