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Klunker Ride: It's a Cuyuna thing

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Walking through the crowd at the Minnesota State Fair with Moonlander fat bike in tow, Aaron Hautala got some rather interesting looks.

Just wait’ll folks get a load of the klunkers.

Hautala, a member of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew that has helped keep up the world-class Cuyuna mountain bike trails, took to the DNR outdoor stage to talk mountain biking at the Great Minnesota Get-Together recently, which says something of the ascent of the sport in Minnesota.

“It was crazy walking through the fairgrounds with a Moonlander fat bike,” he said of the funky-looking winter mountain bike with the 5-inch-thick tires that he brought for discussion. “They (fair-goers) were all smiling at it. It’s crazy how it makes people happy.”

He’s expecting much of the same at the first Cuyuna Lakes Klunker Ride and Scrap Metal Jamboree, Sept. 15 at and around the Cuyuna trails in Crosby/Ironton.

It’s the latest in a line of seasonal mountain bike “festivals” surrounding the trails — this summer saw the second mountain bike festival and last winter was the first Whiteout winter mountain biking celebration.

And like the festival and Whiteout, this has a feel all its own — old-school at its best.

“For one day only we’re asking everyone to leave the full-suspension, fat tire and 29er bikes at home and dust off the classics,” organizers said in describing the event at “The forefather and mother bikes that started the entire mountain bike industry.”

“The Klunker honors the original bikes that kind of started the whole mountain bike industry,” Hautala continued. “It’s not an old sport. It started with Gary Fisher and road bikers who decided they wanted to go up in the mountains with their old Schwinn bikes. Gary Fisher decided it would be fun to go down the mountain, but he wanted to go up, too.”

Not that you have to be a Gary Fisher-type to participate. Quite the contrary, Hautala said. Yes, while races and competition are a part of the summer festival and Whiteout, the only competition here — and it’s minimal at best — is who can bring the klunkiest klunker.

It could very well be Hautala, who recently pulled his father’s 1953 Schwinn Hornet off the scrap pile and, with the help of “Father Klunker,” Bruce Swanson, “The man behind the Klunker Ride,” is in the process of creating “the ’53 Hornet Cuyuna S Type.”

“Basically, the bike will be a ‘53 frame with all the modern components bolted on. The best of then with the best of now,” Hautala said. “The frame was my father’s bike. I pulled it off a scrap metal pile from his homestead on the Mesabi Range a few months ago. Turns out the frame is one of the better frames you could ever hope for in the building of a Klunker.

“When you think of dirt trails, you don’t think of a 1953 Hornet. But it’s a Cuyuna thing. We do things a little differently and have fun with the sport.”

And, along those lines, Hautala said you don’t need to ride a klunker to join in the Klunker Ride.

“No racing, no Spandex, nothing but fun,” he said. “If you want to wear jeans while riding, that’s fine. You don’t have to worry about what’s right. Worry about having fun.

“It’s not really a sign-up thing,” he said of expected numbers for the event. “I know 20 to 30 people that will be there, and from there it will grow. The first year will probably be small but I don’t know if it will be that small. I see it growing, probably out of control.”

For a complete schedule and more information on the event, go to

BRIAN S. PETERSON as a freelance writer based in northern Minnesota.