Imagine biking on every road in Kanabec County during the same year. That is what Mora High School biology teacher and Nordic Ski Coach Peter Larsen is doing this spring and summer.
Larsen got the idea to do this from Jack Schwinghamer who had done the same thing two years ago. Larsen thought that it would really be cool to see all the different parts of the county that he never knew existed by riding a different route each day. He also wanted to use this training to stay fit and motivated by having a goal to work toward.
Schwinghamer said that he got the idea to ride all of the roads in the county while riding the Artic Road near the Mille Lacs County line. He also thought that it would be a way to see spots in the county that he didn’t know existed. It was also a good way to stay in shape and have a goal to shoot for. “There are some fun roads to ride, some of which are pretty remote,” he said. “I learned how to make the most of the miles on each trip by navigating so that I covered as many new roads as possible each day.”
Larsen has a training plan for each week. Four days each week he does a bike ride, another day he roller skis, another day he runs, and he takes one day off.
Originally his plan was to use this training for competing in mountain bike races this summer. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic all of the races have been canceled in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series for this summer. However, his ultimate goal is to use this as summer training for Nordic skiing next winter.
He is not only biking on the tar roads, but also on all of the gravel roads. He is able to go on both road surfaces with his Cannondale Topstone bicycle which is a hybrid between a road bike and a mountain bike. It has 1.5-inch-wide tires with small knobs which make it slower than a road bike on tar roads, but faster than a mountain bike on gravel roads. It is a bike developed for cyclocross racing.
On gravel he cannot travel as fast, but rarely sees more than two cars and feels safer. He has found that motorists have generally been very courteous. He wears high visibility colorful clothing and has a flashing red light on the back of his bike. “Actually, I prefer gravel roads because there are fewer cars,” he said.
Each ride starts out from his home near Quamba. So, some trips will be very long. The longest one so far this spring has been 45 miles out and back to the county line west of Ogilvie. Going to Isle and back will be 60 miles. “Reaching the corners of the county will be tough,” he added.
Schwinghamer also started his rides from home near Mora. He ended his adventure rides on Dec. 31 after a big ice storm that left roads ice covered. He had to use studded tires to make that last trip.
Each day Larsen checks the direction of the wind. He starts out going against the wind so that he can return with the wind when he is more tired. He then checks his map to find the roads where he has not ridden. He is recording all of his rides using GPS on the Strava app.
He has had several interesting experiences on his adventures throughout the county. He has ended up on some minimum maintenance roads. On one such road, beavers had made a dam and flooded the road. He decided to cross the flooded road. He was able to make it across. At the deepest point the water was halfway up his bike tires and sloshing up toward his knees.
An added benefit has been seeing all kinds of wildlife including a bobcat, blue heron, deer, wild turkeys and all sorts of ducks.
Both agreed that it would be nice to have wider shoulders on many of the tarred roads around here. A tarred trail between Mora and Quamba and even all the way to Hinckley would then be able to connect to the Willard Munger State Trail, and people could ride from Mora all the way to Duluth. It is expensive to add more shoulders and trails, but would make it much safer and easier for people to get out, be healthy and enjoy the outdoors.