So much for our early spring...
While it’s not quite time for a young man’s fancy to lightly turn to thoughts of love, it is time for this middle-aged guy’s thoughts to turn to bicycling trips for the upcoming riding season.
It’s time to move from commenting on winter biking, local advocacy, national transportation funding, and pro cyclist doping controversies to planning some weekend and week long cycling adventures. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll still comment on these important issues as they arise – I just won’t limit myself to standing up for cycling while I’m stuck sitting inside, frustrated that I can’t get out and ride.
Soon, the Midwest will be turning green, the days will be growing longer, and the opportunities for enjoying long rides through the scenic countryside will be multiplying. This is the year to discover new trails, experience some new road routes, and reconnect with old friends on familiar rides.
If you are looking for some interesting areas to visit and some yet-to-be-explored back roads and bike trails, keep an eye on Have Fun Biking in Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota – the surprisingly bike-friendly capital of the entire Midwest. Oddly, despite a slightly shorter riding season, our neighbors to the north have a higher bicycling participation rate, log more miles, and offer more local trails and bike lanes than we do.
Many smaller communities in Minnesota rely on bicycling as a tourism draw, featuring their on-road routes, off-road trails, and regional bike paths in the new ride guide being published in early April. This year the guide will be available online in a pdf format, so you no longer have to hope to find one at a Minnesota tourism center along the Interstate.
I have experienced some very enjoyable bicycling in the land of 10,000 lakes. Most of my riding has centered round the Twin Cities themselves as I travel there frequently. Their bike path and bike lane network is truly amazing. A great deal of money has been invested in bicycling infrastructure and the high participation rate offers proof that "if you build it, they will come."
If you have a desire to visit the Minneapolis metropolitan area this spring or summer, consider skipping the Mall Of America and spending your time biking both sides of the Mississippi River instead. Once you’ve seen one enormous mall like Woodfield, you’ve seen them all. Granted MOA is technically larger, is heated exclusively by shopper’s body heat, and features an amusement park - the only real benefit to shopping there is picking up souvenir t-shirts without paying sales tax. Save that outing for a rainy day and opt for exploring the stunning scenery along the Great River.
In the Metro (as the locals call it), there are bike trails that spread outward along former rail spurs from the city center to the suburbs. The suburbs then continue these paths along busy roads and into residential neighborhoods, making travel by bike both convenient and safe. It is not only possible, but likely, that a bicycling enthusiast will commute downtown to work each day.
Despite staying at a hotel eight miles south of St. Paul in the suburb of Eagan, I can easily ride the bike path network into St. Paul or downtown Minneapolis to visit my bike shop clients. On a typical weeknight evening last fall, I passed dozens of riders commuting home from work. There literally is no limit to where you can travel by bike throughout the Twin Cities.
If you can’t haul a bike along with you on your trip, you can always rent one while you’re there. Your best bet is to contact a local bike shop and secure a high quality model of your choosing. There is also a bike share program, very similar to what Chicago will end up with soon.
Minnesota is always on my short list of favorite bicycling destinations in the Midwest. Look for more updates as I return there throughout the riding season. In the meantime, visit Have Fun Biking, Bike Walk Twin Cities, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Minnesota DNR, and Rails to Trails Conservancy's Trail Link for more information.
Keep riding and be safe!
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