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As a kid growing up in Bismarck, my friends and I rode our bikes everywhere. During the summer months, we pedaled to the Elks and Hillside swimming pools, up River Road to Dude’s house to cool off in her swimming pool and then to Hawk’s Pit Stop on Memorial Highway to drink Mountain Dew and play as many games of Pac Man as we could afford.

Today, I’m still biking with friends, but the rides have gotten longer and decidedly more scenic. Fifty- and 60-mile rides round-trip rides to New Salem or Lake Oahe Boat Landing are solid Saturday morning rides. On really good days, we pack up and head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to pedal a lap or two around the park’s 22-mile scenic loop.

The thing that has not changed is the genuine joy of hopping on my bike and heading down the road with like-minded souls — folks who like to motor through the countryside on nothing but the power of their own two legs and a skinny-tired bike.  

If you have an interest in reliving your childhood memories of riding with the old gang or if you want to learn more about the sport of cycling, you are in luck. Bismarck-Mandan has a variety of planned group rides all aiming to recruit as many new faces as possible.

Group road rides

• Tuesdays: Meet 5:45 p.m. at Swenson Park, 6000 University Drive in south Bismarck. Swenson Park is the Apple Creek fishing area at the base of the University of Mary hill.  According to group leader Marv Lein, the Tuesday night ride is an A ride, meaning the pace is fast and the riders are experienced. It’s an excellent ride for cyclists who want to challenge themselves. The route is a 39-mile loop that flows east from Highway 1804 to 158th Street Southeast, then north to Apple Creek Road and then west back toward Bismarck.  

• Wednesdays: Meet 6:30 p.m. at 701 Cycle & Sport, 411 Fraine Barracks Road. This group ride breaks down into two groups — one for intermediate riders and another for beginners. The beginners group is led by experienced cyclists who guide the novices through a one-hour tour of area roads and bike paths; the experienced group tackles an hour, too, but at a brisker pace. The average pace for the newbies is 14 mph, with the quicker group averages about 17 mph.  

• Thursdays Women’s Ride: Meet 6 p.m.  at 701 Cycle & Sport. Led by cycling aficionados Melanie Carvell, Karin Gardner, Julie Mitzel and me, this group ride is designed to help beginner and intermediate female riders develop their riding skills and get more involved with the sport.

• Thursdays Red Barn ride: Meet 6 p.m. at 701 Cycle & Sport. The group rides north on Highway 1804 to a beautiful red barn about 16 miles north of the bike shop, so 32 miles round trip. Speeds average 17 to 19 mph.

• Sundays: Meets 1 p.m. in various locations to ride various distances. The ride, led by cycling expert Leon Essler, is for intermediate and experienced cyclists. 

Mountain Bike Ride

• Friday: Meet 4:30 p.m. at Harmon Lake, 7 miles north of Mandan off Highway 1806. Harmon Lake features a beautiful dirt trail that meanders around the lake, creating more than 10 miles of scenic off-road cycling.

For more information about the rides, including details of the Sunday afternoon ride’s meeting place and distance, you’ll want to join the increasingly large email distribution list Lein manages to keep cyclists up to speed on scheduled rides, unscheduled rides, cycling events and races. To be added to the list, email Lein at mlein3@me.com.

Regardless of your skill level or what kind of bike you’re sporting, group rides are an excellent opportunity to meet new people, see new places, identify safe riding routes, learn more about cycling and improve your riding skills. And they are just plain fun. All you need to join is a bike and a helmet.

Hope you’ll come ride with us.

If you have questions, email Marnie Walth at marniewalth@gmail.com.

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