Edina Resident Bill Melton Makes a Yearly Bike Ride Part of His Routine

This Edina resident kicks off his year of biking at the Ironman Ride.
The Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride has been part of Bill Melton's spring biking routine since 1985.

Winding through the majestic scenery of the St. Croix River Valley, the Ironman Bicycle Ride is one of the first and biggest biking events in the Midwest each spring. The event was established in 1967, and the ride location has bounced around the state, but it continues to go strong as it heads into its 48th year. This year’s ride will take place April 27.

“It is the longest-running and largest biking event in the state,” ride promoter Ryan McEnaney says.

When the Ironman launched in 1967, it was held in Minneapolis. As it gained popularity and more bikers began clogging the streets, it migrated south. The ride moved to Buffalo where it took place until 2003, when it shifted to Lakeville. Last year was the first year in the St. Croix Valley, where it will return this year.

The ride itself can be tailored to bikers of all skill levels and ranges from 15 to 100 miles. One of the unique elements about the Ironman is that everyone from world-class cyclists to small children takes part. There are several route loops of varying lengths that if done altogether total 100 miles; participants can complete as many of the loops as they choose, making the event accessible to nearly everyone.

For Edina bikers, the Ironman offers some of the first action for a new season of biking. Although the weather isn’t always great for the ride, it’s always a welcome sign of spring after a long, cold Minnesota winter.

“I’ve ridden in scorching sun, white-out snow, and everything in between,” Ironman rider Bill Melton says. “Just like Minnesota, the Ironman weather is totally unpredictable.”

Melton is an Edina resident who has ridden in nearly every Ironman ride since 1985 as part of his spring biking routine. When he first began taking part in 1985, the starting point for the Ironman was in Wirth Park. Back then, Melton would just ride his bike from his Edina home to the starting point and onward for the other miles the ride entails.

For Melton, biking is all about having fun, which is why he loves the Ironman. He does it to get exercise, but mostly it’s about being out on his bike, enjoying the weather and exploring new areas.

“[Biking] is great exercise,” Melton says. “And you see all kinds of things you would never see from a car. But most of all, it’s fun.”

Melton has never raced or biked competitively; it is a leisure sport he took up as a kid and has continued throughout his life. He even biked to work long before it was popular. Melton would commute downtown on his bike most days in the 1980s and 1990s, and although this is fairly common practice now, it wasn’t 20 years ago. “Everyone thought I was a weirdo,” he says.

Melton has his share of stories to tell from years pedaling a bike. In 2004, he and a friend rode from the Pacific Coast back to Minnesota. Seven years later, they completed their cross-country trek by riding from Minnesota to the East Coast.

“You meet lots of interesting people on long tours,” Melton says. “One I recall distinctly was a lady we encountered in the middle of nowhere in eastern Montana. She was from North Dakota and was moving to Alaska—on her bike. She had a trailer like those often used to tow little kids in, only it accommodated her two cats.

Preparing for yet another Ironman, Melton is unlikely to see anyone pedaling cats through the St. Croix River Valley (although cats are welcome). He’s simply hoping for some good weather, and a few more stories to add to his personal biking anthology.

For Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride route and registraion information, visit their website.