270-plus riders bike through Austin, LeRoy

Published 8:25 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

LEROY — Austin and LeRoy were on display Friday and Saturday, as more than 300 people pedaled through the area.

The ninth annual Bicycling Around Minnesota, or BAM, made its way across southeast Minnesota this week — into LeRoy on Friday and Austin on Saturday. This year, the ride started in Preston and passed through Peterson, LeRoy and Austin, before it was slated to finish the loop back to Preston Sunday.

“Every year they go to different communities, and it’s a showcase of those different communities,” said Joe Sullivan, of Mankato, a rider and a board member for BAM who has participated in the ride for five years. “It’s just a great way to showcase the state and get to know the state more.”

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Biker Berway Swanstrom, 66, of Dayton, Minnesota, has participated in the ride each year and returned this year with his wife, Mary, and was excited to visit different towns around Minnesota.

“I like biking and I like parts of Minnesota,” Swanstrom said.

As an avid bicyclist, Swanstrom has biked across Switzerland three times, spent a week in the Canadian Rockies, and participates in many bike rides in the cities. He said most of the riders were around retirement, including himself.

For bicyclist Bob Schriner, this was his first time on this particular ride.

“We heard some good things about this ride and we thought, let’s try it,” Shriner said. “We didn’t get in last year because it filled up so quickly.”

He and four friends are trying to visit all the states on bike. Shriner, 57, of Nebraska, said the group has covered many states already. He said this ride went well, and he enjoyed the variety in the terrain; the good, marked routes and roads; the scenic views; and the many volunteers and stops along the way.

The ride is set up for riders of different skill levels.

“People go at their own pace; some people want to zip through the day, and others are more, ‘Let’s check things out,’” Sullivan said.

The ride started with about 30 participants in 2006, but for the past few years there have been about 275 paid riders, and about 300 riders all together. According to Sullivan, when the ride is announced each year, the spots fill up within a few days.

“There’s a great turnout, you have kind of a dedicated group who show up each year, and there’s a lot of new people who come in,” he said.

Most riders came from all over Minnesota, but there were about 25 from Wisconsin, 17 from other states and one from Canada.

Mary Kay Burmesch, 51, of Minneapolis, was excited to have fun. She came with a group of friends, and she’s previously ridden in at least 10 different rides, including seven-day and mountain rides.

“It’s been beautiful,” Burmesch said.

BAM has toured places across Minnesota, including the Iron Range, Redwood Falls, Park Rapids, Walker, Longville, Bemidji, Wadena, Granite Falls, Benson, Cloquet, Two Harbors and Virginia. In each town, there are places for the riders to camp or stay at hotels if desired, meals for all three days are provided, and there are support vehicles and coffee cards available. Riders are identified by ride-bracelets.

Sullivan said they plan to continue the ride in the future, but they won’t announce where they will tour next year until the end of this year’s ride.

“Plans are in place, and we will be back at it next year,” Sullivan said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

For more information about the ride, visit www.bambiketour.org.