By Victor Wanchena
Best Local Ride
There are few rides with as much to offer in the Twin Cities as the Grand Rounds. Curves and hills, scenery and urban grit; this interconnected series of parkways are nearly an ideal set of motorcycle roads. Consisting of 50 some miles of parkways, the Grand Rounds snake their way around and through the heart of Minneapolis. The brainchild of Horace Cleveland some 120 years ago, the Grand Rounds offer an inner-city ride that feels more like a country lane, something that appeals to everyone from the brawny chopper guys and to the beep-beep scooter crowd. Starting on the northeast side of town, The Grand Rounds cut west across the northern part of the city and head south through Theodore Wirth Park, then around the lakes and back east along Minnehaha Creek. It turns north at the river and ends in downtown. The “look at me crowd” is all too familiar with the loops around Lake Calhoun and Harriet, but seldom do they venture out to lesser-traveled sections. Pure bliss can be found on late summer evenings after the traffic has subsided and the traffic lights all turn to green. You can find maps and more info on the Grand Rounds at https://www.minneapolisparks.org.
Best Road Outstate Ride
There are over 135,000 miles of roads in Minnesota, so picking a favorite is difficult. A portion that stands out as some of the most beautiful is Highway 61 from Duluth to Grand Portage. There are many scenic roads through every corner of this state but this one ride encompasses so much of what Minnesota has to offer. Even Minnesota’s native son Bob Dylan thought enough of 61 to immortalize it in song, apparently “anything” can be done out on Hwy 61. The North Shore, as it is often known, easily becomes a favorite of anyone who’s had the pleasure to ride it. Recognized nationally as a scenic road, Hwy 61 clings to the shore of Lake Superior as it heads to the Canadian border, a trip of 150 miles. Along that stretch you get bluffs and waterfalls, lighthouses and forests, all on a well-maintained ribbon of two-laned black top. Especially popular is the early fall when the colors are at their height. The way north is dotted with state parks and small towns. Curio shops and smoked fish shacks are a fixture as well. Those looking to extend their ride can explore the Gunflint Trail and Highway 1 to Ely. A real treat for those with time is to continue north into Canada and over the top of Lake Superior, highly recommended. For more info on the North Shore visit the DNR’s website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
To paraphrase a quote from the movie Kelly’s Heroes, “Oh, I just ride ‘em man. I don’t know what makes ‘em work.” So some sage advice from my youth was to find a good barber, mechanic, and doctor. In that order, and stick with them. A good mechanic is really a precious commodity; they can make an unruly heap of junk into a well-oiled machine. And because they are essentially mechanical shaman, their craft is rarely understood or truly appreciated. Lou Lakey of Roy’s Repair has been working his famous voodoo over bikes for close to 40 years. Known for his skill and lack of patience for silly questions, riders needing a skilled hand on their bikes have been bringing them to Lou for many years. His collective years as a mechanic is longer than many reading this have been alive. Unfortunately this is known by enough people to keep Lou busy and he continues to threaten retirement. And like most artists he shouldn’t be rushed, wait your turn and he will drive the evil spirits from your bike. His specialty is bikes from the Land of the Rising Sun, but European and American riders fear not, Lou is an equal opportunity wrench. Lou can be found at Roy’s Repair 3232 Snelling Ave. S. in Minneapolis or call 612-721-8868.
Best Place To Be Seen With Your Bike
Come on admit it. You like to ride but you also like to park and stand next to your bike. Hoping the “cool” is dripping off you like sweat in the summer. For better or worse the place to do this is the First Thursday gathering at Dulono’s Pizza in uptown. As the name implies First Thursday is held the first Thursday of each month. Starting sometime after 5pm and going till Dulono’s closes, this gathering of bikes and riders is the best place to be seen while building some street cred for you and your ride. The crowd, which can reach a few hundred in the summer, is wide ranging from the portly Boss Hoss boys to the squidly Star Boyz types. Local luminaries do make occasional cameos. Ironically, the guys that started First Thursday, the Norton Owners Club, have been driven off by the crowds, their meeting place a tightly held state secret. Be warned the environment gets raucous as the night wears on and the neighbors are less than enthusiastic about the noise and hubbub. You will see everything here from $50 rat bikes to $100K customs. Dulono’s Pizza is located at 607 West Lake Street in Minneapolis.
Funkiest Place to Get Scootered Up (Best Scooter Shop)
So you want to re-enact a scene from Quadrophenia but aren’t sure which scooter shop is cool with the Mods but also respected by the Rockers. Without risking another Brighton Beach incident you can be seen at the Twin Cites Scooterville. Tucked away in plain sight off 94 in Minneapolis, this funky shop sells and services scooters in a way that’s so square it’s hip. Amid large banners in a mildly neo-Italian theme shop are arrayed scooters from the Far East and India. Owner Bob Hedstrom has combined his love of vintage Italian machines with modern offerings, like the ever-hip Stella or Buddy, and modest service facilities. Scooterville is fun and smart, not a high rent, glass front scooteria for neo-urban hipsters. The surroundings punctuate the fact that Scooterville is the shop for those in the know. You are just as likely to see motorcycles as scooters parked out front, which means the message is out; Scooterville is a moto-friendly shop for tire kickers and those just scooter-curious. They can be found at 904 19th Ave S, Minneapolis or call at 612-331-7266.
Best Race of the Season
For 2017 the best racing action will be hard to call with several must see events happening this coming summer. The easy winner this summer though will be the X-Games making their Minnesota debut in the July. This will be quite the treat for the Minnesota to have what amounts to the extreme sport summer Olympics here. There are two motorcycle events that occur with X-Games. The freestyle MX competition is always an incredible spectacle with much high-flying, no bleepin’ way tricks, but MMM is especially excited because flat track racing is now part of X-Games. It debuted in the games 3 years prior and has been come a staple of the games. We are excited to watch the defending champion, Jared Mees, pitch it sideways. The X-Games are scheduled for July 13th – 16th. For more info and hard to navigate website (for those over 40) visit: http://xgames.espn.com/xgames/.