PINE RIVER, Minn. -- A new bike group has met in Pine River recently for a weekly ride on the Paul Bunyan Trail. The group may be just the beginning of an official club to promote healthy living and one of Pine River's most famous features, the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Organizer Randy Noordmans owns Wheels and Things LLC in Pine River and is part of a group working to get Pine River designated as bike friendly. He came up with the plan to organize weekly rides at a meeting for the Bike Friendly Pine River group.
"I decided, hey, we have this nice Paul Bunyan Trail running through town and the fall is a good time to go biking," Noordmans said. "I decided I'm looking forward to hopefully getting Pine River to be a bike friendly town. It's kind of a stepping stone in that direction to get people out riding to recognize what we have here. I decided since I go biking regularly anyway I might as well just invite people to come along with me."
"It was kind of at our own pace. We kind of set a destination and a couple just went on forward ahead on their own and I stayed back with another friend and then there was some behind us also. So you can kind of break off into groups and you do it at your own rate and nobody seems to mind if that's the way it is."
— Troy Gregory
As of Sept. 19, he has been meeting with a group of people at 3 p.m. each Sunday at the Pine River Information Center. Many of his group members saw flyers that Noordmans posted throughout town. It isn't always the same people either. The first trip there were four in addition to Noordmans and his family. A couple showed up Sept. 26, and there were three new riders Oct. 3.
Every time the group meets they start by making a plan to determine what direction they want to go and how far they would like to bike. They consider wind direction and temperature, as well as the slight uphill grade while traveling north. Nobody is forced to go the full distance.
"We did 12 miles the first trip," Noordmans said. "Not all eight made it all the way. We leave together and we kind of come back together, but if you want to turn around before you reach where we've met our goal for the day, nobody's going to pressure you to do all the miles. You just aim for a target and if you don't make it, it's more about having fun and enjoying the bike ride than it is about killing yourself."
The bike group is appealing to all experience levels, including cyclists such as Rodney Dibble, who rides his bike several times a week but wouldn't mind going on longer rides. Likewise, Troy Gregory felt grateful for the go-at-your-own-pace approach to the ride. He said it made it feel more welcoming.
"But I'm thinking about doing this same kind of thing as the weekly bike ride next summer, but maybe doing it more often and planning ahead a little bit more having specific routes in mind. People could kind of pick and choose, do they want to ride that route. Maybe they've never written that route before, maybe they might do it with a few other people to see how it goes. And I'd probably do some longer rides, but I would also plan a few shorter rides."
— Randy Noordmans
"It was kind of at our own pace," Gregory said. "We kind of set a destination and a couple just went on forward ahead on their own and I stayed back with another friend and then there was some behind us also. So you can kind of break off into groups and you do it at your own rate and nobody seems to mind if that's the way it is."
Some of those joining in the bike rides find that biking with a group makes it more enjoyable, and makes them more likely to set time aside to ride their bike.
"I enjoy biking in general. It's one of my things I like to do when I have time," Gregory said. "So I think having a group and making a commitment to other people always pulls you in a little more. You kind of dedicate the time for it in your schedule."
"I think it will make me use my bike more," said Dibble. "It's good company to be around and it kind of livens up the town a bit."
Biking the trail not only puts riders in close contact with the surrounding forest, but also serves as a social opportunity to meet new people.
"I think about some of the people I met on the first ride," Gregory said. "It's a little bit inspiring to hear some of them talk about how 30 miles is a normal bike ride for them where I'm looking at six miles."
Of course there are the health benefits as well.
"It keeps me moving and keeps my weight down," Dibble said.
Those are only some of the reasons Noordmans, Gregory, Dibble and other community members are working to make Pine River a bike friendly community. If there seems enough interest, Noordmans is considering making a more formal club that meets multiple times a week for bike rides.
"It's very much in the brainstorming stages," Noordmans said. "But I'm thinking about doing this same kind of thing as the weekly bike ride next summer, but maybe doing it more often and planning ahead a little bit more having specific routes in mind. People could kind of pick and choose, do they want to ride that route. Maybe they've never ridden that route before, maybe they might do it with a few other people to see how it goes. And I'd probably do some longer rides, but I would also plan a few shorter rides."
Though it would be formal, it would not be too strict.
"It wouldn't be a high commitment. You don't have to be here so many times," Noordmans said. "It's more of another reason to go out and ride, knowing others are going to be planning on riding at that time. That kind of thing. Giving it a little bit of structure, but not tons of structure where you feel obligated to commit to a yearlong biking event."
Those who wish to borrow a bicycle may also arrange to do so by contacting Noordmans at 218-851-9388 at least one day in advance of that week's ride. Riders must be 18 years old or accompanied by an adult. Riders should bring a helmet and water.