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A Very British Weekend! The Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour

The tour was a hoot. We did about 80 miles in two days and it sounds like a lot when you put it that way, but we biked slowly and stopped often. I got out of the weekend with nothing worse than a sore butt, although my dad felt a bit worse than that. Anyway, it was meant to be for fun, and we had our fun. Weather was superb; we got sprinkled a bit, but otherwise it was beautiful and sunny with a generous tailwind. Lots of big birds around there. I rode a '72 Raleigh Superbe, truly a deluxe model 3-speed bicycle. There was one other gentleman in attendance with the same bike in a '74 model, and they were really similar. Out of the other 47 people, there was an impressive array of different manufacturers and weird modifications for a vintage bike geek to drool over.

Here's my dad in proper "gentleman cyclist" period attire, before heading off on the route. We drove in to Red Wing, Minnesota to mass up and spent an hour or so admiring each other's bikes and making introductions. I recognized Matt from Two Cities Two Wheels but I didn't let on that I knew his secret identity. There's a photo of me having a good time in knickers here. Local bike industry legend Ron Storm was there, and hardcore Joanne who did the whole loop in a skirt and high heels. One participant was on an orange single-speed Bridgestone XO-1, which technically isn't a 3-speed at all, but still a very cool bike. Anyway, after announcements and giveaways, the group saddled up and crossed the bridge into Wisconsin, where we began our loop of Lake Pepin (a fat part of the Mississippi River). On Saturday we biked down the WI side and then crossed back into Wabasha, Minnesota for the night.

There was a strong showing from the Sibley Bike Depot contingent. Pictured here are President of the Board John Carlson and super-volunteer Terry Hanson. John was riding his nice Armstrong with custom leather seat & grips (done by Craftstravaganza vendor Nate of Nate's Custom Sewing!), and Terry rocked a homebrewed 3-speed monster with 700cc wheels. His bike required some moderate repairs later on, and I made some adjustments to my seat height, but otherwise it was a remarkably trouble-free weekend considering the age and condition of some of these worthy steeds. Volunteer Karl did blow out one of his skinny racing tires on a rough descent, but otherwise we coasted through the weekend with nary a breakdown.

The theme of the ride is, "we have all day to arrive at our destination so let's not spoil it by showing up early." Frequent rests were the order of the day. Besides historical markers and scenic overlooks, we made stops for drinks and treats at some cozy little places. I especially recommend the Smiling Pelican Bakery in Maiden Rock, WI. I ate a slice of Balinese Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and washed it down with Sprecher's root beer. That's energy food! The Wabasha Cycling Club feted us with free dinner on Saturday night, served with--what else?--English Ale. The lumpy motel mattress didn't do much to alleviate my saddle sores, but anything felt good compared to my vintage Brooks saddle. Maybe if I ride it throughout the year, it will be soft and broken-in in time for 3-Speed Tour 2007.

The second day was a bit more grueling than the first, but another rule of the Tour is "no complaining," so we maintained a stiff upper lip. I don't know if I'll really make it out to next year's ride, but it was a tremendous experience that reminded me how much fun it can be just to ride a bike. It's a lesson I forget easily, but I remember quickly every time I get back in the saddle. Hooray for cycling!

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