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Mennonites in Tights to make second appearance at Headwaters 100 event

A dozen Mennonites in Tights will be boarding bikes for a ride through Minnesota forests Saturday. (Submitted photo)

When bicyclists head out to travel hill and dale in the 30th annual Headwaters 100 Saturday, Mennonites in Tights will be among them.

A dozen riders from Steinbach, Manitoba will be returning from the city located 45 miles south of Winnipeg to traverse the terrain, a draw for the riders who pedal across the prairie.

"The only hill we have is wind," their "fearless and immutable leader" Jake Siemens reports. "And we have no corners," he said of the city on the edge of 2,000 miles of great prairie to the west, trees and small knolls dotting routes to the east.

"Park Rapids has hills, scenery, riders and fantastic restaurants," he said of the bicyclists' introduction to the "ride of rides" last fall.

Siemens' daughter coined the bikers' name while listening to the group of Mennonites plan a ride.

The group of female and male road bikers meet informally to ride the roads in southeastern Manitoba.

"Our goals are the same. We ride because it improves physical fitness, reduces blood pressure, controls cholesterol and, for some, weight loss," "BigJac" Siemens reports.

"Fitness is working, I'm still working the weight loss," he confides.

The group meets every Saturday, weather permitting, to bike 70 to 100 kilometers, stopping for breakfast at the half-way point. The club has developed nine routes, the one chosen determined by wind and weather. The Mennonites in Tights ride against the wind first.

"Once a month, we go for a long ride, 80 miles" (129 km), he said. The riders pedal on their own during the week to build stamina for longer rides, he said. In the spring the rides are shorter (36 km) and grow in length to the longer rides.

Riders cover between 2,500 km to 7,000 km each per year depending on time commitments.

Rider hazards: bugs in eyes, ears and nose and spandex that's ready to let go.

"I think everybody will agree that it was a fabulous ride, with beautiful scenery and hilly, forest- lined, winding, smoothly- paved roads," one of the bikers commented on the group's website after last year's ride.

"The Itasca Park portion of the route was the best cycling route that I have ever experienced. The food and rest stops were extremely well set up, with even hot soup served at one of them," the biker said. 

"The course was well marked with a clear map given to everybody.  The last 20 km of the course followed a paved railway bed (there are hundreds of miles of these in Minnesota)," he marveled, "which had a canopy of trees and grades on both sides, most of the way.  This gave an almost wind-free ride - a great experience," the bicyclist reported.