Tag Archives: bike festival

Bic Pic July 28, area bicycle festival tours two states

Fun in Minnesota’s Bluff Country. Here Scott Larson, Mary Derks and friend of the Swiss Cheese & Spotted Cow Bike Tour ride through the Root River Valley, east of Houston, MN, at the Annual La Crosse Area Bike Festival held each Labor Day Weekend.

Find many more bike friendly places to explore in the new Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Thanks for viewing the Bike Pic of the Day here at HaveFunBiking (HFB). 

Now rolling into our 10th year as a bicycle tourism media source, our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike, while showcasing unforgettable places to ride. As HFB searches and presents more fun cycling related photos, worth a grin, scroll through the information and stories we have posted that may help you Find Your Next Adventure. Then, while out there if you see us along a paved or mountain bike trail, next to the route you regularly commute on, or at an event you plan to attend, be prepared to smile. You never know where our cameras will be and what we will post next!

Do you have a fun bicycle related photo of yourself or someone you know that you would like to see us post? If so, please send it our way and we may use it. Send your picture(s) to: [email protected] with a brief caption (of each), including who is in the photo (if you know?) and where it was taken. Photo(s) should be a minimum of 800 pixels wide or larger for us to consider using them. If we do use your photo, you will receive photo credit and an acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As HaveFunBiking continues to encourage more people to ride, please reference our blog and the annual print and quarterly digital Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide to Find Your Next Adventure. We are proud of the updated  At-a-Glance information and maps we are known for at the HFB Destination section on our website and in the guide. Now, as the Guide goes into its seventh year of production, we are adding a whole new dimension of information, now available for mobile devices.

So bookmark HaveFunBiking.com and find your next adventure – we may capture you in one of the next photos we post.

Have a great day!

La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival Schedule

Come enjoy four days of on and off road, self-supported bike rides in Wisconsin’s scenic Driftless Region. The La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival,  September 4-7, includes mountain biking, architectural tours, coffee and muffin rides, ice cream rides, 30-100 mile road rides, live music and entertainment. All rides leave from Cameron Park (unless noted).

Free to the public, please register here to take advantage of all the festival has to offer.

This-family-comes-back-for-the-ice-cream-ride-every-year at the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival.

This-family-comes-back-for-the-ice-cream-ride-every-year at the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival.

Road rides that take you outside of La Crosse are self-supported, self-timed and self-guided.  By registering above you will get suggested start windows, turn-by-turn smartphone routes online, and maps with cue sheets available for free at Cameron Park.  Featured road rides also have volunteer ride ambassadors who will leave from Cameron Park at staggered times throughout the start window.  Routes out of town are also outlined on free maps and cue sheets, with turns marked on the road in the city.

In town guided interest rides are suitable for families, kids, and are easy to ride. They leave from Cameron Park at the designated time, make frequent stops, and have a leader to guide the ride through the city.

Friday, September 4 — Schedule

A mostly-moderate routes to start out the festival, the featured road ride leaves La Crosse to the northeast, heading through West Salem, over a few somewhat-challenging climbs including one through the scenic Mindoro cut.  The shorter Grandad Bluff Loop leaves town on the exact same route, but turns back for a much shorter (while still very scenic) ride, with a stop at an overlook.

  • 7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: North-East Route (63 miles)
  • 7-9AM Start Window — Optional Road Ride: Grandad Bluff Loop (23 miles)
  • 5PM Advanced Mountain Bike Ride: Meet in Myrick Park, where there’s plenty of parking if your bike is on the car.  We’ll ride over to Hixon Forest and ascend the Rotary Vista Trail before hooking up with the Upper Hixon Trails network on top of the ridge. Expect to ride 14-18 miles for about 2 hours on technical singletrack.  Rocks, roots, and fast elevation changes challenge even the most skilled rider.  This will be a no-drop ride.  (leader, organizer: Robbie Young)
  • 5:30PM: Guided Interest Ride: Slow ride through history. Local cyclist and Slow Bicycle Movement organizer Scot McCollum joins up with archivist and author Laura Godden for a tour of historic La Crosse.  While any period outfits and retro bicycles are optional, they’re certainly welcome. Tonight’s ride tours North La Crosse and will finish at Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey Bar and American Gastropub.
  • EVENT: Cameron Park Farmer’s Market, 4pm-8pm Enjoy fresh produce and treats from area vendors
  • 7PM All Rider’s Regroup: Old Crow Bourbon Whiskey Bar It’s a chance for riders of all kinds to come together at the end of the day — no matter if you were on the 63 mile ride to start to day or out on the Slow Ride through history, join us in the back room of the Old Crow Gastropub, 100 E. State Street for a little deluxe socializing


Saturday, September 5  — Schedule

La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival Gravel Grinder Ride is back.

La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival Gravel Grinder Ride is back.

Today the festival features the routes to the west of La Crosse, crossing the bridges across the Mississippi and entering Minnesota to explore the bluffs and farmland near La Crescent, Houston, Brownsville and Hokah.  The featured ride, known as the Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride (or DRMSR), features wide-open landscapes and four good hills, including of the most challenging climbs of any of our routes.  The optional rides leave La Crosse by the same route and explore the same region as the DRMSR, but with shorter distances and different routing.  The new mixed gravel/road ride is in the same Minnesota region, but occasionally leaves the hard-surfaced road for unpaved climbs. Meanwhile, back in La Crosse, the ever-popular Ice Cream Ride visits three (three!) different shops that make their own ice cream.

  • 7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride (DRMSR, options for 59 or 82 miles)
  • 7-9AM Start Window — Optional Road Rides: Brownsville-Hokah (32 miles)  / Apple Blossom (35 miles)
  • 8-30AM Mixed gravel ride:  La Crosse – Nodine – La Crosse or L-N-L is a brand new addition to our routes, and our (rural, Minnesota) version of Paris-Roubaix — a 64-mile mixed road ride with six gravel sections and five big climbs.  Gravel, cyclocross, or mountain bike recommended.
  • 8AM Coffee Ride: A leisurely morning ride with coffee stops at La Crosse’s Olde Town North and University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Along the way, we’ll explore north side neighborhoods, the city trails through the marsh, and a newly built bicycle/pedestrian bridge. We’ll finish the 12-mile route with plenty of time to shop and enjoy the Cameron Park Farmer’s Market.
  • EVENT: Saturday Morning Cameron Park Farmer’s Market.  Enjoy fresh produce and treats from area vendors
  • 9AM Mountain Bike Ride (WORS Preview Ride): Be the first group to get a sneak-peek preview the new race course for this month’s Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) Hixon Forest Epic. Meet at the Hixon Forest parking area at 9AM; riders will split into two groups to ride their courses, led by local volunteer race organizers. Course routes available on Strava.
  • 11AM Hear, Here Guided Interest Ride: Public History Tour: Bring your phones to hear history told by the person who experienced it.  Hear, Here executive director Ariel Beaujot will talk about the recent history of downtown La Crosse, and how public history projects can bring a community closer together.
  • 1 PM Guided Interest Ride: Architectural Tour: Public historian Charles Lee leads a family-friendly loop through La Crosse to explore the historic districts of 10th and Cass, 17th Street, and 23rd Street.
  • 1 PM Family/Kid-friendly Mountain Bike Ride: Guided ride around Upper Hixon Forest, mostly on beginner-level trails, with some intermediate. Meet at the trail head on Highway FA next to the NOAA weather ball, make time to explore your skills on the new pump track, and then venture into the beautiful bluffs of the Driftless Region.  If there are enough riders to split into varying skill-level groups, we will do that.  Otherwise expect to ride 4-7 miles over about an hour, leaving time to get back downtown for the Ice Cream Ride.  (leader, organizer: Robbie Young)
  • 3PM Guided Interest Ride: Ice Cream Ride: These short, popular rides are great for families, kids, and riders of all abilities on any kind of bike.  This one will only be around six miles long.  Leader Carolyn Dvorak will take quiet city streets and bike paths to get to the goods.  Destinations for today: local favorite Ranison’s Ice Cream, and downtown’s Great River Popcorn.
  • 5PM: The Root Note Pre-Party Tour de Pearl Ride (leaving at 5:30p to Pearl Street Brewery). Remember to bring your Tour cards for $2 beers and FREE entry into the End of Tour Party!
  • 5:30PM: Guided Interest Ride: Slow ride through history.  Local cyclist and Slow Bicycle Movement organizer Scot McCollum joins up with archivist and author Laura Godden for a tour of historic La Crosse.  While any period outfits and retro bicycles are optional, they’re certainly welcome. Tonight’s ride tours South La Crosse, finishing up at Four Sisters Wine Bar and Tapas Restaurant.
  • 6PM: Tour De Pearl End of Tour Party  (joint party with Pearl Street Brewery) Celebrate with all your fellow bicyclists, free entry and food for premium members. $5  If you want to ride to PSB from downtown La Crosse, meet up at Root Note between 5:00 and 5:30 to socialize, then ride with leader Tami Plourde to the Pearl Street Brewery in North La Crosse. Special musical guest: The 4onthefloor.


La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival poster for the Saturday night party.

La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival poster for the Saturday night party.

Sunday, September 6 — Schedule

An absolute fan favorite, the Norski Tur leaves La Crosse to the southeast, exploring the coulees and Amish farm region in Wisconsin. Multiple loops let you choose your preferred length even in the middle of a ride.  You might go all the way to Viroqua and Westby, known for Norwegian immigrants, dairy farms and excellent cheese. Big climbs and major distance options let riders pick their level of challenge.

7-9AM Start Window — Featured Road Ride: Norski Tur with multiple length options – 50, 75, 100, 125

  • 8:00 a.m. La Crosse Gravel Classic:  It’s the 6th annual La Crosse Gravel Classic, a 56-mile road race and/or bike tour.  Your choice.  The unique road-racing format is done in six parts on the gravel back roads of Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from La Crosse.  Whether you are racing or touring, the event is free, but you’ll need to register on line or at the Cameron Park registration tent.  We recommend you ride or tour the course on a mountain bike, cross bike or road bike equipped with extra wide tires.   The 56 mile course has 3 climbs totaling 2800+ feet of climbing. The course is unsupported but well marked by volunteers.
  • 8-11AM BMX Open Track Ride:  Take advantage of one of the world’s largest indoor BMX facilities right here in La Crosse at Toad’s Cove Arena BMX!  This world-class course is opening its doors to highlight their great venue with this free event.  Staff will help riders of all ages and abilities, from the two-year old learning to balance on the Strider pushbike, to the seasoned rider who still digs the rush of the ride, learn and partake in the excitement and thrill that the sport of BMX racing has to offer!
  •  9:30 AM Guided Interest Ride: Pedal Paddle:  Starting with an easy 8 mile trail/street ride to Goose Island, south of La Crosse.  From there, explore the pristine backwaters of the Mississippi at 11:00 a.m. with knowledgeable guide, heading South on Sunday.  Limited number of kayaks available at no cost or bring your own, (Personal flotation devices required; Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event). 
  • 12-3 PM Family Pumptrack Ride at Human Powered Trails: Join local rider Aaron Kerr at the brand-new pump track at Human Powered Trails off of County Road FA on the bluff overlooking La Crosse. A pump track is a continuous loop of dirt rollers and berms that you ride — on mountain bikes or BMX — without pedaling.  An excellent way to improve your mountain biking skills.  Family and kid-friendly skills clinic to start.
  • 1PM Guided Interest Ride: City Tour: Enjoy a leisurely ride through the City and its historic neighborhoods.  This guided tour will show off some of La Crosse’s best known landmarks, architecture and bike trails.
  • 3PM Guided Interest Ride: Ice Cream Ride: These short rides are great for families, kids, and riders of all abilities, on any kind of bike.  Leader Carolyn Dvorak will lead the group on an eight mile loop, on streets and bike paths.  Today’s destinations: downtown’s Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, and the Sweet Shop in north La Crosse.
  • 5 PM Mysteries of the Driftless at Earl’s Grocery and Saloon: Join representatives of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy for a showing of this 30-minute, Emmy-award winning documentary about the unique geology, history, and ecosystems of the Driftless region.  We’ll follow the screening with socializing and discussion!
  • 7PM Guided Interest Ride: Dark La Crosse tour:  The La Crosse Public Library Archives takes you on a tour of the . . . seedier . . . side of local history.  This tour will take you to the old red light district, past former speakeasies, gangster hangouts, and the occasional murder scene.   Not all content of this tour will be entirely appropriate for young ears; spaces are limited, so sign up at early for a spot (Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event).
  • EVENT: 7PM REGGAE on the RIVER:Labor Day Luau with TUGG


Monday, September 7 — Schedule

After four days of festival riding, we slow down with a shorter distance, moderately hilly road ride to the west into Minnesota, stopping midway at a favorite coffee shop. Appropriate for ambitious single speed riders.  Back in time for travel for out-of-town visitors who need to head home.

  • 7-9AM Start Window — Feature Road Ride: Barista’s Epic Coffee Ride (distance 44 miles, with option for additional loop for total of 55 miles)
  • 9:30AM Guided Interest Ride: Pedal Paddle: Starting with an easy 8 mile trail/street ride to Goose Island, south of La Crosse.  From there, explore the pristine backwaters of the Mississippi at 11:00 a.m. with knowledgeable guide.  Limited number of kayaks available at no cost or bring your own, (Personal flotation devices required; Only Bikefest registrants will receive notice of when they may register for this event).

    The La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival is sponsored by Mayo Clinic Health Systems.


10 Cities for Tour de Fat’s Beer, Bikes, and Bemusement

With many parts of the country buried in snow, it’s a good time to start thinking about the joys of summertime, including another season of New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat. The 2015 tour will travel to ten cities this year offering the best way to raise money for local non-profits, celebrate two wheels, dress up as your alter ego and be entertained.

TDF postparade_fest

Getting ready for the 2014 Tour de Fat parade in downtown Minneapolis

It all kicks off on May 30 in Washington, D.C. and wraps up in Tempe, AZ on October 3. This year marks the 16th season for Tour de Fat – with close to $4 million being raised for local non-profits since it all began – and more than $600,000 this last year alone. The daylong festivities are free, but all proceeds from beer and merchandise sales, along with parade donations, go to local non-profits.

TDF parade3

Bikers in costume having fun riding on the Nicolett Mall in downtown Minneapolis

Each stop kicks off with a costumed bicycle parade that meanders through city streets, ending in a city park for a day of entertainment. That’s when eclectic acts take over: from musical performances to yo-yo entertainers, vaudeville acts to a 1000 person Dance Contest to win a New Belgium Cruiser Bike. New features this year include a new Le Tigre Grande variety tent and Sputnik mobile stage.

TDF stage

Family fun entertainment and contest are offered after returning from the bike parade

The day of carnival creativity concludes with a celebration of inspirational car-for-bike swappers; brave souls who hand over their car keys as a commitment to commute by bike for the next year. “Our love for bikes runs deep at New Belgium, it’s how the company started. So every year we like to spread that love around the country by coming into towns from coast to coast and hosting the best way to spend a Saturday,” said Matt Kowal, Tour de Fat Impresario. “Each city has its own flair and uniqueness, which is what makes it all pretty awesome. And to be able to raise millions of dollars along the way, thanks to everyone who celebrates with us, it’s why we do this. We’re all anxious to get this party started once again!”

Tour de Fat will cycle through each of the following cities in 2015:

Washington, D.C.                  May 30                                    Yards Park
Durham, NC                           June 20                                   Diamond View Park
Chicago, IL                              July 11                                    Palmer Square
Twin Cities, MN                      July 25                                    Loring Park
Boise, ID                                  August 15                              Ann Morrison Park
Fort Collins, CO                      September 5                         Civic Center Park
Denver, CO                             September 12                       City Park
San Francisco, CA                  September 19                       Lindley Meadow – Golden Gate Park
San Diego, CA                         September 26                      Golden Hill Park
Tempe, AZ                               October 3                             Tempe Beach Park

TDF fest2

In costume, enjoying the food and beverages at the bicycle festival

In 2014, Tour de Fat traveled to 10 cities nationwide and attracted 103,500 festival attendees. The philanthropic events raised a total of $625,716 for local nonprofits. New Belgium’s hometown of Fort Collins, Colo. raised the most money (more than $110,000) and attracted the most parade riders and festivalgoers, totaling 25,000 people.    During each tour stop, New Belgium tries to leave as little of an environmental imprint as possible. Tour de Fat hosts green vendors, has compost and recycle stations and festival trucks that operate on biofuel sourced from recycled waste oils. For the Tour de Fat credo, schedule, videos and to submit an entry to swap your car for a bike, check out www.facebook.com/TourDeFat. To learn more about New Belgium Brewing, visit www.newbelgium.com.  

TDF fest3

In costume and returning from the parade these two cyclists are ready to enjoying the Tour de Fat bicycle festival

About New Belgium Brewing Company New Belgium Brewing, makers of Fat Tire Amber Ale and a host of Belgian-inspired beers, is recognized as one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work and one of the Wall Street Journal’s Best Small Businesses. The 100% employee-owned brewery is a Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Business as designated by the League of American Bicyclists, and one of World Blu’s most democratic U.S. businesses, and a Certified B Corp. In addition to Fat Tire, New Belgium brews ten year-round beers; Ranger IPA, Rampant Imperial IPA, Shift Pale Lager, Slow Ride Session IPA, Snapshot Wheat, Sunshine Wheat, 1554 Black Lager, Blue Paddle Pilsner, Abbey Belgian Ale and Trippel. Learn more at www.newbelgium.com.

A Wild Ride, Family Fun MTN Bike Festival

Join the fun at the Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival coming Saturday, October 4th, at the West Trailhead at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, in Eagan, Minnesota. This fun-filled event is made possible through Dakota County Parks, a partnership with the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), local area bike shops, businesses and organizations.

Wild Ride Tents-crop

MORC and local bike shops at the 2013 Festival

In its second year this festive event will introduce new riders to the sport and for the avid mountain biker a chance to ride on one of Minnesota’s best mountain bike trail systems. Lebanon  offers nearly 12 miles of single-track challenges, and on October 4th everyone will have the opportunity to demo the newest bikes on the market.

The Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival is a family-friendly, free event. However, Dakota Co. Parks would like those interested in attending to pre-register online or by calling 952-891-7000 during standard business hours. The fun on October 4, begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. with many activities for the whole family.

Scheduled activities include Build Your Skills Sessions, Gear Talk Sessions, Fix-It Clinics and live music by Twin Cities bluegrass band Sans Souci. Throughout the day there will be bike tune-ups, kids activities, timed competitive events, group rides and a VIP Lounge presented by Freewheel Bike. Food and beverage, including beer and wine will be available for purchase on-site by Green Mill.

image001There will be plenty of new bikes from Felt, Giant, KHS, Specialized and Trek to demo at this year’s festival. With factory rigs there with brand new Mountain, Road and Cyclocross models to test ride on the mountain bike trails, a skills park and nearby bike paths. All demo rides are free, but may require you to bring your helmet, credit card and driver’s license to demo bikes. Along with MORC, sponsors include Penn Cycle, Erik’s Bike and Board, Trek, Freewheel Bike, Valley Bike and Ski and Health Source Chiropractic.

Parking is free but limited at the West Trailhead lot. Overflow event parking is available at the School of Environmental Studies (12155 Johnny Cake Ridge Road) located just South of the West Trailhead entrance. Additional street parking can be found in neighborhoods near the park.

This is a rain or shine event. Dakota County Parks will have a large canopy tent on-site to keep people dry if it does rain. Severe weather or lightening may postpone or cause events to be rescheduled later in the day. If wet trail conditions close the mountain bike trails, nearby paved trails and the old gravel parking lot are available for test-riding bikes. Check the Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail Facebook page for hour-by- hour updates in the event of severe weather the day of the Festival.

Visit the Dakota County Parks Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival page for more information or call the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center at 651-554-6530.

Festival Shows How Bike Friendly La Crosse Can Be

Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com
What a way to spend the last holiday of summer, then with old and new friends biking around the Mississippi River Valley, in and around La Crosse, Wisconsin!  (below, cyclist on the Apple Blossom loop overlooking La Crosse)

DV IMAGELast year, riding in and around this bike friendly community at the Labor Day Weekend Bicycle Festival, Marcy and I enjoyed several days of fun. Meeting and riding with cyclists from Florida, Oklahoma, Illinois, Minnesota and neighboring cities in Wisconsin. Enjoying a full schedule of city bike tours, scenic road routes to explore, a bike rodeo on Saturday and evenings filled with entertainment in the downtown area; a great time was had by all.

DSCF1086With most events starting and ending in or near Cameron Park, in the historic downtown district of La Crosse, it was easy to pick and choose which events or rides we wanted to participate in. From: coffee tours in the morning; many historic and wildlife tours throughout the day; ice cream or candy shop tours in the afternoon, it was hard to take it all in; and still have time to fit in at least one of the many country tour loops, on the Minnesota or Wisconsin side of the Mississippi – or the mountain bike options up in the bluffs overlooking La Crosse.

DSCF1124If you can take off early for the weekend, each year the fun begins on Thursday evening with a Registration Packet Pick-up Party at the Pearl Street Brewery. Located in the warehouse district of town, those that can make it early can sample some of the area’s finest brews while looking at all the ride option that begin Friday morning. Last year, we sampled the latest IPA, a couple stouts and a porter that tantalized my taste buds. Along with all the great food in La Crosse, visiting the brewery was an added bonus to our visit here.

DSCF1031On Friday, as more cars toting bicycles roll into town, cyclists of all ages and experience levels looked forward to all the ride options scheduled. Ride opportunities last year and similar to this year’s schedule included a: Coon Valley Coulee Express ride (28, 48 or 57 mile), In town Coffee & Muffin Ride to West Salem, with stops at a bakery, and up in the bluffs on the east side of La Crosse, mountain bikers can try the Human Powered Trans Ride for some technical challenges. Other self-guided tours and events of the day included: trail rides; tandem & recumbent rides; and options for some gravel road riding.

DSCF1104As the sun sets, beyond the bluffs on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River, the Festival’s activities move from the park to the heart of downtown, centered in music filled Pearle Street area. Here while enjoying the tunes of several bands, along with many food and beverage options in the closed-off street section, many bicycle tales were shared and the next day’s activities planned.

DSCF0984The event and ride options on Saturday continue with registration and packet pickup throughout the morning in the park. Here, amongst a farmers market setting,  local vendors are selling coffee and breakfast scones as riders check in for the events of the day.

CampWI_728X90 For those wanting to explore the countryside on the Minnesota side of the river, some say it’s God’s Country, the Apple Blossom Loop (35 miles) and the Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride (62 and 82 mile) are rich in history and beauty. Similar to Friday’s Wisconsin’s coulee ride in length, all tours depart from Cameron Park in La Crosse. The Apple Blossom crosses the Mississippi River bridge into La Crescent, Minn. to begin the featured rides of that day.

DSCF1010Later in the morning on Saturday, at the Mayo Clinic Health System Campus, the annual BIKE SAFE rodeo takes place. Great family fun, this event features a bike safety course, a sizing and discounted helmet sale, bike decoration stations, with a parade that follows showing local residence and visiting families, and all the fun bikes decorated.

DSCF1015As the kids continued to have fun at the rodeo there was a late morning Heritage Tour of La Crosse scheduled, the first of two for the day, can be enjoyed. As we discovered the commercial buildings with 20th century Chicago style including gargoyles, followed by the Art Deco and Art Modern styles of the “Roaring Twenties.”

DSCF1086 Then the residential tours show another side of La Crosse’s architecture. From Victorian to Tutor designs a local guide there, like ours last year, will give you an impromptu lesson that really explained how the towns expanding neighborhoods complement the contrast to the historic downtown district of this river city.

DSCF1163With the heat of August still normally in play on Labor Day Weekend, the Homemade Ice Cream Tour was and is a big hit for all. Using both the paved trail and recommended city bike routes, a tour leader will take you to three confectionary establishments in the city that still make their own ice cream, on site. We found, with a few miles in between each of the planned stops, it was easy to have a small cone to taste test at least one of a dozen or more different flavors at each shop we stopped at.

DSCF1106Each year the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival coincides with the Downtown Sound Music Festival which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, from 2 to 10 p.m. Last year the Music Festival feature live entertainment on a bicycle powered stage! See the fun had by all on their Facebook page and a lineup  for this year’s entertainment.

DSCF0980Planning the trip here we found the Settle Inn, about a half mile north of the downtown area, to be a very bike friendly lodging venue to ride from each day. With many hotel amenities favorable to bicyclists here and a combination of designated bike routes to get downtown, I will use this property again. For more hotel or camping options when biking here, see At-A-Glance, La Crosse.

If you can’t make it for the 2014 La Crosse Area Labor Day Weekend Bike Festival, contact the Tourism Bureau and they can arrange maps and itineraries for your own weekend bicycle festival, anytime of the year.

DSCF1117I could ramble on and on about the pleasurable time Marcy and I had at last year’s Bike Festival, however I won’t. The most important thing I can share with you is, come to La Crosse with your bike and – have some fun!

Bike Festival/Grand Prix Back With New Name, June 11-15th

Jean Freidl
NorthstarRaceThe 16th Annual North Star Bicycle Festival (formerly the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival) will take place June 11-15, 2014 and will include the North Star Grand Prix pro stage bike race June 11-15 in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis and Stillwater, Minn. and Menomonie, Wisc. In Menomonie the general public can get a taste of the pro bike routes by participating in the festival’s Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides. For maps, event schedules and visitor information on each host city visit www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.

The North Star Grand Prix, the most prestigious event on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, opens June 11 in Saint Paul with a morning time trial along East River Parkway. The action moves to the Rice Park district of Downtown Saint Paul that evening with a criterium (short circuit race). The ambiance of the criterium route is reminiscent of the famed pavé races in Europe, with the turrets of the Landmark Center, bricked streets in front of the Ordway Center and classic architecture of the century-old Saint Paul Hotel framing this idyllic town square.

On Thursday, the race moves south to Cannon Falls for a rural road race showcasing the wide open spaces of Minnesota’s heartland, dotted with family farms, boutique wineries and the famed Cannon Valley Trail, stretching 20 miles along the Cannon River. The race finishes with multiple laps at high speeds through the quaint downtown. On Friday, it’s back up to Minneapolis for an evening criterium in the city’s dynamic Uptown area, a neighborhood of trendy shops, bars and restaurants located just south of downtown near the chain of Minneapolis lakes. The Uptown edition of the FREE Kids Race is always a highlight, with hundreds of kids 12 and under riding the crit route, cheered on by thousands of spectators. Each child gets a free medal.

The weekend presents an opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful terrain in the Midwest for the Menomonie and Stillwater stages. Cheer for the pros in the North Star Grand Prix as well as locals competing in the amateur races.

In Menomonie the road race tests the cyclists’ endurance as they traverse 95 miles of rolling farmland in the heart of Wisconsin’s dairy country, finishing with multiple laps of an in-town circuit. Menomonie will also host dozens of events throughout the day, introducing visitors to the arts, historic sites and friendly, family-owned shops and restaurants. Activities also include kids’ contests, tours and Spectator Rides for all levels. Experienced cyclists seeking a challenge can sign up for the Gran Fondo (Italian for Big Ride) which provides a chance to ride the same route the pros will race. For cyclists interested in this event  advanced preparation is recommended to be ready to take on the hilly terrain through rural Wisconsin. (Pre-register at www.northstarbicyclefestival.com/granfondo.)

Back in Minnesota on Sunday, June 15, Stillwater will again host the grand finale with its legendary Criterium. Well known for weeding out the field, the course features a 24 degree climb up Chilikoot Hill – the steepest in North American racing. This picturesque town is built on the bluffs of the St. Croix River and the route features a series of high speed, downhill 90 degree turns throughout the city’s historic neighborhoods and charming Main Street area. Make plans for a Father’s Day brunch at a riverfront restaurant or grab a treat at one of the town’s plentiful ice cream shops or candy stores along the way.

Fan Zones set up at each stage include food vendors, stunt riders, live music, bike and fitness expos and The FREE Tour de Kids fun race open to children age 12 and under.

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is a premier tourism destination offering arts and cultural attractions, museums, zoos, amusement parks, Mall of America, major league sports, golf, boating and other outdoor recreational activities. Named the top city for cyclists by Bicycling Magazine in 2010, the area boasts hundreds of miles of cycling paths connecting the downtowns to neighborhoods, suburbs and trails along lakes and River. Rental bikes are available at dozens of kiosks around town through the region’s Nice Ride program.

Menomonie, about an hour’s drive east of the Twin Cities, offers several unique eateries near Main Street including the Silver Dollar Saloon and Log Jam bars, local pizza bistros Ted’s Pizza and Jeff’s Pizza and The Raw Deal which prepares dishes assembled from raw ingredients. The Acoustic Café, The Vegabond Bakery and Legacy Chocolates are all great spots for a morning treat. Visitors can also try The Golden Leaf Café and Cancun Restaurant, located just a short drive from the festival area. For more info on the the Gran Fondo and this stage of the race see below!

About the North Star Bicycle Festival
Now in its 16th year, the North Star Bicycle Festival is a celebration of bicycling that includes amateur and professional racing and community events. The North Star Grand Prix has become the most prestigious event on the USA Cycling Racing calendar, attracting top American racing teams and nearly 300 top riders from around the world. It is the only professional sporting event in Minnesota which is open to the public, for which no admission ticket is required. Proceeds from the North Star Bicycle Festival are donated to Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, a pediatric hospice project. For a schedule of events visit www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.

About the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar
Entering its 18th season in 2014, the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) is a road cycling series sanctioned by USA Cycling. It is designed to provide a ranking system for all elite-level cyclists, both amateur and professional, through participation in the nation’s premier cycling events.
North Star Bicycle Festival Hosts Grand Fondo and Spectator Rides at Menomonie Stage Sat, June 14, 2014

Spectators who come to watch the North Star Grand Prix (formerly the Nature Valley Grand Prix) in Menomonie, Wisconsin on Saturday, June 14 can get a taste of the pro bike routes by participating in the festival’s Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides.

The Gran Fondo (Italian for “Big Ride”) provides avid recreational riders with an opportunity to ride along the same roads the pros will take later in the day. Experienced cyclists can choose the 90-mile route that the men will take, which includes over 5000 ft. of climbing, or they can choose the 70-mile route that the women will race, which shares the opening 50 miles of the men’s route, then takes a “short-cut” back to Menomonie. A shorter 59-mile route is also an option. Gran Fondo rides depart from Menomonie at 9 am and will return in time for the thrilling finishing circuits of the pro races. Rides will also include a Sports Beans King/Queen of the Hill Time Trial, with chip timing to identify the fastest climber up the showcase summit – Star Hill.

Recreational cyclists can sign up for 15-mile or 35-mile Spectator Rides, which will take place during the pro races and will allow participants to ride ahead of the pros to Calvary Hill. This is a great opportunity to cheer on the pro men and to watch the race á bicyclette, as they say in Europe. Once the pros pass, the Spectator Rides continue along some of the most beautiful terrain in Dunn County. The 35-mile ride will include a trip to watch the pro men on the infamous Star Hill – a 17% grade for half a mile. Both Spectator Rides depart Menomonie at 11:15 am, and will return for the exhilarating finishing circuits in town.

Families can enter kids age 12 and under in the FREE Kid’s fun race, or take a leisurely ride on their own along the Red Cedar Trail, a fairly flat, easy Rails-to-Trails route from Menomonie to Irvington. There will be an opportunity to watch the pros fly by in Irvington before retracing the Rails-to-Trails route back to Menomonie. Those riding the trail must purchase a $4 trail pass.
The Expo, which runs from 11 am to 5 pm on race day, includes food vendors, stunt riders and booths of cycling related products and services. North Star Bicycle Festival activities will also include three levels of amateur racing in town, while the pros are out in the country.

Menomonie has planned a separate Summerdaze Festival that weekend, which will include an arts and crafts festival and games and contests for children. Other activities throughout the day include tours of Menomonie attractions, as well as a bean bag tournament and wiener dog races. Attractions in the National Downtown Historic District include several museums, the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater and the Woodlawn Homestead, of the book Caddie Woodlawn fame.
Menomonie offers several unique eateries near Main Street including the Silver Dollar Saloon and Log Jam bars, local pizza bistros Ted’s Pizza and Jeff’s Pizza and The Raw Deal which prepares dishes assembled from raw ingredients. The Acoustic Café, The Vegabond Bakery and Legacy Chocolates are all great spots for a morning treat. Visitors can also try The Golden Leaf Café and Cancun Restaurant, located just a short drive from the festival area.

Fees and Registration
Registration fees range from $20 to $35 for either the Gran Fondo or Spectator Rides. Participation is limited to the first 500 registrants for the Gran Fondo and the first 250 registrants for the Spectator Rides. Registration fees include SAG support, snacks, fruits and beverages along the route and hot showers upon your return to Menomonie. Net proceeds from the rides go to Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, a pediatric hospice program. Although on-site registration is available, pre-registration is highly recommended to ensure a spot and to facilitate check in. Online registration is available via the Gran Fondo section of the website, www.northstarbicyclefestival.com.

Lying about an hour east from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Menomonie, Wisc. is a college town situated in the heart of Dunn County. The Menomonie Chamber of Commerce website can help you find comfortable accommodations. www.menomoniechamber.org