Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Bike & Build rides through Moose Lake


Bethany Helwig

The northern route team of Bike & Build poses for a group photo in the Moose Lake Depot, their host and pit stop on July 18.

Small groups of cyclists, spread out over a distance, could be seen passing through Moose Lake on July 18. From their cycling jerseys and formation, you might have thought you were witnessing a race in progress. But as they traveled to their pit stop at the Moose Lake Depot, their minds were far from any sort of competition.

The cyclists are part of Bike & Build, a nonprofit organization that engages young adults in civic responsibility by creating cross-country cycling trips that support affordable housing.

"I think it was just two or three people that started it," said Dan Grüssing, one of the trip leaders. Bike & Build came about in 2003 when a few college students living in Philadelphia wanted to do good in the world and always had the desire to bike across the country. "Then year after year, it just exploded in popularity."

The ones passing through Moose Lake are part of the northern route; there are also central and southern routes taken by other teams.

The northern group is made up of 26 individuals. They began in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in mid June. Their final destination lies on the opposite coast in Bellingham, Washington. That's approximately 4,000 miles. At their Moose Lake rest stop, they are roughly halfway through their journey. Two support vehicles also tag along, and riders switch off between the vehicles and cycling.

"We bike an average of 65 miles a day," said Julia Mancini, one of the riders this year. Their stop in Moose Lake concluded a day of 72 miles. The next leg to Duluth would be around 50 miles. Their longest day so far has been 108 miles but they are due for a single stretch of 115 miles along their route.

"The whole trip takes about 75 days," said Mancini. Of those, they have thirteen "build days" where they stop to help with local affordable housing projects. Volunteering at these sites can be anything from painting, putting on siding, landscaping, to moving furniture at a renovation site.

"We've also got a few other days set aside for 'affordable housing days' where we're connecting with the community, learning more about their affordable housing situation, and helping advocate the need in those communities for more affordable housing options," said Mancini.

Cyclists in the group come from every region of the country. Mancini, who hails from Massachusetts, became involved after a job interview where an applicant listed the bike ride as one of the interesting facts about themselves.

Claire Burke of Charlottesville, Virginia, heard about it years ago from a high school friend. After she picking up cycling about a year ago, she decided to finally give Bike & Build a try.

"There's a lot of people on the trip that just recently picked up their first bikes," said Burke.

"It's the best way to get into it I think," commented Alec Beattie who comes from Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I got my bike on May 6th and I've been biking since May 6th. A month of practice and then ... yeah."

Alec used to work for an affordable housing program in Grand Rapids and there he met cyclists in previous years that stopped in on their route.

"The first time I met them (the cyclists) in a space like this, I saw the vibe and the energy that they have, and I was like 'I want to do that.'"

"We stay with hosts every night," said Mancini. "And in each host's name we'll donate $100 to an affordable housing organization of their choice."

Each cyclist has individually fundraised at least $5,000 for their trip, a good portion of which goes towards a variety of affordable housing organizations across the country.

The group also has grants they regularly donate to. Housing organizations can also apply to Bike & Build. The cyclists themselves review the applications and choose where their money goes.

To learn more about the biking tours and what they do, visit


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