The Cedar Valley's active cycling community is fun for everyone.
The Cedar Valley’s cycling community is made up of a tight-knit group of athletes, nonprofits and gear shops that never fail to take advantage of the region’s robust network of trails, regardless of the season.
Winding its way through the Cedar Valley, places like the Cedar Valley Lakes Trail or Rolling Prairie Bike Trail are home to year-round races, events and family-friendly outings. If you’re new to the area, there are several welcoming cycling groups where you’re almost guaranteed to get fit while making friends.
“We have a ton of rides — there’s something for everyone,” says Cindy Angel, president of Cedar Valley Cyclists. “We do Monday night gravel rides and Tuesday women’s group and mixed group rides. Our big ride is Wednesday nights, called WOW (Wheels on Wednesdays) when we have trail rides and rides for families who want to teach their kids to ride.”
Cedar Valley Cyclists, a nonprofit for bike enthusiasts dedicated to promoting safe and inclusive social cycling in the Cedar Valley and Waterloo areas, also hosts several annual charity events and a RAGBRAI charter. They’re a great way to make friends (they’ve even had several members get married over the years), and they also work with the I HOPE Chapter of AMBUCS (American Business Clubs), which helps create mobility for people with disabilities, too.
RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is an epic eight-day bike ride across Iowa that draws in over 16,000 riders worldwide. Communities come together for cycling, music, food and camaraderie.
The RAGBRAI’s annual route passes through the Cedar Valley fairly regularly. Still, even when it doesn’t, the event fuels the Cedar Valley’s local biking community all year round as cyclists come together to plan and train for a week of a lifetime.
Through Any Weather
Even in the winter, it takes much more than snow and ice to keep Iowans off the trails: The Fat Bike Race, a segment of the Winter Iowa Games, is held every January along soft snowy paths. The event is an annual Olympic-style festival providing sports and recreation opportunities for all ages, hosting over 4,000 athletes.
Several gear shops like Circle 8 Cyclery, which manufactures the Kaddy-Rack bicycle accessory, serve this growing community of riders.
Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective is another nonprofit that hosts bike valets that draw hundreds at popular local events like Iowa Irish Fest and helps connect people with transportation challenges with bikes as a vehicle.
“People are familiar with people who cycle for recreation, but our mission is to provide low-cost transportation and community services to the area for a whole different type of bicycle user — the person who can’t drive, the person coming out of the criminal system, the person who is just getting started and doesn’t have a lot of money to buy a bike,” says Mark Stevenson, head mechanic at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective. “I’m seeing a whole other subculture of cycling — our shop serves those people who rely on bikes to get by, and they’re probably the most underserved under-recognized group of cyclists in the nation. It’s been an eye-opener to me, and I think that’s an exciting opportunity.”
Stevenson has been involved in the local cycling community since the 1980s and says usage is the biggest change he’s seen over the decades.
“Things have progressed — we have a robust soft trail system, there are interactive maps you can follow on your smartphone to find your way around, even in the woods. We have a hundred miles of paved bicycle trails in the area, which you can use as a utilitarian cyclist to get groceries or go to work as a commuter; that’s becoming more and more of a thing. We’ve still got a long way to go in that area, but we’ve moved beyond recreational trails to cycling being more integrated into everyday life.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Cedar Valley area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Cedar Valley, Iowa.