By Maery Rose
On September 13, I rode in the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour. This is noteworthy because I have never participated in a group ride before. I’ve been a bit leery of organized rides -- afraid that I wouldn’t fit in with what I imagined as more athletic and youthful riders. I visualized myself madly trying to keep up and hurting myself in the process.
It’s not that I don’t ride regularly. Whenever my work schedule permits, I ride my bike to the local Northstar Station, take the train to Target field and then bike to work, but that’s only a four mile bike ride. I’ve done longer rides - up to fifty miles carrying panniers loaded with camping gear, but that took me nine hours.
Then I saw that AARP Minnesota was partnering with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) to get more people over the age of fifty out bicycling. There has been a series of events this summer that were put on by BikeMN and AARP Minnesota, including an educational series called "Bike Basics for Boomers" and organized group rides called “Joy Rides,” which gradually increased the distance people rode and helped to boost their confidence and endurance.
And then there was the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. But my excitement grew as my partner and I joined the parade of cars pulling into the area with our bicycles strapped to our vehicles. I was thrilled to see people of all ages participating. One man wore a t-shirt that proudly stated that he was 72-years-old.
Streets were blocked off to allow bicyclists through and police officers were stationed at intersections to
make sure riders were able to cross safely. Cyclists riding past the officers thanked them for their help in making the ride a positive experience. One officer made me laugh with his big smile and drill sergeant encouragement, “Come on people. Move it! You know what you gotta do, so make it happen! That’s right. That’s what I’m talking about!” he yelled as we passed by him in a mock racer crouch.
There were many young cheerleaders stationed along the route, who whooped and hollered as we rode on past. I started to imagine myself riding in the Tour de France. Did I mention I have a wild imagination?
Volunteers working at the rest areas were super helpful, and bike shop personnel were available to check out bikes and do minor repairs and adjustments. And the food! There was fresh fruit, cookies, bars, bagels, nuts, water and coffee! And all at "no guilt" because we needed to keep up our energy, after all.
It was so encouraging to see so much goodwill amongst such a large group of people. I didn’t see any of the “Lycra-clad” competitiveness that is so often reported in the news. There was just a bunch of friendly, smiling people out enjoying live music, camaraderie, awesome food and of course, the ride itself.
I’m so glad I decided to give the St Paul Classic a try. I’d like to thank AARP Minnesota, BikeMN, and everyone else who contributed to making it such an enjoyable event.
Maery Rose is a local biker and writer who blogs at maeryrose.com