I was online recently sending information about the Pedal for Project Impact bicycle rides being held June 16 in Willmar.
I’m on the event’s planning committee and my job was to send information about the ride to as many cycling clubs and websites that have cycling event calendars as possible.
One of the clubs I found was the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota.
The website describes the group as “the premier African-American bicycling club in the state of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.”
There are Major Taylor cycling clubs all over the country. They’re all named for the cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, known in the early years of the 20th century as the fastest man alive.
I read the book “Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World’s Fastest Human Being” written by Todd Balf while I was riding the Habitat 500 last summer.
Besides being among the greatest athletes ever, Major Taylor’s life was an example of grace under the fire of the unending indignities of racism.
While he was an international sports hero, his achievements were tainted in his own country by the fact that many of his fellow citizens considered him a second-class human being because of the color of his skin.
Taylor had to make special arrangements when traveling to races because many hotels would refuse to rent him a room. And that was true throughout the U.S., not just in the South.
Race is an issue that this country has wrestled with since before its founding. As the furor that has resulted from the killing of Trayvon Martin shows, we will continue to deal with for years to come.
The book “Major” also explains the impact cycle racing had on professional sports and the country overall.
Cycle racing was the dominant sport in the late 19th and early 20th century. People who promoted bike racing learned to turn them into the first sports spectaculars – skills that were later applied to other racing sports, boxing, baseball and football.
Regular people, even those not interested in racing, became interested in cycling as recreation and an inexpensive form of transportation. They became some of the first advocates for better streets and roads.
Some of the first inflatable tires were used on an ancestor of the modern motorcycle that was used in indoor cycling tracks or velodromes. Those motorized bikes were used to “draft” – protect cyclists from the wind – as they attempted to set new speed records.
Motorcycles eventually supplanted bicycles on race tracks throughout the country. They, in turn, were replaced on the tracks by various types of automobiles.
And many sports fans turned their attention to baseball and football.
But during cycling’s brief moment in the nation consciousness, it set the stage for sports spectaculars and superstars.
It pointed the way for developments in transportation and, in the case of a kid from Indianapolis known as Major, it showed that at least one person from an abused minority could be admired as a person.
Looking at some photos of last year’s Pedal for Project Impact, I realized that in the few dozen riders who showed up, at least three countries were represented.
Those of us on the planning committee for this year’s event are hoping for a larger turnout. By adding a 40- and 60-mile SAG tour to the family ride that was offered last year, we hope to attract many more cyclists.
I hope that with more riders there will be greater diversity.
And if in that diverse group there some riders from a cycling club named in honor of the fastest man alive that would be even better.
This a reminder to cyclists in the Willmar area that a meeting to learn about and participate in the statewide bicycle planning study will be held Monday at the Willmar Municipal Utilities Auditorium, 700 SW Litchfield Ave.
The meeting will be from 4 to 6 p.m. and those planing to attend should be ready to stay the entire time. It will begin with a brief project description followed by a series of group discussions.
Those unable to attend in-person may join a statewide webinar discussion from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 22. Webinar details will be posted at www.dot.state.mn.us/bike/study.html.
There are some other upcoming cycling events to consider:
- Pedal for Project Impact will be held June 16. It will feature 40- and 60-mile SAG tours and a 1-to-20-mile family ride on the Glacial Lakes Trail. For more information, go to www.willmarshelter.com/bike-a-thon.php.
- This year’s Habitat 500 will be from July 15 to 21. The ride is a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and is limited to 135 riders. According to the 500 website, 53 riders have already registered. I rode it last year and really enjoyed it. Riders have to raise about $900 and kick in $200 or $300 for the cost of the ride, but it’s worth it. It’s an opportunity to see part of Minnesota from a bike, meet some great people and help a worthwhile cause. Checkout the website at www.habitat500.org/Habitat500/Home.html.
She's indicating she's enjoying the Habitat 500 and you might too. Check out the website and see if it's for your
- The Dakota War History Ride – 3 Day Bicycle Trek will be from Aug. 2 to 5 and run from St. Peter to Montevideo. It will run along the Minnesota River Valley and share stories of the U.S. Dakota Conflict. For more information, go to www.mywahooadventures.com.
As my dentist was installing my new crown and replacing a filling Wednesday morning, he asked about a mutual acquaintance.
Is he riding his bike on a day like today? The dentist asked about the mutual friend. People around town knew cyclist would ride his bike in all kinds of weather – even on the day after the kind of snow storm we’d experienced over the previous 24 hours.
“He could be,” I responded.
The dentist shook his head and said “I suppose his bike has big, knobby tires.”
“Some people prefer skinny tires for winter riding,” I said. “They tell me they cut through snow to the pavement below.”
The dentist seemed a little surprised but said that tack might make sense too.
I was just explaining a different approach. Skinny tires and snow seem like a bad combination to me.
Mountain bikes with fat, gnarly tires seem like the best winter ride to me.
Why sink down into the snow when you can get enough traction riding on it?
Anyway, both approaches work and have their supporters.
My mountain bike is my standard winter bike.
There have been many winter days when I’ve pedaled from my house over snowy, slushy streets in the residential area between home and U.S. Highway 12.
I needed – or felt I needed – big, knobby tires on those streets, but discovered the highway shoulders were clean enough that I could just as well be riding my road bike with its skinny tires.
For some reason that may have something to do with growing up in the Great White North, I enjoy riding along 12 and waving at snowmobilers roaring by on the snow-covered ditches and fields along the highway.
I wouldn’t want to get in their way, but there are bikes that would allow me to ride on much of the same terrain as those snowmobilers.
One such bike is the Pugsley, the first in bike builder Surly’s line of OmniTerra cycles.
The Pugsley is designed for riding primarily on sand and snow and, as a result, has tires nearly four inches wide.
There’s a video posted at http://www.bikepacking.net/individual_setups/outsiders-snow-bike-setup/ that shows a cyclist riding a mountain bike and then a Pugsley over the same or similar snowy terrain. There’s a second video on the same web page that shows a cyclist pushing a Pugsley through some snowy terrain, so even a bike built for snow can handle only so much of it.
Anyway, it appears that anyone wanting to ride in snow around west central Minnesota had better bust a move pretty quick.
At may snow in the next few days, but the temperature is supposed to rise to 50 by the end of next week.