Eau Claire celebrates Bike Week

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Eau Claire launched its kickoff event for Bike Week on Tuesday morning outside of The Local Store for bikers and biking organizations to meet and talk about events and Wisconsin biking.

Eau Claire launched its kickoff event for Bike Week on Tuesday morning outside of The Local Store for bikers and biking organizations to meet and talk about events and Wisconsin biking.
Eau Claire launched its kickoff event for Bike Week on Tuesday morning outside of The Local Store for bikers and biking organizations to meet and talk about events and Wisconsin biking. © 2016 Brian Sheridan

By Brian Sheridan

Wisconsin kicks off and rides into Bike Week in Eau Claire from June 2-12 for a week of trail riding, cycling education and entertainment.

Eau Claire started its kickoff event Tuesday outside The Local Store where Volume One, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), the Wisconsin Bike Federation, Eau Claire bikers and more came celebrate the week of biking to come.

According to bikeleague.org, Wisconsin ranks 9th in the country for its bike friendliness. Jeremy Gragert, Northwest ambassador for the Wisconsin Bike Federation, said Wisconsin has some of the best mountain biking in the world, and also excels in city biking and having interconnected bike trails.

Gragert said this is the second year of the event being branded Bike Week and encompasses a wide range of biking event like group bike rides, bike maintenance and city tours. He said the week is meant to start connecting local bicyclist with one another and to get more people to think about biking as “an everyday activity.”

“The encouragement side is what bike week is about,” Gragert said. “Just getting people to meet each other to build a community of bicyclists and just encouraging people to bike to work bike for recreation.”

Gragert said this year tries to get people more active in the week of events with two mountain biking events, along with bike rides to an Express baseball game, UW-Eau Claire’s showing of the movie “The Goonies” and a ride to breakfast at the Eau Claire County Exposition Center. There will also be the bikes, bridges and brews tour of the Eau Claire bridges and two local breweries.

Peter Hart-Brinson, a volunteer for Bike Week and avid biker for the last 20 years, said bicycling is a core part of Wisconsin’s identity, mentioning its importance to the economy and to the quality of life.

“I encourage people to get on their bicycles because it’s healthy,” Hart-Brinson said. “It’s a healthy lifestyle. It’s a great alternative to driving and it’s good for communities. When you’re riding a bicycles you say hi to people, you wave to people, there’s no traffic.”

Ruth and Gary Norrish recently moved to Eau Claire for the bike trails and have been biking the last 10 years. Gary said they explore the trails all over town and enjoy doing it because it’s good exercise and the city provides good scenery.

One of the bikers helping the people of Eau Claire explore the biking trails is Jonathan Leuthe, owner of Spinvision, a company that provides virtual tours of houses, businesses and the Chippewa Valley bike trails.

Leuthe has been mapping the trails for over a year now on an adult tricycle with a camera mounted over the top that he said will eventually allow people to explore the trails in a “pick-your-own-adventure style.” Leuthe said he plans to go over the trails with a 360 camera that will let people to explore the trails with a virtual reality headset.

“It’s an awesome way to get through town,” Leuthe said. “Sometimes you can get through town faster on a bike and the scenery is beautiful. We have a lot of trails to take advantage of.”

Beyond the trails, one of the “hidden gems” for bicycling, Gragert said, is the county roads. He said Wisconsin has some of best country road and town road riding not only in the country, but in the world, with Chippewa County being especially great.

As the week of events unfold, Gragert said he hopes more people use biking recreationally, among family and as a legitimate form of transportation. Gragert encourages people to get involved this year and connect with the other members of the biking community.

“I think that’s a big part of this; to meet new people and learn from each other,” Gragert said. “A lot of opportunities to share knowledge about bike repair and maintenance. That’s really the thing: It’s building the community.”