Tour de Austin; Local group promotes getting out and making uses of the bike trails

Steve Kime rides along near the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Steve Kime rides along near the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Southern Minnesota Bike Club has a message for all Austin residents — there are plenty of trails around town and they provide a great way for local cyclists to get out and enjoy on a nice evening or morning.

The SMBC has been in Austin since the early 1990s and it’s starting to redefine itself as a group that’s open for cyclists of all skills and ages. While it began as a group of serious riders who like to bike fast, the group now contains three different levels of bikers.

There is group A, which rides at an average speed of 18 miles per hour, Group B, which rides at an average speed of 14 to 16 miles per hour, and there is Group C, which rides at a much more leisurely pace of 10 miles per hour. Groups A and B do most of their riding on county roads and Group C does most of its riding on the 14-miles of trails in Austin.

Steve Kime is a proponent of getting out and biking. He is also a part of the local group Southern Minnesota Bike Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Steve Kime is a proponent of getting out and biking. He is also a part of the local group Southern Minnesota Bike Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“I think the more people who get out and ride the trails is key,” said Steve Kime, who is a member of the SMBC. “I think a lot of citizens of Austin aren’t aware of the fourteen miles of the trails in town. It’s all part of the master plan to become a cycling friendly city.”

The SMBC works in conjuction with Friends of the Shooting Star Trail and it costs $10 per year for members. It meets at Rydjor Bike Shop at 6 p.m. every Tuesday night and it meets at Casey’s General Store at 8 a.m. on Sundays. One of the earlier groups meetings this year had a bout 20 bikers present.

Kime said his group, which is Group C, spends a lot of time chatting while they bike and the rides can go by very fast. He said that the bike trips can be a lot of fun for someone who hasn’t tried it before.

“People are amazed how quickly that goes by. You don’t even notice it when you’re visiting and talking,” Kime said.

The fast groups of the club provide plenty of speed, but they will not leave a rider behind. Kime said one of the advantages of the clubs is that riders will not be left alone and they must stick together as a group. Jens Rafelson, who works at Rydjor Bike Shop, is a member of Group B and he said that group does around 25 or 30 miles in a two-hour session.

Raffelson said that riders can use the rider in front of them as a shield from the wind and that allows them to ride faster than they would if they were biking by themselves.

“For the most part all of the guys and women are there for the same purpose,” Raffelson said. “It’s just to have fun with a little longer ride. It’s not real competitive. It is a workout too, so it’s not real laid back.”

John Burkhart also works at Rydjor Bike Shop and he is the treasuruer of the SMBC. He said the club’s rides help raise community awareness of cyclists and they also give riders a chance to have a relaxed, enjoyable ride with a group.

“I think it’s a really nice way to ride with other people and get to know other riders in town,” said Burkhart. “Usually people are so busy that they just ride with themselves or a couple other people. It’s nice to ride with a large group of people.”

The casual riders do not get the thrill of the high speed pace like the faster ones, but they still find away to get their thrills. Kime said there are certainly moments where he finds a sense of purpose on the bike trails.

“There’s nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you reach the top of a hill and then you start to coast down it,” Kime said.

The SMBC has its own customized jerseys that some of its members purchase and wear and there is a sense of belonging in the group. The Club wants every biker to feel welcome without feeling intimated by other bikers’ abilities.

Kime said that Dr. Richard Schindler played a big role in getting the Club rejuvenated and he said Vision 2020 has also made a push to support interest in the group. When a new rider shows up, the SMBC will give them tips on cycling in public, like what to wear, where to go and different types of cycling styles.

“As we add trails, it’s going to be a bigger part of what people like,” Kime said. “I’ve had so many people coming up to me who have noticed the signs and are now asking about the bike trails in town.”

The SMBC’s goals include: providing a format to enhance trail use for Friends of the Shooting Star Trail, promoting the use of bicycles in a safe and friendly manner, promoting public awareness of bicyclists’ rights and responsibilities on public streets, path and roads, providing instruction for the care and proper use of bicycles, providing a social organization for person interested in bicycling and to have fun while bicycling.

The club is primarily composed of recreational riders, but youth riders sign up with a parent or guardian.

“We want to include riders of all levels and all ages,” Kime said. “We want to get more involved and it’s going in that direction.”

 

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