On Saturday’s march through the Skywalk my husband noticed the bike parking signs near the new DTA Transit Center. I went down there yesterday to get the 411.
“Bike parking is sold on a monthly basis. The cost per month or any part thereof is $10. There is also a required deposit of $5 for the FOB needed for entry into the secure bicycle parking area. This deposit is returned when the FOB is returned to the DTA. Payments are due by the 25th of the month for the next month’s rental.”
Responses to a piece I posted here a while ago suggest at least a few Perfect Duluth Day Saturday Essay readers ride bicycles somewhat “seriously.” Makes sense, I suppose; long cycling sojourns, solo or with accomplices, can foster a deep contemplation similar to one spending time with prose can evoke. It’s also true that riding bikes and reading words can both be nothing more than hardcore reality avoidance posing as time spent admirably. We all have our drugs, don’t we? — mostly ones we tell ourselves aren’t drugs so we can believe we’re better human beings than folks who used to hang out in front of Last Place on Earth.
But whatever. That’s not what this essay is about.
I ride a lot, slowly and clumsily (like a middle-aged oaf whose formative fitness years were spent playing tight end and fearing exercise-induced pain), mostly alone, and with intentions driven by equal desires to sit with and avoid my general mental state. Since 2002 I’ve owned a lot of different mountain, road, and commuting bicycles. After thousands of hours spent poring over Sheldon Brown’s website and mtbr.com forums, tinkering in my back-yard shed, and pestering real mechanics — just mercilessly badgering them with, “How does this work?” and “How do I put this back together?” and “Hey, can I come down and interrupt what you’re working on, ask a bunch of dumb questions, borrow some tools, and inevitably force you to stop what you’re doing and help me?” — I know enough to credibly build and maintain my own bikes. Sometimes I fix friends’ bikes, if they have low expectations. I go through nerdy periods of constantly trying to figure out the “best” way to set up a certain bike for a certain purpose, which means I’ve researched, bought, installed, un-installed, broken, replaced, and perseverated on hundreds of components ranging from whole frames to single 5mm bolts.
A friend asked me last week where beginners should go for a good first-time mountain biking experience in Duluth.
“I want good views — not afraid of some hills — but nothing crazy where I would have to be an expert,” she said.
I don’t mountain bike, so I can’t answer the question … or maybe that makes me the perfect guinea pig for an experiment. Anyway, a quick search of the internet seems to suggest Lester Park has a good “easiest” trail. Is there a middle-aged klutz out there who can endorse the Lester experience as a good trail for a first-time mountain biker? Or is there somewhere better suited to persons of limited balance?
Last week the pavement went down on a new section of the Cross City Trail that runs on the former Duluth, Winnipeg, and Pacific Railroad line behind the Lake Superior Zoo — part of the DWP Trail. The paved section runs from Greene Street to the zoo, a distance of about one mile.
Advocate Cycles of Bloomington took its new Watchman model fat-tire bike to the snowy hills of Duluth this past winter for this video showcasing the world-class riding opportunities the city has to offer. To the music of Teague Alexy’s “The Raggedy Hat of John Henry,” they ride from dusk until dawn from the top of the hill down to the frozen shoreline of Lake Superior.
The climb feels endless. Tattered concrete fills my field of vision — taunting and mocking my painfully slow bike ride up the hill. My legs ache and are starting to shake. My lungs burn and seem to collapse a bit more every time I turn the pedals over and try to suck in a great, heaving gulp of oxygen.
The front wheel wobbles for lack of momentum, forcing me to cross back. Now I’m shamefully zig-zagging across the steep avenue, which both relieves the burdensome pitch, but quadruples the length of the climb. There is a deep desire in me, immutable by logic or maturity, to ride the whole way, steep inclines notwithstanding.
Then the moment of kinetic equilibrium arrives in which the depleted energy of my legs can no longer overcome gravity’s backward force and for the briefest moment my bike and I are stuck in suspended animation. I dismount at the very moment gravity begins to prevail. With humility washing over me, bike and I switch roles as I become the vehicle delivering the two of us up the hillside.
Last weekend Spirit Mountain became (as far as we know) the first ski resort in North America to offer lift access fat-tire biking. Break out the fatbikes this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and come ride with us!