Grinnell Bike Week is rolling into town with prizes

By Max Calenberg

The fourth annual Grinnell Bike Week will kick off this Saturday, May 14 with events continuing until the following Friday, May 20.

The week is being hosted by Imagine Grinnell, a community organization created in 1985 aimed at “enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Grinnell and the surrounding area.” Executive Director Melissa Strovers explained the origin of Grinnell Bike Week.

“The inspiration came from me attending the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, which is an annual conference … [about cycling] from a community organization prospective,” Strovers said. “One of the workshops they had was on Bike to Work Week, and I thought, ‘that’s cool, you know, we’re a biking community, we’re interested in promoting trails and health and wellness, it’s a natural fit for us to do.’”

Over the years, the Bike Week has gained popularity in Grinnell. In 2008, its first year, the event had 19 people pledge to ride their bike to work. In 2009 they had 72 pledges, and the number leapt to 192 last year, placing Grinnell second in total registered individuals, behind only Des Moines.

“Hopefully, Grinnell College will become the number one employer to have cyclists ride to work that week. Last year, my recollection is they were number two,” Bikes To You owner Craig Cooper said.

Grinnell Bike Week runs in conjunction with National Bike to Work Week–participants can pledge at www.bikeiowa.com to ride their bike to work for the week. Cooper attributes Grinnell’s high registration numbers to a few factors.

“Relatively speaking, Grinnell is a very cycling-orientated community. There are two good reasons, one, Grinnell is relatively flat, we’re not a river town, you don’t have to climb, you don’t have to sweat when you ride your bike to work. And two, quite honestly, we don’t have very much parking,” Cooper said.

Proceedings will commence at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the intersection of 8th Ave. and Sunset St. with a 5K run/walk and a 5, 10 or 20K bike ride on the Grinnell Area Recreation Trail. There will be prizes given for first place finishers in the 5K run in each age group. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. The fee is $5 for adults and free for anyone under 18 years of age.

That’s just the first pedal of the long week, with different events happening daily throughout May 16-20, including a free 12-ounce coffee from Saints Rest on Monday, a free taco with purchase of an entrée on Tuesday and a Crazy Helmet Hair Contest on Wednesday. A helmet will be your ticket to these and other items. There will also be a bike maintenance workshop hosted by Cooper.

“We’re just going to go through and cover basic maintenance … of how to care for your bike,” Cooper said. “[It’s] really simple to do. If everybody did it, I’d probably be out of business.”

The three most basic aspects of bike maintenance, according to Cooper, are as simple as putting air in your tires, taking care of your chain and keeping your bike protected from the elements.

“If you don’t do any of those, then you end up with repair bills that are like 150 dollars,” Cooper said.

Every spring, Bikes To You repairs the bikes of numerous students of the College who neglect this critical trio.

“Student after student brings a bike and they need a new chain and a new tires,” Cooper said. “Something simple like a six dollar can of lubricant can prevent that.”

Cooper sees Grinnell Bike Week as a display of larger themes in Grinnell.

“This bike to work thing is cool, and I’m proud of our community and how we participate, but in a bigger sense, I’m more excited about the fact that we are a community that has kind of alternative transportation at its core as an truly an option,” Cooper said. “There’s no stigma attached … There are other communities where if you rode your bike to your afternoon meeting or you rode your bike to work, people kind of think you’re crazy. We don’t have that, and that’s a good thing.”

Strovers emphasized the benefits of biking year-round, not just for one week in May.

“It’s important from an environmental perspective… [and] from a health and wellness perspective. There are so many benefits to biking—it will save you money, it will save you gas,” Strovers said. “It’s just a good thing to do, it’s just good to have that kind of practice in your daily life.”

For more information and a complete schedule of the week’s events, visit www.imaginegrinnell.org.