By JENNIE ZEITLER, Staff Writer
One cold December evening in 2010, the Central Minnesota Bicycle Club was formed in the mind of Jan Lasar. It became a reality in early 2011 after Lasar sent e-mails to several friends setting up a meeting.
Seven cyclists attended that first meeting, including Jan and his wife, Jen, who live in Bowlus. The next meeting brought in 10 people.
Press releases were sent out for another meeting. The staff at Jordie’s Trailside Cafe in Bowlus, who prepared for a gathering of 10 people, were surprised to have 30 people attend.
The Club has now grown to more than 130 people on the e-mail list, and more than 70 Facebook fans.
Lasar is the coordinator of the club, which is very informal by design. There are no scheduled regular meetings, or meeting spots.
“We invariably meet weekly from about April through October,” said Lasar, “but it’s been such an unusually mild winter that we’ve had one ride every month.”
“We are a very diverse group,” said Lasar. “Our members are between 30 and 70.”
Between 10 and 25 people come to rides on a regular basis. “Some like to ride trails, and some would rather ride roads. Sometimes the group splits up,” Lasar said.
Ride starting points rotate. They have been in Avon, Bowlus, Rockville, St. Cloud Riverside Park and Little Falls. Rides are often spur-of-the-moment and set up via texts, e-mail or Facebook.
Sometimes on weekends, members of the group take day trips. “Six of us rode the Headwaters 100 in Park Rapids, which looped around Itasca State Park,” said Lasar.
“Twelve of us did the annual Caramel Roll Ride last year, which starts in Albany. Bowlus is now a stop on that ride, and about 150 riders came that far north last year,” he said.
In June 2011, Lasar and his wife and two other Club members did a ride they nicknamed the “Soobegon Lakes 100.”
“We started in Bowlus and rode through Holdingford, Albany and Alexandria. We went nearly to Fergus Falls before the cold wet weather drowned us out,” he said.
“We ended the ride at 90 miles, dripping wet, tired and cold, but there were no serious problems,” said Lasar.
The bikes used by the riders vary quite a bit. They go from standard road bikes, to comfort (hybrid) bikes to recumbent bikes. Recumbents come in many styles and feature a reclining riding position with the pedals out in front.
While no one is required to wear any particular bike gear, everyone does wear a helmet. “We stress safe riding,” Lasar said.
The Bicycle Club’s mission statement is: to promote safe and healthy bicycling for the enjoyment of bicyclists of all ages and abilities and for the benefit of the local communities.
“The Club is about making connections, to find people to bike with,” said Lasar. “Club members come from Rice, Little Falls, Bowlus, Sauk Rapids, Avon, St. Cloud and the Staples area.”
“The Club is a catalyst for friendship and companionship,” he said. “We are serious about biking, but are not a serious club. It’s what people make of it. We are trying not to be a club with hard and fast rules.”
Club member Sandy Scoles got started biking after retiring, when she needed some form of exercise. She was not a walker, but thought biking would be fun.
“I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a teenager,” she said. “Now I wish I’d taken this up when I was younger.”
Scoles, who lives in Pierz, rides the Soo Line Trail from Highway 10 to Albany about every other day. “I have met a lot of nice people along the trail,” said Scoles.
“The Bike Club is a group of fun, friendly people. We generally have an evening ride, meeting somewhere to bike and then eat together afterward,” she said.
Scoles had a quadruple bypass shortly after taking up biking, but was back on the trails only four weeks later. “The doctors said that biking was the only thing that saved me, because I had been so healthy and so active,” said Scoles.
DeeAnn Adams of Little Falls is one of the original seven members. “The club has been a wonderful way to find riders to ride with vs. always going it alone. One just needs to ride alone with some work schedules, but weekends or evenings allow more social riding opportunities, via the Club,” Adams said. I’ve met only the most fun and friendly sort of people one can imagine.”
“One of the other big reasons that I was excited to be a part of the Club was for the opportunity to help people learn how to ride both more comfortably and safely,” said Adams, a chiropractor.
“Often, folks say, ‘I hate bicycling because my butt (or other parts) hurt!’ I tell them that is most likely because they have not had a bike-fit done or that they are not on the right size bike,” she said. “There are other components to comfort, like gear and attire, but more often than not, they require a bike-fitting session.”
“My pet peeve for safety is seeing both youngsters and adults riding on the left side of the road and thinking it is the safe way to ride, when it is actually against the law.” said Adams.
“Bicycles are considered ‘vehicles’ by the Department of Transportation and are required to ride on the right hand side of the road. They are expected to abide by the same laws as motor vehicles,” she said.
Lasar was born in Germany, where citizens cycle everywhere — in suits on their way to work, with a dog in the front basket, hauling home the groceries.
“My parents bought my first bike before I had even learned how to read and write,” he said. “I’ve been biking my whole life.”
As an exchange student in Coon Rapids in 1989, he experienced a culture where people drove everywhere. After moving to the United States in 1996 he stopped relying on his bicycle for several years.
Now Lasar and his wife bike as much as they can. “In the summertime, we bike to Little Falls for our groceries, using trailers,” he said.
“Our vacations are often bike trips. We took a one-week trip to ride the Mesabi Trail in Grand Rapids,” said Lasar. “The most important things to bring are spare parts and tools for repair.”
Lasar is on the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail committee. A corridor study for that trail has now been completed, and enough money has been raised to hire an engineering design firm.
The proposed Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail will connect the Soo Line Trail that begins at Highway 10 north of Royalton, with the Paul Bunyan Trail in Brainerd.
When Scoles started out, she had one bike. “I enjoy it so much that now I have two,” she said.
“You can be as casual or as serious about biking as you want to be,” said Lasar. “Come out and ride with us. If you find this club is for you, then come back.”
Upcoming events are: National Bike Month in May, Bike to Work Week from May 14-18 and Bike to Work Day Friday, May 18.
For more information about the Central Minnesota Bicycle Club, visit its Web site at www.cmnbikeclub.com or find the Club on Facebook.