Friendship, health, community: Twin Cities Latino cyclists on a roll

three people stand together holding a broken bike chain
Noemi Treviño Flores (left), Marleny Trujillo (center) and Mario Hernandez (right) pose for a photo with Treviño Flores' broken chain before Treviño Flores heads home early from a ride along the Gateway and Bruce Vento trails in St. Paul on April 24.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Mario Hernandez started biking to get outdoors and boost his health. When he saw the beauty of Minnesota, he wanted others to be able to enjoy it as well, especially recently arrived Latinos to the state who might not have had the chance to explore.

That simple idea has morphed into something bigger during the pandemic — Latino Social Biking, a Twin Cities group helping Latino people connect, get healthy and get past the isolation and sedentary influences of the pandemic. 

a group of seven people stand together in front of a tree
Members of the group Latino Social Biking at their season kick-off ride and barbeque in North St. Paul on May 2. Left to right: Marleny Trujillo, Mario Hernandez, Rosa Tock, Gustavo Rosso, Noemi Treviño Flores, Reyna Lopez and husband Marco Mejia.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Purposely casual and noncompetitive, the group rolls with all types of bikes, riders and abilities. There are a few ground rules, like helmets, masks and basic safety gear, but the main goal is to create a space for Latinos to ride together and explore Minnesota.

The rides offer a chance to bond with others of Latin American heritage and identity. Spanish and English are the norm — whichever language feels more comfortable in the moment is used.

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a man biking along a path holding a phone to take a selfie
Mario Hernandez, 45, takes a group photo with his camera in selfie mode during a group ride in St. Paul on April 24. Hernandez is one of the founders of the group Latino Social Biking.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

“We thought, well, what a great way to get some of the folks we know out to see the state, to ride the trails around the lake, ride these trails that go out into open country,” Hernandez, 45, recalled.

The rides became “100 percent” more important during the pandemic, said Gustavo Rosso, 47, a bike ride organizer who came to Minnesota in 2000 from his native Argentina. Cycling, he said, helped him stay active in uncertain times. “I’m going to go out, I’m going to ride my bicycle, you know, I’m going to do something [where] I’m going to feel safe.”

a man puts on an apron while standing in a driveway
Gustavo Rosso puts on his apron and gets ready to fire up the grill. Rosso is the group's resident chef. At the season kickoff for the Latino Social Biking crew on May 2 in North St. Paul, Rosso grilled chicken and beef.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Latino Social Biking members kicked off their season recently with a ride that ran about 20-plus miles from North St. Paul along the Gateway and Brown Creek Trail to Stillwater and back, earning riders a driveway party afterward at Noemi Treviño Flores’ house.

Treviño Flores, 49, said when she started biking five or six years ago, she could barely make it to the stop sign at the end of her corner. “It’s been fun [to] personally challenge yourself to go up a hill, to make it to the next stop sign and you discover such beautiful scenery. Minnesota's beautiful!”

a woman dressed in red holds a bicycle chain
Noemi Treviño Flores holds her broken bicycle chain. It snapped when she was out on a ride wtih the group Latino Social BIking. Treviño Flores lives along the Gateway Trail and had to walk 4 miles to get home.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Marleny Trujillo, 41, started riding a bike less than a year ago. “Since the first day I started, I just got in love with this. I haven’t stopped,” the Honduras native said as she rode the Gateway Trail. “This is just so much fun. The view, the people, everything.” 

Rider Rosa Tock, 51, said the Gateway is one of her favorites. “It’s very well covered and isolated from the road, and there’s all these trees that cover the trail [and] provide a lot of shade in the summer and beautiful leaves in the fall.”

a woman rides on a bike path separated from vehicle traffic
Marleny Trujillo, 41, meets up at Lake Phalen in St. Paul for ride along the Gateway and Bruce Vento trails with the group Latino Social Biking on April 24.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Tock, executive director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, grew up in Guatemala City and biked when she was a kid. Later, while living in Orleans, France, she biked everywhere with her friends. She enjoys connecting with other Latinos on the bike, as well.

“I like the combination of biking as being a hobby, a sport, and a way to connect with community or a way to connect with myself,” she said. “Biking gives you this sense again of just this liberation, you know?”

Mario Hernandez encourages people to reach out to him if they want to connect and ride or need ideas to start their own group.