Angel Hohenstein - Taking Cycling Full CircleFor Angel Hohenstein, biking is more than just a fun hobby or even a good way to stay in shape.
By: Lucie B. Amundsen, Photos by Amber Paulson, Living North
For Angel Hohenstein, biking is more than just a fun hobby or even a good way to stay in shape. The sport has slowly taken up more and more of her existence and is now an integral part of her play, work and civic life.
That’s something the 31-year-old YMCA membership coordinator wasn’t anticipating. “If I’m honest about it, I’d have to say I’m probably a runner first,” says Hohenstein.
A shift began when Hohenstein joined a triathlon team to run in the road portion of the multi-sport endurance race, which combines swimming, biking and running. Then her husband, Steve, got enthusiastic about the triathlons – “Really, really enthused,” says Hohenstein – and soon they were both in training to compete in all the individual events. “Cycling is
definitely his strong suit,” remarks Hohenstein, who says the training is something they enjoy doing together.
The Hohensteins ratcheted it up when they competed in their first Iron Man competition in Canada last August. “I finished in 12 hours and I was happy with that,” says Hohenstein about the event that pushes competitors through 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and then a full marathon. “It was definitely fun. It was one of those experiences that, when you’re doing it, you’re thinking that you’re just going to have
to do that again.”
And how did the couple spend their recent getaway to the scenic Solvang region of California? “We shipped our bikes out there UPS and rode all week with friends,” laughs Hohenstein, who did 350 miles in five days to kick off the training season. This summer they’re gearing up for two half-
Iron Man races where Hohenstein hopes her Duluth training ground will help her excel in the hills. “Friends sometimes call me Alberto Contador,” she demurs, in reference to the Tour de France 2007 and 2009 winner.
Beyond the Competition But Angel and Steve’s interests extend past their personal performances. “We have a goal to see more people getting involved and get active,” says Hohenstein. “There’s so much to do around here and we’re hoping to get more younger people involved in the sport.”
One way the couple supports their activity is by leading group training rides for The Skihut, a local bike and ski shop. “It’s a multi-sport group with mountain bikers and road bikers,” says Hohenstein. This particular Thursday night group is by invitation, but Hohenstein is quick to point out there’s lots going on for all Duluth cyclists.
“There are group rides every night of the week and many are ‘no drop’,” says Hohenstein who explained the term means that cyclists who can’t keep up with the group will not be abandoned. “Someone will drop back and bike with them. It’s a very supportive community.” To find out about these rides, Hohenstein suggests contacting local shops such as Continental Bikes, The Skihut and Twin Ports Cycling.
“It’s an exciting time for the cycling community in general, for both
mountain bikers and road bikers,” says Hohenstein, who seems to know everyone on two wheels in the Twin Ports.
One new organization that has her really energized is the new women’s road
racing team started by her friend, Lisa Heyesen. “She wants more women cyclists to get out there and experience the comraderie of riding with other women,” says Hohenstein, who has participated in their Tuesday evening group rides. “It’s a great opportunity for up-and-coming women cyclists.”
Civic minded cycling
Hohenstein watches the progress of groups like Cyclists of Gitchee Gummee
Shores (COGS) that keep up the Piedmont trail system and expand trails at Lester Park. “The idea of Duluth getting connected via trails is very exciting,” says Hohenstein. And that’s not just because she often commutes via bike to her job at the YMCA “when the weather is nice,” she adds with a laugh; but it’s also part of her job. “Part of what I do here at the Y is promoting active lifestyles.”
One of the biggest ways Hohenstein has brought active lifestyle issues to the forefront has been advocating for “Complete Streets” in Duluth. This roadway design policy became part of a recently passed resolution in the city of Duluth. “There was some resistance by some members of the City Council and citizens, but I think they just weren’t aware of what it means to have this design. It’s not just a street with bike lanes. It utilizes boulevards and other spaces to encourage multiple forms of non-motorized transportation.”
Angel found herself speaking out in support of sidewalks, bike lanes, wide
shoulders and crosswalks at community meetings and even in front of the City Council. “It was a nerve-racking experience,” says Angel, who was only able to stand up because she feels it's so important.
You may see Angel speaking out again in the next few weeks as Duluth seeks
citizen input to create a citywide bike route network. “It’s an opportunity for people to raise their voices about which routes they use most to get from Point A to B,” she says. When routes identified by the community need routine repair, they will be designed to better accommodate cyclists. “It’s great, not just for bikers; it’s really a movement forward for the whole city of Duluth.”