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Mara Larson commutes to her work at the headquarters of Erik's Bike Shop on her mountain bike year round.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

She's on a year-round roll

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • January 14, 2012 - 1:26 PM

Mara Larson describes herself as a "year-round bike commuter who skis, snowshoes and occasionally mountain bikes in the winter." Working for a bike shop makes it easier for her to commute the 17 miles to work (although she sometimes hops a bus midway through the ride in winter to save time or to warm up). She started biking in her mid-20s after her work life eased up, added skiing in her 30s, and snowshoeing and trail-running in the past couple of years. She credits exercise for keeping her mentally and physically fit.

Hibernation instincts: "I don't like winter. My natural inclination is to curl up on the couch with a book until March. Skiing gets me out of the house so I don't turn into a gigantic slug. I use outdoor recreation as a coping mechanism. You never regret it once you're out there."

Sanity saver: "I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I don't do anything just for the sake of exercise. It's fun, and it helps keep me sane, and I like it. It's to the point that if I don't get out and run myself around, I start feeling out of sorts. I'm happy to have very few days where I'm not out doing something. It doesn't always have to be a big, epic something, but I'm much happier when I'm out and active."

Calorie-burning commute: "I don't drive except on very special occasions, so I'll easily put at least a couple hundred commuting/errand miles on my bike each week during nice weather. Even in the dead of winter, the number usually doesn't fall below 100. I try to get out at least once or twice after work to mountain bike or trail run in the summer and ski in the winter. Weekends would be for longer trail runs and mountain biking. "

Off-road, year-round: "I started mountain biking because my co-workers did. The first time I went out, I hook, line and sinker loved it. I think at the time I described it as being in a real-life video game. You have to be on mentally all the time, or you're lying on the ground.

"I went on my first winter mountain bike ride after seeing a winter group ride posted on the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists forum. I didn't know a single person there and had never ridden in snow before, but it was an amazingly good time. ... I probably appreciate a good ride more in winter than in summer.

"Winter riding is always fun, but it can be anything from flying though sparkly trees as fast as on dirt, to slogging through deep snow at a couple miles per hour, to pushing the limits of homemade studded tires on an icy trail to find out how aggressive you can be without falling over. The only big difference from summer, besides temperature, is the wide variety of ridable conditions."

And then there's skiing: "My first time on skis it took me 5 minutes just to stand up. I hope I'm not that bad anymore. I participate in races, but I wouldn't say I'm a racer. My favorite is the Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon in Michigan, because they actually have someone in a bear costume chasing you."

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