Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer bike trip series

Anybody who's ever broken out a bike in the Mankato area will tell you that it's a great community for two-wheeled travelers.

Bike trails are located all over the city, traffic is relatively mild in most areas and the city's natural geography (river valley with copious hills) make it a challenging ride for anyone hoping to get some good exercise. I grew up in St. Cloud, a very similar community to Mankato in a lot of ways, but I can never remember biking being as popular there as it is here. Whether on a trail or heading to work, I always see cyclists out and about.

With the onset of summer, it's a perfect time to put the car keys away and go on an adventure with the ol' bike. Fortunately for cycling enthusiasts, there are numerous destinations in this region that are both fun to travel to and easily reachable on two wheels.

These are destinations that are probably easily reachable by car. However, reaching those destinations on a bike carries infinitely more weight for your sense of adventure. You're not relying on the power of a motor to get you there; you're counting on the strength of your legs and the power of your will. On a bike, you're exposed to the elements, vulnerable to fatigue and limited to your own desire on where you can go. Even a simple trip to the grocery store (or, as was the case with a previous post of mine, a trip to Pizza Hut) can become an adventure on a bike.

Which brings me to the point of this entry: I'm looking for input from other cyclists in the Mankato area on interesting and fun locations to travel to on a bike.

I'm signed up to write a Go/Do piece on the topic for the Free Press' Currents section that's due to publish a couple of months from now. But rather than limiting the writing to my own knowledge of two-wheeled destinations, I figured I would leave it open to input from others.

Throughout the summer, I'll be blogging about different destinations I've biked to by posting maps of the routes I took, posting picutres, talking about the difficulty of the ride and assessing the appeal of the destination. As a fellow cycling enthusiast, you are encouraged to comment, elaborate and correct upon my postings as they appear.

I will also post any rides submitted to me by other bike riders. Send your suggestions, pictures and maps to:

When submitting ride ideas, please keep the following in mind:
  • What is the appeal of the destination you're biking to? Is it a restaurant with good food? A park with good scenery? A lake with a good beach? Some other type of landmark with the adjective "good" stuck in front of it? Unlike training routes one would take for a road race, I'm not looking for challenging rides with a quick turnaround points. I'm looking for a turnaround point that you'd like to spend some time at. We're not all training for a race, but we're all looking to have fun on a bicycle.
  • Relative difficulty of the ride. It shouldn't be a trip that can be achieved in a leisurely five minutes of riding, but it also shouldn't be something that requires a Lance Armstrong-like effort to reach in a day. Remember, part of the appeal of biking to places is the challenge that comes with doing so; biking a few blocks to your favorite restaurant is not a challenge.
  • Is the route relatively safe to bike on? Roads are pretty much unavoidable if you're going to bike to another town. However, there's a big difference between biking on a low-traffic country road and having to brace for the constant flow of cars on Highway 169.

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