Sam Beveridge

For competitive bicyclist Sam Beveridge, "off-roading" is something of an understatement. As a member of Team Freewheel, a small corps of dedicated cyclists sponsored by the local bike store chain of the same name, Beveridge regularly pits himself against some of the most challenging terrain imaginable.

In addition to mountain biking - a staple on the racing circuit - the intrepid members of Team Freewheel can often be found "fatbike" racing. Fatbikes, as the name suggests, are equipped with oversized tires to traverse long distances over unpaved landscapes dominated by dirt, sand and even rocks. Winter provides still further opportunities for Beveridge and his teammates to test their mettle. Instead of taking the season off, they race on the ice using special bikes outfitted with studded tires.
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They are not alone. This hardcore cycling community grows larger each year, as evidenced by the popularity of its races. Colorado's Leadville Trail MTB, the oldest 100-mile mountain biking challenge in the country, is now so popular that entry is decided by lottery. Closer to home, the annual Chequamegon Fat Fire Festival in Hayward, Wisconsin, drew over 3,000 competitors in September 2014. (Beveridge competes in both, and placed an impressive 48th this year at Chequamegon.)

Beveridge says that elite races and off-road courses not only build endurance, but instill "an appreciation for paved bike lanes and paths" - something that more casual bikers can easily take for granted. Edina, in particular, is lucky in this regard. "In Edina, I can now ride in just about all directions; the roads and parkways are fantastic," Beveridge said.

Even so, metro biking is only gradually coming into its own as a viable alternative to driving. Beveridge, who racks up anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 miles each year on his bike, is in a good position to know.

"I've seen some major strides. Edina took a big step when it added commuter lanes to many of its roads," he said. "These may be unpopular with some vehicle owners, but they do a great job of getting people out and about. How many times do you drive down Wooddale Avenue and see a group of high school aged kids out riding? It seems like a lot to me."

Beveridge regularly bikes between 50 and 100 miles at a stretch, but he contends that even a few minutes "out and about" brings two benefits. "Cycling can be an outlet. A big endorphin rush comes with the exercise ... I enjoy countless hours of this, what I call ‘pedal therapy.'"

In addition, "riding is a great way to experience the landscape and sense of community in an area." Special cases like Beveridge notwithstanding, "you are typically rolling down parkways or side streets, where you can really see life being lived out in that neighborhood."

Beveridge extols the virtues of "pedal therapy" whenever he gets a chance. As a part of Team Freewheel, and in partnership with the Three Rivers Park District, he can often be found at seasonal expos promoting new races, clinics, and other riding opportunities.

He particularly enjoys when young people turn out for these events. "It's a lot like recycling. Teach and encourage people to do things early in life, and they will be more likely to do it as they get older."