Off the beatin’ path; Trailblazers take to Schindler’s Way for winter mountain bike riding

Published 8:47 am Friday, February 15, 2019

Who says that bike riding is only meant for the warm weather?

After several years of being established on private property owned by Hormel Foods, Schindler’s Way Mountain Bike Trail is now open to the public for usage, and during the winter, the trails have been groomed with a trail groomer that the Southern Minnesota Bicycling Club purchased to pave the ground for bikers to have fun doing some mountain biking in the snow.

“We’ve ridden for a few years, and we’ve groomed it to be as user friendly as possible,” said Dr. Gareth Hataye, president of the Southern Minnesota Bicycling Club and head coach for the Austin High School Cycling team. “We’re excited to be able to do something to get outside and stay a little fitter and control the waistline until spring comes.”

Gareth Hataye poses with his fat-tire bike at the head of the mountain bike trail that is now open to the public. And thanks to a trail groomer, the trail is now prepared for winter mountain bike enthusiasts.

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The 3.75-mile trail was named for Dr. Richard Schindler, who helped develop the trail and also assisted with establishing the high school’s mountain biking team. Schindler passed away in 2014 from injuries he suffered from a fall while biking. The land was given by Hormel Foods Corp. and was known as the Austin Spam Trail at some point.

Last year, the trail was finalized and had been used privately on Hormel Foods’ property for practices and races. However, an agreement with the City of Austin, Southern Minnesota Bicycling Club, and Hormel Foods helped with opening the trail up to the public. The sport itself has grown immensely. Last year, the Minnesota High School Cycling League saw about 1,600 kids with 60 plus teams. Austin registered 30 students on their team in 2018, which was an increase from nine students in 2014.

A map marks the layout of the Schindler’s Way Mountain Bike Trail.

“Each entity has a certain responsibility,” Hataye said. “To take care of it, clearing it and everything else. This agreement really created a situation that allowed the trail to be opened and available to the public. We’re obviously looking forward to 2019.”

The hope is to add on another mile to Schindler’s Way, Hataye said, and that eventually the trail would be about five miles long. Those interested in riding have the option of riding it at any time. While the trail may not be as challenging as some other courses, Hataye said that Schindler’s Way would be ideal for those who were trying out mountain biking as beginners.

“It’ll be great to have it as a resource recreationally in drawing more people to Austin,” he said. “With the past summer connecting Austin to the Shooting Star Trail, and now to have this, creates more reasons for people wanting to come here.”

Gareth Hataye grooms the Schindler Way Mountain Bike Trail for winter riding Thursday morning.