LEROY — Visitors planning to enjoy one of Minnesota’s state trails can do so with a little less hassle.
The city of LeRoy’s new Wheels-To-Go bike rental program makes using the scenic Shooting Star State Trail as simple as showing up, filling out a form and pedaling away.
“Saturdays are the busiest,” said Axel Gumbel, a member of the city’s economic development authority that began the program as a way to provide bikes for both residents and visitors.
The bike rental shop — the rentals are free after filling out of form and providing an ID — is open Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., then 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
And renters needing some wheels during the week can stop by City Hall on appointment. Bikes can be returned to bike racks at City Hall any time riders are done.
Brian Jacobson, who runs the rental office, said most renters are from out of town, many either staying at the campgrounds at Lake Louise State Park or coming for a ride along the 20-mile Shooting Star State Trail that runs from LeRoy to Rose Creek.
The program, which began on Memorial Day weekend and runs through September, is in its inaugural year. Gumbel said the city’s EDA president, Craig Jacobson, got the idea from Pine Island’s long-running bike rental program at the end of the Douglas Trail, and modeled it on that program. The bike program was funded with grants from the LeRoy Community Foundation, Mower County Statewide Health Improvement Program and financial support from the City of Le Roy.
“With LeRoy being home to the Shooting Star Trailhead, we have an ideal location to attract bicyclists who would like to explore the area,” Craig Jacobson said. “We purchased the adaptive bikes to accommodate the many residents currently living at our Lutheran Social Services homes. It’s important to us that anyone of any ability can enjoy a bike ride through our program.”
With the trail and the state park so close, Gumbel said, it just made sense to welcome visitors with convenient bikes.
“It just seemed logical to have a bike-related business,” Gumbel said.
The program started with 17 bikes rented the first week, but has grown to about 40 bikes rented. Brian Jacobson said they have about 60 bikes total, many donated old bikes that have been refurbished, but some new bikes bought with grant money. They also offer helmets, though renters can opt out of helmets. Though Jacobson said he encourages helmets for children.
Brian Jacobson is one of the two local experts, Gumbel said, who have volunteered to keep the bikes rolling.
The rental bikes — which include everything from geared bikes and single-speed cruisers to kids’ bikes with training wheels or trailer bikes for young children — make it easy for anyone who is visiting the area, Brian Jacobson said.
“If you don’t have a bike rack (on your car), then bikes can take up a lot of room,” he said. “This makes it a lot easier.”