Although the weather may have kept many of the faint of heart away, some weather-hardy cyclists came out for the inaugural Bike the Heart Voyageurs Country on National Public Lands Day.

The riders were dressed Saturday for a range of temperatures – many were bundled up in heavy coats, one man turned up in shorts. A cyclist from Fort Frances turned around to grab shoe covers to block the wind from his ankles when he realized how cold it felt outside.

Saturday morning was the coldest so far this September, with a low of 29 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Voyageurs National Park Superintendent Bob DeGross was also bundled up when addressing the riders.

“Maybe next year we do this two weeks earlier, Bob?” one of the cyclists suggested, chuckling.

DeGross said organizers discussed the idea of having the ride a bit earlier next year, but he liked the fact that this year’s ride was on National Public Lands Day to highlight the park and forest areas in the region.

Three rides were scheduled for Saturday, a 56-mile, “Full Voyageurs Ride,” a 23-mile, “Fun Ride” and a nine mile, “Family Ride.” Eight cyclists participated in the 56-mile ride and seven for the 23-mile ride. There were no participants in the nine-mile ride.

The cyclists thought the routes were great and they all indicated they wished more people would’ve attended, DeGross said.

“All the riders had a great time,” he said.

The ride was a first-time event for the area, hosted as a part of the Heart of the Continent Partnership “Bike the Heart” ride series, a series of cycling events in northeastern Minnesota and Ontario coordinated by the Heart of the Continent Partnership during the summer and fall of 2019.

The Heart of the Continent Partnership is a Canadian and American coalition of land managers and local stakeholders working together on cross-border projects that promote the economic, cultural and natural health of the lakes, forests and communities on the Ontario/Minnesota border.

Donations from the cyclists will support the Voyageurs National Park Association, Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club and future Voyageur Country Bike the Heart events. The Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club is working with Voyageurs National Park and Voyageurs National Park Association to construct an accessible fishing pier in the area of the Rainy Lake Visitor Center.

All in all, everything went well, DeGross said.

“I hope the event grows in the future and becomes well recognized in the biking community,” he said. “It would be great if the event attracts bikers to the area and encourages them to stay a few days and use the great resorts, hotels, motels, restaurants and other services we have.”

DeGross is hopeful that he will be able to encourage more cyclists to participate in future years by getting the word out sooner.

“I hope that future events encourage local residents, and visitors, to get out and enjoy what our area has to offer,” he said.

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