MINNETONKA — Thousands of bicyclists — riding on everything from a penny-farthing to tandem and recumbent bikes to bikes pulling carriers and road bikes — took in the sights of the Lake Minnetonka area and beyond as they rode in the 14th annual Tour de Tonka.
More than 3,400 people, including more than 1,100 first-time Tour de Tonka riders, participated in this year’s event, said Tim Litfin, executive director of the Minnetonka Community Education, which puts on the event.
“You have to have a lot of good things to make anything happen. You have to have good staff, good volunteers, organizational plan, all of that. And it takes constant work, and you can’t take your foot off the gas pedal for a long time to make all those things come together,” Litfin said. “And I think they did, and in the end you also need weather. And then you need riders to sign up, and you need volunteers to show up, and so all those good things have to come together, and it was a nice mix, a nice blend of all those good things working in our favor.”
For this year’s ride, there were eight routes — 16 miles, 36 miles, 48 miles, 57 miles, 62 miles, 71 miles and 100 miles — that went through 24 communities in the west metro, including the Lake Minnetonka area, Chanhassen, Chaska and Eden Prairie.
At each rest area along the various routes, there was live music for riders to enjoy while they stopped to get a snack, fill up their water bottles and stretch their legs. Event organizers say more than 600 volunteers helped make the event run smoothly and cheered on rides, while about 144 public safety officials helped keep people safe throughout the day.
All the routes finished at Minnetonka High School — also known as Tour de Tonka headquarters — where there was a party with live music.
Robert Taylor, of Orono, has ridden in the Tour de Tonka three or four times, and this year his choice of transportation was a unique one — he rode a penny-farthing in the 30-mile ride.
“The challenging part is there is no brakes and there are no gears. It’s always pedaling, it’s fixed. So when you are going downhill, you’ve got to hold back with your feet to keep from over speeding and falling forward,” Taylor told Lakeshore Weekly News after the ride.
His bike was made in 1885, and was on the streets of Boston before cars were in America, he said, noting “In the day, these cost as much as a brand-new Ferrari would.”
Growing in popularity
Tour de Tonka has become a popular event over the last 14 years.The first year, there were 881 riders and three routes, Litfin said. Sixty-six people from that original ride have participated every year since.
The event draws people from all over Minnesota, and many states, as well as people of all ages. Bill Lurton, 89, was the oldest to participate in this year’s ride, with Litfin noting he believes children as young as 5 or 6 were riding their own bikes in the 16-mile route.
Reporter Frances Stevenson contributed to this report.