Monday, May 31, 2010

Biking. Pella, IA. Excellent.

 Pella's Volksweg Trail. Simply lovely.

Okay, I've made my jokes over the years about Pella being a quaint, sleepy Midwestern town,  but I have to say, the biking is pretty great.

 Gem #1 is the Volksweg Trail (Volksweg is "Folks' or People's Way" in Dutch) that starts just outside of town and travels 13 miles around the very nearby Red Rock Dam. This is a paved trail, closed to traffic and swept clean by the Howell Station Campground hosts every day. Seriously. This trail is amazing. The path rolls through some sun, some shade, lovely views of the Lake Red Rock, cool bridges and enough hills and curves to keep things interesting.

I took two trips on the trail while I was in town last week. The first was a girls' ride with my two older sisters. I don't think we've biked together since I was on the baby seat on my dad's bike more than 35 years ago. It was very fun to get out and move with these powerful women.

The second ride was with Hot Husband and my dudes the next day. The pace was much slower and the weather more humid, but we made our own cool breeze as we pedaled along. It was a relief to be able to bike with all of them without being on full alert for traffic. (For those of you easing into family rides, I highly recommend starting on bike paths. It's a lot easier on the nerves.)

Gem #2 is Pella's completely bikeable downtown area. The town is built on a downtown square, so getting around to the shops and tidy  neighborhoods is unbelievably easy. Locals complain that the stores they frequent aren't so easy to reach by bike, but I think that's a matter of perception. Car culture has trained us all to push our margins for available time, so we think we couldn't possibly bike. Reality? It wouldn't take that much longer to bike in a town like Pella.

But I digress.

The only odd thing about biking downtown is the utter lack of bike racks. Not sure what gives on that point. Might be the low crime rate.

Gem #3 is local bike shop Iowa Bike & Fitness owned by Marty Doane. Marty's a legend in the state as far as wrenching goes, and he has an impressive biking resume, too. (Full disclosure--my sister works for Marty.) The shop is packed full of bikes and accessories, but not a lot of technicolor jerseys and fluff. Marty's a practical guy.

Practical and particular. He's got the only bike shop in town, and he refuses to fix big box store bikes. He'll order the parts if you need them, but that's it. He'd rather spend his time on quality bikes that he knows will be roadworthy after he's invested his time repairing them. He also makes sure he has good mechanics and trains them well. Several people who have worked for him have gone on to open their own bike shops or work for big names in the biking industry.

It was great to have the freedom to toodle around town with my dudes and see a diversity of bikers. Retired folks on hybrid bikes, families with bike trailers, the lycra crowd on road bikes, tourists on recumbents and beginners hoping to get in shape were all out in force. I was glad to be among them.

Da Sistas, pre-ride

  Me with the dudes the next day

At the top of the dam

Biking pros

 Marty Doane of Iowa Bike & Fitness


  1. You should try the Broadway coast: ride up to Elm Street, then turn around to the south. Sprint as hard as you can until you achieve maximum warp, then coast. See if you can roll all the way to the square. I made it a couple of times with a good tail wind.

  2. I LOVE exploring faraway places by bike. Pella looks great! (We just spent a wonderful day exploring the trails at Pipestone yesterday — it's on the way to Butte — which offers beautiful, endless mountain biking.)

  3. Ah...Pella is so lovely! I grew up in southern Iowa and spent my share of time in Pella as one of my best friend's had family there. The tulip festival! A bakery downtown...can't think of the name but it was *always* a stopping point. I came very close to attending Central College but opted for another small town school instead. Lovely reading about your ride and I look forward to exploring your blog!

  4. M and G--Thanks for commenting! Jaarsma is the bakery. It's quite a legend. We really loaded up on Dutch letters while we were there.

    minor--Now that we're home, I've got to get out to Pipestone! You and Shawn are great about getting outside even when the weather's cruddy.

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