Welcome. We're your premier source for fun places to explore by bicycle or on foot. Offering guides, maps and articles on road and trail riding for the novice to seasoned cyclist - helping you find your #NextBikeAdventure
This bike pic Friday, fond summer memories of riding along the canals and river in the Netherlands as these cyclists demonstrate on a Bike & Barge Tour from Amsterdam to Bruges.
So, get into the zone when continuing your time outdoors and your #NextBikeAdventure. View all the great ideas and bike destinations in the latest Iowa or Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends in one of Minnesota’s HaveFunBiking destinations. And now, check out more stories at Let’s Do MN.
Thanks for viewing our latest bike pic
Now rolling through our 19th year as a bike tourism media, enjoy! As we pedal forward, we aim to encourage more people to bike and have fun while highlighting all the unforgettable places you can ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.
Do you have a fun bicycle-related photo of yourself or someone you may know we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to [email protected]. Please Include a brief caption for the image, who shot it, and where. Photo(s) sent to us should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide to be considered. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.
As we continue encouraging more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure. Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile-friendly, as we enter our 14th year of producing this handy information booklet full of maps.
Bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends, and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the corner with one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo appearance while you are riding and having fun. You could be in one of our next Pic of the Day.
Have a great day with a safe and memorable year ahead!
by Russ Lowthian
Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota.
Pedal with family and friends at your own pace on this Bold North adventure.
The first leg of America’s famous 3,000-mile bicycle trail system uses bike-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. You may find some of my observations of interest by leading several MRT bike tours over the years and referencing my book Road Biking Minnesota.
From the Mississippi’s headwaters near Park Rapids to the Iowa border, the complete Minnesota section of the journey is roughly 620 miles. The following route descriptions are spread over nine days to keep the daily mileage comfortable for plenty of time visiting the river towns along the way. Depending on how much time you can spend on any bike vacation, this overview makes it easy to break it apart for multiple bike getaways.
Please visit the embedded links offering short video clips and maps of the Mississippi trail system as you read the following. See the first video clip to get a better feel for what you will see and experience leaving Itasca State Park on the MRT. The information in this video and subsequent videos are made possible by the MN DNR, the MN Historical Society, Explore Minnesota Tourism, and the National Park Service.
MRT – Day 1 from the Mississippi Headwaters to Bemidji
After enjoying a hearty breakfast at the historic Douglas Lodge, in Itasca State Park, it’s time to roll out. First, you will need to pedal a few miles through the towering pines to where the Mississippi River begins. At the Headwaters parking lot, walk your bike down the trail. There, dip your rear wheel in the stream to celebrate the beginning of your journey. You may hear one of Minnesota’s loons calling out. Following the internationally recognized Mississippi River Trail, depart from the park’s north entrance. Now pedaling a scenic county road in a northeasterly direction, this 30-plus mile stretch offers a beautiful rolling terrain. As you pass by patches of pine forests and an occasional old farm setting, smell the air. Soon you are pedaling into the first city on the Mississippi River.
Rolling into Bemidji
Arriving in Bemidji, the MRT enters on a city trail that connects to the Paul Bunyan Trail. As the river’s current flows into Lake Bemidji, consider spending your first evening here. While visiting, discover all this community has to offer.
A-League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bike-Friendly Community. It’s easy to get around and explore the city by bike.
In the downtown area, metal sculptures, murals, and historic architecture are found on just about every corner. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center to have your picture taken with
Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. See our Bike Bemidji article for lodging and more things to do when not riding. You will find camping options in Lake Bemidji State Park.
MRT – Day 2 from Bemidji to Grand Rapids
Back in the saddle, the MRT takes the Paul Bunyan Trail north to where the Mississippi River pours out of Lake Bemidji. As the current flows east, enjoy the sites along the Great River Road as it rolls into Chippewa National Forest. This next stretch of the MRT to Grand Rapids is roughly 80 miles. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Bemidji, watch the 2nd video clip here.
With an abundance of wildflowers along the road, pedal through the enchanted treasures this forested area offers. Along the way, notice a huge population of bald eagles and hawks as the
river meanders from one huge lake body to the next. Soon the river flows into Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie), and the MRT takes a course around the lake’s south shoreline.
The first Federal Dam on the Mississippi
Passing several resorts, you may want to stop for a selfie by the significant fish monument. Riding up the east shoreline through towering pines, the MRT is soon up to the Federal Dam, where Lake Winnie spills back into the Mighty Mississippi. This dam was created in the late 1800s, making it the most significant river reservoir. Approximately 45 miles from Bemidji,
there is a campground. You will find a restaurant and some lodging options a few miles further east.
The MRT follows the river meanders, now in a southerly direction, passing through a Native American village called Ball Club. Here the river dips and then flows to the east again. Soon the MRT rolls into Schoolcraft State Park, where it meets back up with the Mississippi. This secluded park is the perfect place to take a break. Quiet and peaceful, the park offers a relaxing
environment with a virgin white pine forest over 300 years old. Take a panoramic virtual tour of the area here, and then it’s on to some Wizard of Oz trivia.
Rolling into Grand Rapids
Judy Garland, from The Wizard of Oz, spent time here as a child. Today the community offers visitors many fun options to explore, along with the Judy Garland Museum. Once settled in, visit the Forest History Center and the local art scene. This area is rich in forested beauty and offers many art forms, including many bronze sculptures and historic architectural sites. Grand Rapids is also the western gateway to the Mesabi Iron Trail and Range. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. The mining communities along this Mesabi trail are worth checking out if you have a few extra days. See our Bike Grand Rapids article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.
MRT – Day 3 from Grand Rapids to Aitkin
As the Mississippi River pushes against the western slope of the St. Lawrence Divide, it
flows south, and the MRT hugs the west bank as it rolls out of Grand Rapids. This stretch of
the MRT is approximately a 70-miles ride to Aitkin.
Several yard art figures for a photograph.
Approximately 20 miles south, you will come to a crossroads. Here, by taking a left and crossing the river, you’re in the town of Jacobson. If you turn onto this half-mile side-trip adventure, you will discover many pieces of unusual lawn art and a rest-stop option.
Rolling into Palisade
Back on the route, continue south, and you will soon be in a town named for the high banks on each side of the river, another intriguing place to stop. The community has a restaurant
and a convenience store. Next to the river, the park here is an excellent place for a picnic or an overnight stay in the campground. Back in the saddle, riding out of Palisade, there are two options to reach Aitkin.
You can depart on the Great River Road, now a hard gravel surface, for the next 15 miles,
enjoying a peaceful ride along the river.
Rolling into Aitkin
Here, roll into a community with a riverboat full of history. Once a popular meeting point for Native American Indians and explorers, today, the town makes an excellent overnight choice that offers camping and lodging options. After you settle in, check out the museum converted from the Burlington Rail Depot. Here you can learn about the town’s steamboat history and other interesting facts. For more things to do and lodging options, click here.
MRT – Day 4 from Aitkin to Little Falls
As the Mississippi flows, now in a westerly direction, the MRT roll into Cuyuna Country. As the river passes on the north side of an iron range of the past, the MRT meanders around several abandoned open mine pits, now some of Minnesota’s newest lakes. The MRT rolls towards the Brainerd Lakes Area as the river bends southwest.
Rolling into Brainerd
Just imagine riding in an area called Paul Bunyan’s playground. Legend has it that Paul and his blue ox, Babe (remember that mythical figure you can take a selfie within Bemidji?) were having fun, wrestling around after a long rain spell. Stomping and tromping made many large depressions that eventually filled with water to create the 464 lakes in the area. With the MRT and Paul Bunyan Trail merging back together in Brainerd/Baxter, you will find many fun adventures and good things to eat here. For more, see our Brainerd/Baxter article.
Back in the saddle, the trail and river both head south again. As the Great River Road rolls
along the east bank, passing Crow Wing State Park, agriculture replaces the forested
landscape. Further down the MRT, cross to the west bank and visit Camp Ripley, which
offers a fascinating military museum. Here see hundreds of exhibits showcasing vehicles and field equipment of Minnesota’s military past. It’s still ten miles of pedaling to reach the next river town, “where the river pauses.”
Rolling into Little Falls
For centuries Little Falls has been where native inhabitants, early settlers, and recent visitors have used it as a ‘gathering place.’ Located where the Mississippi River pauses, this
river community is the town of Charles Lindbergh’s childhood. After settling in, check out the historic attractions and museums while experiencing the town’s original murals and frescoes. While here, if interested, you can discover who helped finance the production of the “Wizard of Oz.” See our Bike Little Falls article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.
The river offers several rapids through this stretch as the MRT rolls into St. Cloud. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. While in this river community, check out some attractions, including the Munsinger-Clemens Botanical Gardens. See our Bike St. Cloud article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.
The MRT and river swing back to the southeast on the east side of the river. The route takes you to Clearwater through county roads that parallel several irrigated potato fields. Then, crossing the Mississippi again, cyclists will notice the river is a bit wider here as they pedal to Monticello.
Rolling into Monticello
Here you will find a river town, full of charm, tucked up against the Mississippi River and conveniently located between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. This vibrant community with many scenic parks is also home to thousands of geese and swans each winter. After settling in, check out the attractions in Monticello. For the lodging option in the area, visit the local chamber here.
MRT – Day 6 from Monticello to St Paul
Leaving Monticello, the MRT crosses the river and meanders through the farm fields of specialty crops to Elk River. To get a better feel for what you will see as you ride into the Twin Cities, watch the 5th video clip here. Stopping in Elk River, cyclists passing through the downtown area will notice the fresco mural on Main Street. You will also find plenty of options for a rest stop here.
In the next twenty-five miles, MRT enthusiasts will enjoy stopping at several Twin Cities Gateway community attractions.
From here, enjoy paved bicycle paths through Minneapolis before reaching the St. Paul suburb of Inver Grove Heights.
MRT Day-7 from St Paul to Frontenac
As the Mississippi River Trail leaves the St Paul area, the route tentatively detours to the south to Hastings. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving St. Paul, watch the 6th video clip here. The paved trail out of South St. Paul will connect to the Mississippi River Regional Trail, allowing cyclists a direct route to our next river town.
This new trail near Schaar’s Bluff is completed on the far end and will take cyclists into downtown Hastings’s historic district. You can find more about Hastings in our At-A-Glance article and a place to stop for cool refreshments or a meal.
Rolling into Hastings
Leaving Hastings, the MRT follows the Mississippi, winding along the backwaters of the river and past the Prairie Island Indian Community. About ten miles further, the route enters Red Wing, the next river community on the Minnesota section of the Mississippi River Trail.
Rolling into Red Wing
As the MRT runs alongside the river bank on the Great River Road, you will find the atmosphere in Red Wing both unique and charming. From the beautiful bluffs, historic sites, and world-famous boots and pottery, this river town also offers several dining opportunities for a stop here. If you decide to spend the night, see Visit Red Wing for more options.
Back on the Mississippi River Trail, it’s approximately another 10 miles to Frontenac State Park for the night. The city is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains many homes dating back to the Civil War era. Here you will find the Whistle Stop Café and a convenience store if you choose to camp in the state park for the evening.
MRT Day-8 from Frontenac to Winona
Back on the MRT, the route uses the wide paved shoulder of the Great River Road to Minnesota City. With a wide shoulder and rumble strip dividing you from the traffic, the Mississippi River is in sight, to your left most of the time. When you notice the river widening, the Mississippi flows into Lake Pepin, and you are close to the ‘Birthplace of Water Skiing.’
Rolling into the Lake City
Here discover the quaint shops and restaurants next to the harbor in the downtown area of Lake City. This river town is also a popular place for touring cyclists. In addition to the Annual Tour de Pepin bike tour, the site offers several other mapped rides. See the Lake Pepin Area Bike Map and checkout. Visit Lake City for more options.
As the river flows out of Lake Pepin, the next river community on the MRT is a town known for eagles and ‘Gumpy Old Men.’
Rolling into Wabasha
The oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River, this community has been thriving since 1826. As touring cyclists roll into town, they will find 50 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places if time permits, enjoy their historic walking tour, and discover the stories that have made this town so unique. With Bald Eagles in abundance along the river, this is also home to the National Eagle Center, located downtown. Also, with the famous movie “Grumpy Old Men” its sequel shot here, dine at Slippery’s Bar & Grill for a nostalgic look at this river town. You can find more options at Visit Wabasha.
Rolling into Winona
Taking the MRT out on the back road through the village of Kellogg, it’s about 30 miles of pedaling to Winona along the bluffs. Arriving in this pristine river town, enjoy several views of the city nestled into a valley bordered by bluffs along the Mighty Mississippi. Here in Winona, there is plenty to discover, with so many attractions and museums. Be sure to visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. You will also notice many of the downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historical Places and self-guided history tours are an option. Being a LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. See our At-A-Glance Winona article for more tour, dinner, and overnight options.
A stop a the Pickwick Mill, 2-miles off the MRT
MRT Day-9 from Winona to the Iowa Boarder
Leaving Winona, the Mississippi River Trail creatively takes you up into the bluffs, past the historic Pickwick Mill, and then onto the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. A cyclist in the area enjoys a remarkable view of the Mississippi River Valley at the top of the byway. Then it’s a cruise down the Byway into La Crescent.
From La Crescent, the last leg of Minnesota’s section of the Mississippi River Trail is approximately 24 miles to Albin, IA.
Enjoy the fun of riding all or parts of the MRT for that unforgettable adventure.
Riding into the Thursday morning sun as our beautiful spring weather continues. Here in our bike pic archives, we captured this biker chick and dude riding across Iowa on RAGBRAI 2017.
Get into the zone when continuing your time outdoors and your #NextBikeAdventure. View all the great ideas and bike destinations in the latest Iowa or Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends in one of Minnesota’s HaveFunBiking Destinations. And now, check out more stories at Let’s Do MN.
Thanks for viewing our latest bike pic
Now rolling through our 18th year as a bike tourism media, enjoy! As we pedal forward, our goal is to encourage more people to bike and have fun while highlighting all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.
Do you have a fun bicycle-related photo of yourself or someone you may know we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to [email protected]. Include a brief caption (for each) of who is in the photo (if you know) and where the pic was shot? Photo(s) should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide or larger to be considered. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.
As we continue to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure. Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile-friendly as we enter into our 13th year of producing this handy information booklet full of maps.
Remember, bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends, and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the corner with one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo appearance while you are riding and having fun. You could be in one of our next Pic of the Day.
Have a great day with a safe, and memorable year ahead!
Riding into the Monday morning sun as our beautiful spring weather continues. This photo captured this bikers riding across Iowa on RAGBRAI 2017.
Get into the zone and plan your next bike outing with family and friends at one of the many HaveFunBiking Destinations. View all the fun ideas and bike destinations in the new HaveFunBiking Guide.
Thanks for viewing our ‘Monday Morning Sun’ Pic of the Day
Now rolling into our 11th year as a bike tourism media, our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike and have fun. While highlighting all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more destinations you can have fun at we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. As you scroll through the information and stories we have posted, enjoy!
Do you have a fun bicycle related photo of yourself or someone you may know that we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to: [email protected]. Include a brief caption (for each), of who is in the photo (if you know?) and where the picture was taken. Photo(s) should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide or larger, to be considered. If we do use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.
As we continues to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your next bike adventure – Also, check out the latest Bike Guide, mobile friendly as we enter into our 9th year of producing print and digital guides.
So bookmark HaveFunBiking.com and find your next adventure. Please share all our pic’s with your friends and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the next corner with a HFB camera ready to document your next move while you are riding and having fun. Capturing you in one of our next ‘Pic of the Day’ posts.
Another beautiful day here in the upper Midwest with above normal temps. Stay cool and hydrated just like these cyclist riding on RAGBRAI last year.
Here this Memorial Day Weekend, in the U.S.. plan your next outing with family and friends at a HaveFunBiking Destinations. View all the fun ideas and bike destinations in the latest Bike/Hike Guide from HaveFunBiking.
Thanks for Viewing Our ‘Summer Smiles’ Pic
We are now rolling into our 10th year as a bike tourism media. As we pedal forward our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike and have fun while we highlight all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.
Do you have a fun bicycle related photo of yourself or someone you may know that we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to: [email protected]. Include a brief caption (for each) of who is in the photo (if you know) and where the picture was taken. Photo(s) should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide or larger to be considered. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.
As we continue to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure – Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile friendly, as we enter into our 8th year of producing this hand information booklet full of maps.
Remember, bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the corner with one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo apperance while you are riding and having fun. You could be in one of our next Pic’s of the Day.
Take a deep breath as you grip your handlebars and prepare for a bike adventure in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. You will feel as if you’re deep in the country. As this north metro community area borders the Mississippi River Trail it can be your personal playground while visiting.
When in the area you can: stop and fish; play a round of disc golf; go birding; travel through a chain of lakes by bike or canoe; or explore one of the many parks. You can even satisfy your inner sports fan by visiting the National Sports Center, with a velodrome track.
Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway if wetting a line and catching some fish are a part of your agenda.
The Twin Cities Gateway is just a short drive or an easy commute by bike from Minneapolis or St Paul. Another major feature is the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) following the river’s edge in three of the nine Getaway communities: Anoka; Coon Rapids; and Fridley. Plus the other six Gateway Cities have bike-friendly roads and trails that lead to the MRT for a bike adventure.
After riding the trails and bike-friendly roads enjoy a cold beverage with friends at the Hammer Heart Brewery, it’s a great way to seal the ride.
Mississippi River Trail (MRT)
The MRT starts at the headwaters of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and passes through the Twin Cities Gateway before flowing into the Gulf, at the mouth of the river in Venice, Louisiana. While riding along the river in the Gateway communities you’ll pass many opportunities for site-seeing, so make sure your camera is fully charged.
If you’re tired of riding trails and want more of a challenge, check out the velodrome at the National Sports Center, in Blaine. The wooden track is open to the public every Thursday for single speed fun. The season begins in late spring and through the summer. Check out their website for more details.
For more info take a look at the At-A-Glance TC Gateway article
Now that you are considering an adventure to the Twin Cities Gateway, also check out our HaveFunBiking At-A-Glance Twin Cities Gateway Article. Here you will find more details on where to stay, play, and explore this nine-city area. Great for planning and to link to your hand-held device, for guaranteed fun.
Over the past few years, a new category of bicycle has been developing – The Adventure Bike. Although these Adventure Bikes may look like a road bike, they offer features that allows for ridding off road trails. With such versatility, could these bikes really do it all?
Why are these adventure bikes different?
Where adventure bikes differ from a road bike is the overall position. adventure bikes typically have a higher bar and shorter top tube than its road counterpart. Also, some Adventure bikes can handle a mountain bike tire. Now you may be wondering “if you can fit mountain bike tires in these bikes, what makes them different from a mountain bike?” I’m glad you asked. Rather than a mountain bike geometry that is focused on quick handling and maneuverability, Adventure bikes geometries focus on stability.
Where can you ride an adventure bike?
Adventure bikes can be ridden anywhere. The general position on these bikes allows the rider to be comfortable and in control on all types of surfaces. Therefore, riding off road can be as manageable as riding on the pavement. Additionally, adventure bikes can accept narrow road tires, large mountain bike tires, and every size in between. These tire options lend to the Adventure bikes versatility. Also, keep in mind that Adventure bikes all use disc brakes as well, so stopping won’t be an issue even if conditions get poor.
Can You Carry All Your Stuff?
The adaptability of an Adventure bike is another great reason to own one. Assuming you want to take multi day trips and need to carry camping equipment, food, clothing, etc. Adventure bikes are built with dozens of braze-ons (threaded inserts that allow you to bolt racks, bottles and fenders to your bike). Many adventure bikes come stock with front and rear racks, so carrying your gear is never an issue. Don’t be concerned if you aren’t into the rack and fender look, all these bikes still look great unloaded.
Is There Anything an Adventure Bicycle Can’t Do?
Yes and no. Technically, an Adventure bike is stable enough to be ridden on almost any surface, but it won’t excel on all of them. For instance, while they look like a road bike, they don’t have the same efficiencies. In the same fashion, Adventure bikes are not as nimble as a mountain bike and won’t offer the quick handling you would want to attack your local singletrack riding. Therefore, while an Adventure bike may be the best choice to tackle all terrains, it won’t offer the same ride as a bike built with a more specific purpose.
Has your interest been piqued? If so, I encourage you to head over to your local bike shop and take a test ride. Because of the versatility, efficiency, and comfort of the Adventure bike, more shops are stocking them than ever.
It’s barely dawn, the weather is cool as he drags his unwilling body out into the world. The headlights of his car shine through the last remaining darkness as he pulls into the lot. His tired bones haven’t yet committed to the 51st Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride, but the energetic atmosphere drives him forward. He unshackles his bike, and after a few quick checks he heads toward the growing swarm of riders. The day may not be perfect, conditions could be troubling, but he knows completing the new course through Carver County holds coveted “bragging rights.”
What is the Minnesota Ironman?
The Mn Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, starting this year in Waconia and touring Carver Co.
The Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride is the longest-running century and variable mileage ride in Minnesota. For over 50 years, crowds have gathered to ride the course designed in its varying lengths. It’s also the first spring road bike event of the season, too, so weather conditions can be a mixed bag. Temperatures have fluctuated from the 30s through the 80s over the years with the chance of rain always a threat. So, why sign up for this event?
There’s Nothing Else Like It Drawing Thousands of Riders
The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists of all skill levels, drawing thousand of cyclists for the first road bike event of the season.
In May of 1967, one month after the inaugural Minnesota Ironman, Ralph Baer played and lost the first two player video game ever. That means that before people challenged themselves with a controller and a screen they were enjoying the challenges of the Minnesota Ironman. The Minnesota Ironman is an event, not a race, where completion is as lofty a goal as most could achieve. Its rolling hills, scenic courses, and friendly atmosphere make this ride a premiere event each year. And this year, starting in Waconia, MN and touring Carver County will be no different.
Bragging Rights Guaranteed
Why not wait a few weeks for warm weather?
The Minnesota Ironman is the kickoff event for cyclists, rain or shine bragging rights are guaranteed.
Well, the answer is in the name. To be an Ironman, you need to prove yourself. Completing this ride means you have done something special. Even though the route is challenging and the weather often adds its own obstacles, you will not be alone. More than 3,000 riders take advantage of this annual bike tour. And the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle team will be on hand for any needed technical, coaching, and safety support.
Plus, It’s for a Great Cause
Hostelling International USA (HI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy recreation, international travel, and cultural exchange. Proceeds from this ride go to HI’s Minnesota location, which is surrounded by the natural beauty of Itasca State Park, at the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The MN Ironman attracts thousand of riders all over the country and offers everyone who participates a great time!
Whatever your reason for entering the Minnesota Ironman, know that you will be greeted on April 30th by thousands of old and new friends with similar interests, hundreds of smiling volunteers, and one amazing event. I am looking forward to seeing you there!
The first snowfall keeps many inside by a warm fireplace. But there are a growing number of cyclists who see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly – with the chance for bragging rights!
A growing number of cyclists see a winter commute as another opportunity to be more environmentally friendly.
For many though, the thought of riding a bike in the winter can be intimidating for many reasons, including freezing temperatures, ice covered paths, and more. But if you prepare properly for the weather, then you may find it quite enjoyable and worth the effort. Plus, you will find plenty of gear options available to keep you warm and safe as you navigate your local winter wonderland.
Layering Up for that Winter Commute
As you ride, you create windchill. So you can make 40-degree day feel like it’s below freezing, leading to an uncomfortable commute. The best solution is to find jackets and pants specifically designed to stop wind. They do that by stopping air from pulling away from your body. A good base layer under a layer that blocks wind can make the winter commute comfortable even in below freezing temperatures.
Layering your clothing is important for a winter commute.
You know your body better than anyone else, and this means you’ll have a better idea of what parts of your body get cold first, and what follows afterwards. Layer up accordingly for the winter commute. The layer closest to your body should wick away all the perspiration. This is very important. With the cold, if there is any sweat that makes your clothing damp, you’ll get cold faster.
Besides layering up clothing to protect your core, make sure that you protect key areas that tend to get cold quickly. For instance, winter full-fingered bike gloves for your otherwise numb fingers, earmuffs for those aching cold ears, nice warm socks for your toes and feet, and perhaps a face mask for when your face feels frozen. Also, a biking headband or headwear might be important if your head gets cold under the helmet. While a helmet can seem warm in summer, in winter it provides little protection against cold wind.
Tip: You should start the winter commute off feeling comfortable, so layer yourself accordingly. Once you start pedaling, you’ll warm up. You can bring an extra layer just in case you need it, but usually you won’t.
Seeing is Key
Have eye protection, like a pair of alpine ski goggles is important for a winter commute.
Having clear vision is essential for your winter commute. You need to be able to see and be aware of what’s around you. If you can’t see it increases the risk of unnecessary crashes. Finding proper eye protection is relatively easy and affordable. You can use a cheap ski masks as well as wrap-around sunglasses, if the sun poses an issue. You should also be able to wear standard reading glasses, too, and they may even be able to fit behind your goggles. They may fog up once you get inside, but you’ll be safely off the road by then.
Be Visible While Staying Warm
The cold winter months bring early sunsets and snow that can make visibility for drivers on the route you define to ride. In addition to wearing reflective clothing, state law requires such things as a white light attached to the front of your bike so drivers can see you from at least 500 feet away (if they are looking at you from the front). There must also be Department of Public Safety-approved red reflector tape or light attached to the back of your bike so drivers can see you from 100 feet to 600 feet (when they are directly behind you). It is also wise to have reflector tape or lights that traffic can see you from side streets and alleys. For information on what the law requires, click here.
Since the cold temperatures can shorten the battery life on your lights, make sure you check them often so your lights work when you need them! In terms of the law, if an officer pulls you to the side for not having a front light that meets guidelines (even if it’s there and just not on), there’s no excuse that can help you.
Ride the Right Bike
If possible, buy a standard bike that’s a single speed. We’d recommend a used or old bike. Bikes with suspension, multiple gears, or that are specialized can get worn down or ruined by the snow, salt, and grit. So getting a bike that you can ride and that can withstand the wear and tear of winter is the best route to go.
Once you find the enjoyment of riding in the winter, plan to commute longer distances and if its in your budget, a fat bike might be an option to consider. Fat bikes have large balloon tires that increased your surface area, giving you a better grip on the ground under you. This makes riding on snow and ice easier and safer. To learn if a fat bike is for you, visit your local bike shop.
When winter commuting by bike you must always be aware of your surroundings even more than warmer months. General visibility may not is an issue whrn winter bike riding, but also watch out for slippery surfaces. Also, drivers can be can be more distracted this time of year so drive your defensively. So even thought they’re supposed to watch for you, make sure you keep an eye out for them as well.
Be Aware of the Weather and Be a Smart Biker
Winter means snow, ice, and cold winds. It also means that there is less daylight. Be aware of what options you have if the snow starts coming down heavily, it becomes really icy, or if overall conditions start to worsen. Have an alternate plan in place if biking becomes too dangerous. Plot riding routes that are near bus or train routes or anywhere with public transportation. If conditions get bad then you have another way to get home or to your destination.
Also, don’t make any sudden moves or do tricks with your bike, especially in icy conditions. This means don’t lean into the turns, as an example. Going with the turn decreases the amount of contact the tire has with the road or trail surface. This is bad because your bike will have less power to stay upright. This might seem like a no brainer, but we have seen plenty of people who break quickly or make quick turns only to wipe out. Doing this in the middle of the street is dangerous and could become fatal.
Why Winter Commute?
Winter bike commuting is not only a great way to ride year-round and keep you in shape, but also it can save you money. Looking at cost, in terms of transportation options, biking is definitely on the low end. By the time you add in all the costs that come with driving a car or public transportation, the costs of using anything besides your own legs as an engine will be greater. Plus, you’ll not only be in shape and ready to go in spring, but you’ll also be regarded as awesome for braving that cold air.
Have fun, be safe, and remember to use your best judgement this winter while riding!
On a recent summer morning, I jumped on my bike and pedaled to the boat launch at Lions Park on St. Charles Street, in bike-friendly Winona, MN. The sun, several hours high, bent between scuttling clouds, and the river gleamed with muted light. Above my head, turkey vultures rode the wind currents, and around my feet, yellow and white wildflowers trembled in the wind. As I stopped, I took a deep breath, smelling the river mud the floodwaters left behind. I watched the water swirl between the rocks for a few minutes. Then I got on the bike again.
Bicycle next to a lake in Winona, MN
Biking options in and around Winona
I’ve been using a bike to get to the parks here in Winona for as long as I can remember.
I do have one tricycle memory, in which I careened down a gradual hill and fell near the bottom, prey to the tricycle’s lamentable lack of brakes. But soon after, I learned how to use two wheels. My first bike was a $1 Goodwill find. The second one, with 20-inch tires, was a $10 garage-sale bargain. I loved each one. There was nothing quite like the freedom of biking to the park with my mom and brothers or going around the neighborhood looking for kids to play with or riding to meet Dad on his way home from work. No license required.
Riding a bike in a place creates a sense of belonging and Winona is no exception. With its many quiet streets lined with trees, some of which arch over the road like the name of a cathedral. I could spend hours looking at the Victorian and Queen Anne architecture of the houses near downtown. On my bike, I catch glimpses of wildlife, if they’re not startled by the whir of the chain. Once, as I rode, a bald eagle banked against the wind just a few dozen feet above my head. I’ve seen turtles and deer. Once I almost ran over a squirrel.
I’ve biked and run most of Winona’s streets over the past few years, thanks to a marathon training regimen, lack of a car and a general sense of curiosity about the place in which I live. I’ve racked up quite a list of favorite streets and trails.
Now that it’s summer in Winona again, long days call for long adventures to fill them and lukewarm weather means it’s not too hot to jump on a bike and call it a day trip. So I mapped out a route that hits many of my favorite spots and offers ample opportunities to take it slow, grab a snack, or spread a blanket and take out a book.
The length of this loop I designed is about 16 miles, and I completed it at a medium pace in about 2½ hours. I don’t go very fast on my bike, a hand-me-down hybrid with a jerky front brake and a milk crate tied to the rack behind the seat (perfect for a picnic.) The route is mostly flat and paved, and I tried to include many of Winona’s more bike-friendly streets on this route.
St. Charles Street boat launch
I start the loop at the boat launch at Lions Park because it’s just a few blocks from where I live on the east side of town. It’s a perfect sunrise and sunset spot because it provides a rocky perch and a distant view of the interstate bridge and smaller bridge behind Latsch Island. Here look for wild morning glories on the rocks.
Then, from the launch, take St. Charles Street and turn right on Second Street. At Walnut Street, take a right to get to Levee Park.
I love to swing by Levee Park at least a few times each week to look at the river. When I lived on campus at Winona State University, it was the perfect 20-minute out-and-back run to get me going in the morning. I love to catch the sun rising here as well, slowly leaking over the river and onto the rooftops of Winona.
Riverview Drive/Minnesota Marine Art Museum
Return to Second Street, and then head right on Riverview Drive. Ten minutes from downtown, you can stop at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, for the art of course, or the view of Yeomans Pond. There’s also a preponderance of wildflowers and birds. Then it’s back on the road again.
This part of the bike tour requires a Whitmanic excitement toward commerce and industry, with its views of soaring grain elevators and constant truck traffic. Plenty of interesting distractions, anyway — or you can keep your eyes on Prairie Island Road until you get there.
Prairie Island Road
Blooming morning glories by the side of Prairie Island Road in Winona, MN
Turning right off Riverview Drive onto Prairie Island Road takes you away from the traffic and straight into sprawling views of wetlands and backwaters. Wild morning glories bloom over the banks leading down to the water, and water lilies abound. When I run or bike back here, I usually can’t keep a goofy grin off my face. Prairie Island itself offers ample opportunities to take a breather, spread a picnic and watch some deer or bald eagles. There’s a handy water fountain by the picnic shelter — and a portable toilet.
Mississippi River Trail
The Mississippi River Trail is a bike route that follows the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to New Orleans. Signage was completed in Winona last fall, and my route includes a short piece of it. Turn right out of Prairie Island Park and follow the left fork of the road (the right leads to McNally’s Landing) down a long straightaway. Watch for waterfowl — the National Wildlife Refuge surrounds you.
Verchota landing on the Mississippi River, Winona, MN
The view of the backwaters here is unreal, with miles of lily pads and bulrushes beneath a full sky. Take in the sight of Wisconsin’s bluffs, and watch for eagles. On calm mornings, the water makes a perfect mirror, as it did for my latest visit. Continuing on your way, take a right out of the parking lot and follow the Mississippi River Trail as it loops up a steep hill into a neighborhood. Then go left on Wenonah Road.
This part of the route is more of a connector, but it still offers a low-traffic, mostly low biking environment and views of the bluffs on either side. As you bike through Goodview back toward Winona, you’ll come to a stop sign that features Airport Lake on the left and Penguin Zesto West on the right. Here you will find a couple of choices for a mid-route refreshment on your ride.
I close my eyes every time I let go of that rope. Reflexes, I guess.
From the lake, take 54th Avenue to West Sixth Street, and make a left. After going through Goodview past Goodview Park and Pelzer Street, the road will come to a Y-intersection, and I suggest the left fork, continuing onto West Fifth Street. This road is busier than most of the others, so stick close to the shoulder and hop in the bike lane once it starts.
Bob Welch Aquatic Center
If jumping off a rope into a lake is not your idea of fun, you can also cool off here. Just turn left on High Street and go two blocks north.
This park, set at the intersection of Fifth and Huff streets, always feels European to me. It’s fun to run the diagonals, but I would not suggest sailing through on a bike. Instead, take time to sniff the flowers and avoid mowing down pedestrians.
From Fifth Street, take a right on Main Street and use the bike lane to get to the lake. I find the lake another excellent spot for daydreaming and catching my breath after a long day.
Back home — or a wild card
Penguin Zesto West, Winona, MN
At this point, you’re back in town, sweaty, happy — so it’s time to add your personal stop to the bike route, then head to wherever home is.
Other popular Winona bike touring loops
Rollingstone Route: 12 miles
Arches/Farmer’s Park Route: 17 miles
Gilmore Valley Route: 16 miles
Pleasant Ridge Loop: 18 miles
East Burns Valley Loop: 13 miles
Pickwick Loop: 25 miles
Richmond Ridge Loop: 16 miles
Apple Blossom Loop: 17 miles