Five minutes with: Dawn Kleinsasser

Badlands National Park was one of the stops in the 2022 Ride Across South Dakota. Photo: DK

By the time this issue of Christian Leader is in the mail, Dawn Kleinsasser will have completed her 10th weeklong bicycle trek around the state of South Dakota. Her first ride took her from west to east across the state, from Mount Rushmore to Sioux Falls. This year’s route for the annual Ride Across South Dakota (RASDak) winds in a loop through the Black Hills. Dawn and her husband, Brent, farm in Huron and are members and Celebrate Recovery leaders at Bethesda Church. She finished her early morning CrossFit workout and took a moment to talk about her annual 500-mile adventure.

What prompted you to try this challenging sport?

When our last kid went to college, I needed to do something besides my work on our farm. I tried a couple of one-day bike rides and then found the “Faces to the Falls” ride on the internet. I wasn’t an athlete in high school. My husband jokes that I waited till I was 50 to become an athlete.

How did your first attempt go?

It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. South Dakota’s wind and the hills can make for very grueling days. I went all by myself the first year, but I met great people and have made some really close friends. My biking friends and I stay in touch throughout the year and we have gone on other biking and hiking trips together with our husbands. These amazing people are the real reason I continue to go back every year.

What do you do to prepare?

I don’t ride my bike very much to train. In South Dakota it often doesn’t get warm enough until May. I go to the gym four mornings a week and strengthen my legs with weight training and lots of squats and lunges rather than sitting on a bike. This year I started CrossFit, which seems to help me on the bike.

How competitive is the event?

This is a ride, not a race, with nearly 250 riders. Even though it’s not a race, there are challenges. Biking is 40 percent ability and 60 percent mental. When you are out on the open road and the wind is blowing you think it’s never going to let up. You have to just settle in — not think about the 80 miles you’re going today, but just making it to the next stop.

What do bikers do that the church could learn from?

Biking people are good at working together. On windy days we stick together and draft off each other. We work together to pull each other through the hard times. At the end of the day we laugh together. After I spend a week with them I feel so encouraged. It’s the cheapest therapy you can get.


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