19 Dec

Riding in Minnesota

Five months have passed since I moved to Minneapolis. Riding in Minnesota is a new experience with a lot more to come but here are the first discoveries I made:
Minnesotans embrace cycling. Everywhere you look there are bike trails, shared bike paths or some other way to make riding on roads safe. No one honks. Drivers give ample space when passing. No matter what weather condition, you always see commuters with creative protective gear on their way to work. It seems like every corner has a bike store. And these are not bike shop chains but local stores with a coffee shop inside and their own mentality towards cycling.  
Minneapolis offers a huge variety of riding. Sometimes, I have a hard time choosing between a gravel group night ride on remote roads, mountain bike ride on sweet single track or a lazy bike trail ride along the lakes. There are so many great options!
Through a weekly group ride, I was introduced to gravel rides and races. Riding on gravel has become one of my favorite ways of riding. There is an entire gravel race series in Minnesota, two of which I raced this year: the 100 mi Heck of the North and the 100 mi Dirtbag race. You get a cue sheet at the beginning of the race and then it’s all about using energy wisely and not getting lost. Afterwards, there is a get-together with a lot of beer. Minnesotans love beer!
I was also introduced to the night group rides. Here there are so many remote roads that is safe to ride during the night time. Without street lamps on those remote gravel roads, only the head lamps of the group and the moon light the way. It makes for an adventurous ride. 
With so many mountain bike trails in riding distance, I decided to start mountain biking. The trails are well-maintained and easily accessible so sometimes I have a hard time choosing if I want to go for a road ride or mountain bike ride. Single-track riding in the dark at the river bottoms is an experience on a different level. You are riding quietly along the river through the forest with an occasional unfamiliar sound of an animal or the reflection of a pair of deer eyes behind the trees. Reminds me of adventure racing! 
The snow storm last week did not deter the group ride from happening. It’s just not on bikes anymore but skis instead.  From that one week I experienced a snowy Minneapolis, I already can tell that Minnesota does not fall asleep during the winter. With the plenitude of cross country ski trails in town, I will be busy discovering all trails during the winter. 

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