Bicycling Around Minnesota (BAM) is a nonprofit organization with a focus on highlighting Minnesota communities to an ever growing bicycling audience. BAM is a four-day ride covering 60 to 80 miles each day with overnight stays in four host cities. It is aimed at moderate to experienced cyclists. Although camping is encouraged, a limited number of motel or hotel rooms are generally available as an option.
The goals of BAM are to promote Share the Road, the scenic bikeways system of Minnesota, fitness, tourism and bicycling as transportation.
The concept for BAM came from various individuals and members of the State Bicycling Advisory Committee (SBAC), which is now the Minnesota Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee (SNTC).
In 2006, BAM held its inaugural ride with 30 participants, who rode from Park Park Rapids to Walker and Longville before returning to Park Rapids. Our initial partners included MnDOT (working through the SBAC), the Hiway Federal Credit Union, and the Headwaters Regional Development Commission. Services and accommodations were limited. Three breakfasts and one dinner were provided and Dero Bike Racks transported luggage and served as SAG.
The following year (2007) BAM headed back to North Central Minnesota, staying in host cities Park Rapids, Bemidji, Walker and Wadena. We had 90 riders. SAG vehicles were provided by Dero Bike Racks and Hiway Federal Credit Union and Penn Cycle provided mechanical support. Included in the registration fee were four breakfasts and two dinners.
In 2008, BAM adopted article of incorporation to become a nonprofit corporation. West Central Minnesota was the tour’s location and BAM partnered with Western Minnesota Prairie Waters in planning the ride. The route took 120 riders from Granite Falls to Benson, Ortonville, Montevideo and back to Granite Falls. Included in the registration fee were breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as SAG support coordinated by Russ Lowthian. Penn Cycle, Hiway Federal Credit Union and Dero Bike Racks continued as sponsors.
In 2009, BAM hit the 200-cyclists target and headed to Southeast Minnesota. The tour began and ended in Rochester, with overnight stays in Lanesboro, Winona and Wabasha. Riders were treated to great hospitality from the host cities as well as several other communities along the route. This was the first year jerseys were available for sale to BAM riders.
BAM continued to grow in rider-size in 2010 and in 2011 the BAM Board decided to cap the ride at 275 riders. The 2010 ride took us to Northeastern Minnesota and the commuities of Cloquet, Two Harbors, Virginia, Eveleth and back to Cloquet.
In 2011, we headed to Southern Minnesota with overnights in Mankato, New Prague, New Ulm, Sleepy Eye and back to Mankato. In 2012, BAM returned to its roots to tour Northwest Minnesota with stays in Park Rapids, Walker, Pequot Lakes and Wadena. The ride filled in three days.
Today, BAM tours are popular with cyclists from around the country. Registration for BAM is usually held in January or February with plenty of advance notice on the website. When registration opens, the current year’s overnight towns are posted and registration fills quickly.
BAM tour directors and coordinators work closely with city administrations, convention and vistor bureaus and chambers of commerce in the host cities to coordinate camping locations, meals and other logistics for each day.
BAM partners with MnDOT, Hiway Federal Credit Union, Freewheel Bike, and Explore Minnesota. BAM would be impossible without the many volunteer hours put in by the BAM Planning Committee and we thank them.
When BAM was conceptualized, we wanted to slowly grow the tour in both size and number of days. Based on survey results of BAM riders, we have kept BAM a four-day bicycle ride. Every year the size of BAM is a topic of discussion, but for now the ride size will remain 275 riders.