EXCELSIOR, Minn. — A new Excelsior business is helping keep the biking community active in the wintertime.
Joan Van Camp opened Cycle Loft Excelsior in October. Prior to opening her business, Van Camp worked as a general and trauma surgeon until retiring in 2016.
"I was a busy surgeon. I only had a few hours to ride and I rode when I could and then I realized there's a whole bunch of people who ride together and it's much more social than I had realized," Van Camp said.
But Van Camp also noticed that the community wasn't as strong during the winter.
"I noticed all the people in Excelsior who bike in the summer and there was this big community of bikers and then they just kind of faded out in the winter," she said.
So she opened a virtual cycling studio that can handle six riders at a time.
Cyclists ride on smart trainers called Wahoo trainers which are connected to internet software. It's essentially a multi-player video game that allows bikers to virtually rider with others on smart trainers all over the world.
"I love to work out with friends and it's an easy way to ride bikes when people are different paces. So it's a really good way to connect and also try new courses, especially in the winter months," said Patricia Chang of Eden Prairie.
Susan Robbins of Eden Prairie added, "I love being able to cycle inside on a bike where the gears automatically change themselves. So you're not having to move the gears. The whole bike goes up when you're going up a hill and down when you're going down a hill and you just have to ride."
The Cycle Loft also uses Wahoo Headwind smart fans to give it a more realistic feel. When someone is going faster, the machine will blow more air. When the rider stops moving, the wind also stops.
There are different courses and landscapes. Riders can bike solo or with friends. The software also allows cyclists to connect with riders across the world.
"Essentially, there's a couple thousand riders around the world right now riding the same course that I am," said Mark Schnorr, owner of South Lake Cycle in Excelsior. "It's the only way I can ride a trainer in the winter... without some sort of... game aspect to it, riding a bike trainer is just misery."
Ultimately, Van Camp hopes having another option during the winter will help keep the biking community together year-round.
"What I like to see is a group of people coming in, riding together, getting a good workout and then maybe going for a beer at the brewery or having a pizza at Olive's Pizza," Van Camp said.
Van Camp said Cycle Loft will close during the summer months. Riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes but there are also some available to rent.
Prices vary but it's $20 dollars for one one-hour ride and costs $200 for unlimited rides per season.
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