Two Wheels, One Cause

Avid Mahtomedi cyclist Dorian Grilley drives advocacy effort with pedal power and persistence.

In the garage of their Mahtomedi home, Dorian and Margie Grilley have more than 15 bikes. There are mountain bikes, racing bikes, touring bikes, riding-around-town bikes, a bike with a trailer for hauling groceries—more than 20 two-wheelers in all for the Grilleys and their two children, Davis and Clare. For the Grilleys, biking isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a way of life.

Dorian Grilley’s love for cycling is not in any way ironic, but there is some irony here: A man who has biked to work for several decades may be Minnesota’s most “driven” cycling advocate, as executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. A native of Stoughton, Wis., Grilley came to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota; he has lived in Mahtomedi for almost 25 years.

In 1982, Grilley became a landscape architect for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and began commuting by bike from Minneapolis to the DNR in downtown St. Paul. During his leisure hours, Grilley competed in Cycling USA road races. In the late '90s, he was co-chair of the White Bear Lake Trails Task Force, and in 1996, Grilley was named executive director of the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, where his duties included helping develop bike paths and trails.

In 2008, Grilley and others formed the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) to provide a unified voice to help make Minnesota more bike-friendly. “Biking should be easy, safe and fun,” Grilley says, summing up the credo.

Now in his late 50s, Grilley is still in good shape. “I can still ride with a fully loaded touring bike 80 to 100 miles a day for a week straight, although I’m pretty tired when I’m done. It keeps me in wonderful shape.”
Dorian and Davis have established their own annual biking trip tradition. In 2015, before Davis returned to school for his sophomore year at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dorian and Davis biked one-third of the way to D.C., from the Twin Cities to Chicago. In August 2016, they biked from Chicago to Pittsburgh; before Davis’ senior year, they plan to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., camping along the way. “It’s been fun as my son has gotten older and stronger,” says Dorian, who returns home after the bike trips via Amtrak.
Davis, whose 2013 TEDxMahtomedi talk, “What If Bicycling Was Cool?” can be seen on, regularly rides his bike  in D.C.

Dorian Grilley remains dedicated to making bicycling around White Bear Lake a little easier and safer than it is right now. “White Bear has done a nice job of fixing up Lake Avenue, but we’d like to make it possible to make the 10 miles around the lake more family-friendly,” he says, noting another sign of progress for biking proponents: “On Park Avenue in Mahtomedi at any given moment, there are more bikes and pedestrians than cars. It may take a long time but I think the project is continuing to work toward that.”