Friendship, health, community: Twin Cities Latino cyclists on a roll
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.
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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“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.”
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!”
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.”
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.