A meeting you might want to attend

There’s a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at LuLu Beans in Willmar that may interest some of the area’s hardcore bicyclists.

It’s a planning session for Pedal for Project Impact 2015.

The ride is a fundraiser for Project Impact, a program at Safe Avenues, the Willmar shelter house. It provides a variety of services for children who have experienced domestic violence.

Cyclists participating in the ride raise money and awareness for the project.

It begins in about 50 days.

The third annual ride from Willmar to Bemidji and back is a week long and begins Monday, June 8.

A week is a long time and a lot of people don’t have that kind of time to commit.

But the riders will have a support vehicle and might be able to at least help an interested rider get to and from different points on the ride’s route if they want to join PPI for a few days.

If that’s not possible, cyclists can join the ride for as long as they want as the PPI riders leave Willmar at about 8 a.m. June 8 from the trailhead at the Willmar Civic Center.

Bob Hines, left, and Tom Meium pose with two of Bemidji's better known residents as they finish their day's ride during Pedal for Project Impact 2014.

Bob Hines, left, and Tom Meium pose with two of Bemidji’s better known residents as they finish their day’s ride during Pedal for Project Impact 2014.

Riders will take the Glacial Lakes State Trail on their way to Long Prairie, the first day’s destination.

Area cyclists are also invited to join the PPI peloton as the group returns Sunday, June 14.

They’ll head from Long Prairie on Tuesday to Park Rapids.

Bemidji will be the next day’s goal and riders will be spending the day riding on the Heartland and Paul Bunyan trails.

While there will be a day off in Bemidji, most participants spend at least part of the day riding in the area.

After the day off, riders will head back down the Paul Bunyan Trail to Pequot Lakes.

They’ll continue on the trail as far as Brainerd on day six of the ride as they head to Albany.

On Sunday, PPI cyclists will ride back to Willmar.

Cyclists can meet the group Sunday morning by riding the Glacial Lakes Trail to any point between Willmar and Paynesville.

Really?

Fat bikes have definitely caught on.

At least that’s what you’d think judging by the attention they’ve received from the general media.

Here’s a link to a report on WCCO Channel 4 about the increasing number of trails being groomed this winter for fat bikes: “Finding Minnesota: Fat bikes are gaining traction.”

To me grooming trails for fat bikes raises some questions.

I keep wondering if trails are groomed, do you need a fat bike to ride them?

Enthusiasts checkout all kinds of fat bikes Dec. 7, 2014, during the Winter Bike Expo at Freewheel Bike Shop in Midtown Minneapolis.

Most riders and — maybe even manufacturers — will admit that even though they have tires that are four inches or wider, fat bikes aren’t much good in more than a few inches of snow.

So far the challenge in most of Minnesota this winter hasn’t been excessive amounts of snow. You’d have to go out East or to Chicago for that.

My friend Bob Hines and I rode for 20 miles Saturday and the reason we didn’t go 45, as Bob had done the day before, was wind chill, not snow.

Overall this winter, the two reasons for my deciding on any given day to ride the bike I have on a trainer in the basement, not outside, have been air temperature or winds, not road conditions.

And, when  I’m riding outside, it’s on a decidedly “unfat” bike with tires a bit more than a third the width of those on fat bikes.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy a fat bike if they want to, I just saying they don’t have to have one to ride bike during winter.

If trails are groomed, just about any bike, other than a road bike with really skinny tires, will probably perform as well as a fat bike.

Personally, I feel more secure using studded tires — heavily studded tires.

They can cost as much as $100 a tire, but that’s a lot less than $1,000 or so for a low-end fat bike.

There are less expensive studded tires and cheaper alternatives. Here are a couple links:

Convert bicycle tires into studded snow tires

How to Make Your Own Studded Snow Tires

If, however, you’ve been bitten by the fat bike bug and have the money, the trails, race and camaraderie that the WCCO video shows sure looks like fun.

And anything that encourages more people to pedal, is great as far as I’m concerned.

Twin Cities trails

Daven points out the sights.

Sofia and I spent the weekend in St. Paul to celebrate our daughter Gabby’s birthday and attend Red Bull’s Crashed Ice downhill skating competition.

Since the weathermen were predicting a warm Saturday, I brought my bike along. So Gabby’s fiance, Daven Kokkila, and I spent the afternoon seeing some of St. Paul and Minneapolis on two wheels.

Daven is an amateur racer who competes in a team sponsored by a Twin Cities bike shop so going slow enough to guide me must have been a severe exercise in discipline.

But he says — and proved — that he’s happy to show people why the area is rated as the most cycle-friendly place in the country.

It takes someone who knows the area to show newbies just how many trails, lanes and bike-friendly streets there are, he said.

And the Cities do their best to keep the trails snow free, Daven said.

We rode about 35 miles.

Thanks to my heavily studded tires, which I put on my bike in winter to ride gravel roads near Willmar, not the paved trails we rode Saturday, I felt as though I’d ridden a tough 70 or 80 miles.

It was about 40 degrees during the final night of Red Bull’s Crashed Ice in St. Paul.

After a shower and a meal, I was ready to spend a warm winter evening watching Crashed Ice.

If you’re interested in trying some of the Twins Cities’ trails, check out this website: http://www.bikewalktwincities.org/maps-routes/bike-maps

A mild winter

Even though we’ve had a mild winter in Minnesota this year, winter is still a season when the great indoors calls to many who live here.

Mild is a relative term.

A meteorologist I was listening to as I drove home last night reported that average temperature so far this month was 10 degrees warmer than the average for January.

There was enough snow Wednesday that I slipped and slid a few times, but didn’t fall. Check out my new backpack. I use it to carry a lined jacket and other items I might need to stay warm.

And temps were still hovering just above or below freezing.

While snow fall is also below average, it still snows enough at least once or twice a week to make road slick — as I found out by being in a fender bender last week.

It snowed again over night Wednesday. I doubt that an inch fell, but it was enough to make me think I should bike indoors (on a bike I have on a trainer in the basement).

Then, as I was about to head downstairs for my ride, I noticed on a weather website that it was 25 degrees with practically no wind blowing.

Being a little late for all the prep I go through to ride outside in winter, I scrambled to get going.

As drove to the Glacial Lakes State Trail parking lot where I leave my car to ride nearby gravel roads, I remembered the roads probably wouldn’t be plowed.

While the city and county plow their streets and roads, gravel roads belong to townships. The townships that own the roads I ride don’t seem to bother with plowing after light snows.

So I took my time riding and tried to stay in tracks left by cars and trucks that had driven down the roads before me.

I tried to stay in tracks left by cars and trucks.

I slipped a bit a couple times but never fell.

The wind was stronger than in town, but it was warm enough that I didn’t have to wear a balaclava.

Actually I was too lazy to stop, take off my helmet, dig a face mask out of my backpack and pull it over my head.

I just let my face go numb from the cold and then the wind didn’t bother me.

I rode for a little more than an hour and then drove home.

Since I was already dressed for the weather, I decided to shovel the sidewalk.

“More character building,” my neighbor shouted as he shoveled his driveway. That’s what he tells me every time we’re out shoveling at the same time.

An avid cross country skier, he hasn’t had the opportunity to ski once this season.

Not enough snow.

I guess a mild winter’s even more annoying for some people than it is for me.

Winter precautions

Temperatures, aggravated by wind chill, are limiting how often I’ll be riding bike in the days to come.

Winter’s arrival doesn’t mean the end of biking, but should cause cyclists hardcore enough to continue riding to stop and think a bit before pedaling off.

I had a problem while out riding the Saturday before Christmas that, while annoying and literally a pain the back, could have been much worse for me if the temperature had been 10 or 15 degrees colder.

As I rode down some gravel roads near Willmar, the armature of my bike’s rear derailleur began jumping back and forth erratically. The same thing had been an intermittent problem during a ride a few days earlier. The guys at Rick’s Cycling had found some string tangled in the derailleur, removed it and did some quick adjustments.

So, on Saturday, I kept riding because I figured the problem would either clear up or I’d be stuck in one gear as had happened on the earlier ride.

Then I heard, and felt, a “clunk.”