It’s been over five years since Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota completed our ambitious Research Bike project. Since then, pavement conditions have changed, and additional miles have been added, so it’s time to re-ride the trails to document the current conditions.
Taking on the first phase of the task—pedaling all 628 miles of state trail aboard our pedal-assist electric Research Bike—is Chris Oines. He is a retired air traffic controller who lives near Mille Lacs, who mountain bikes, kayaks, and fishes.
Oines started on Sept. 9 on the Gateway State Trail where he pedaled 29 miles along the 14.5-mile trail—oh, did we mention he needs to bike back to the starting point, meaning he actually bikes each trail twice.
As of Oct. 11, Oines has logged 1,000 miles, doing between 150-300 miles of pedaling per week. The remaining 250+ miles are expected to be done by the end of October. It’s been more work than he anticipated. “When I started, I thought I’d probably do this for free, but at this point, I don’t think that anymore,” Oines laughs. Nonetheless, he is enjoying himself. “It’s really therapeutic being out there; it allows you to slow down and gives you time to think.”
Having biked only a few state trails previously, Oines says the experience opened his eyes to the diverse landscapes across the state. All the trails have something to offer, he notes, from the quintessential Minnesota lakes, cottages, and pines near Park Rapids to the farmlands with wind turbines in the southwest to the amazing North Shore on the Gitchi Gami, which he says reminds him of the Atlantic Coast in Maine.
Once all the trails are pedaled, the data collected on the accelerometer and the two cameras will be compiled and analyzed. The results will be published in 2024 in our updated “State of the Trails Report” where readers can see a segment-by-segment rating of the trail condition for each trail.
As for Oines, he says he’s looking into buying a pedal-assist electric bike for himself and his wife to enjoy his newfound love of long-distance bike trails together. “I’m definitely going to be riding the trails in the future.”