Minnesota in the summertime is a magical place. The sunshine and warmth coax us to get outside and travel, enjoying all of the scenery, small towns, lakes, forests and prairies that our state has to offer.
Exploring Minnesota by bicycle in the summertime is something I look forward to all winter. In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, I feel a sense of freedom and wonder as I spin down a bike path or head up the road.
For those wanting to explore Minnesota towns with unique areas of interest by bike, I recommend a gem of an experience: Bicycling Around Minnesota. BAM is a four-day supported tour that winds its way through different small towns and showcases what the selected area has to offer.
This year: Lanesboro
Every Minnesota town has a story to tell. Riding through a town and the countryside around it allows me to absorb so much more than when I am passing through in a car. People are friendly, engaging and curious about our adventure.
The annual four-day tours, which began in 2006, feature a different set of towns and routes each August. Back in 2015, when my husband, Paul, and I first rode BAM, we passed through Brainerd, Pine River, Crosby and Little Falls. This year’s tour starts and ends in Lanesboro in the scenic southeastern corner of the state, a convenience that appeals to avid distance cyclist Dan Gjelten and his wife, Lisa Burke.
“You drive to Lanesboro, park your car, ride for a few days and end up back at your car,” says Gjelten, a regular contributor to Streets.mn who also does multi-state rides around the country. “The route this year is the jewel in Minnesota’s landscape, the bluff country of our state’s Driftless area, with great hills and streams and the Mississippi River Valley.”
Gjelten also is pleased that Pork Belly Ventures, a longtime outfitter for RAGBRAI, the well-known Iowa ride scheduled from July 22-29 this year, will be taking care of cyclists on BAM.
Fun and friendship
With 50 to 65 miles of riding each day, cyclists have plenty off time for fun and exploration along the route as well as opportunities to refuel and enjoy the local fare. Evenings offer additional opportunities to socialize with fellow riders and locals as well as experience unique events in the host town.
The ride does a superb job of highlighting less frequented areas and points of interest for riders to visit. Riders may find themselves at local county fairs, thrashing events, waterski shows and other regional Minnesota activities. Past tours have included visiting the state’s largest ball of twine in Darwin and watching how baseball bats are made.
Limiting the ride size to 275 cyclists makes it easy to meet other people. The $645 fee ($25 more for e-bike riders, and just over $600 if you register by April 30) includes amenities such as food, yoga, luggage transport and more.
Registration is full for the event this coming August 17-20, though a wait list is available. For those interested in a future BAM tour, sign up for the newsletter and keep checking the website.
Background on BAM
Bicycling Around Minnesota is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote bicycle safety, Minnesota’s bike route network, fitness, tourism and bicycling as transportation. Partners and sponsors include the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, which supports registration and the ride’s mission, and Freewheel, which offers mechanical support on the ride.
The concept for BAM came from members of the State Bicycle Advisory Committee, which evolved into the State Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee (SNTC). According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Legislature allowed the SNTC to sunset at the end of June 2018.
For other group-riding opportunities, check out the schedule on Freewheel’s website and the Bicycle Alliance calendar of events.
Photo at top courtesy of the quarterly magazine Minnesota Trails