Summer '16 Minnesota Gravel Events

Gravel racing season traditionally has been in the Spring and Fall but with the growing popularity of "riding gravel", Summer events have seen an increase in number in recent years.  In addition to established Summer gravel events, several new ones have been popping up over the last year or two.  By now, some of these events may be close to the rider cap while others still have plenty of room available if you want in.

Image Credit: Jim Smith

The Dirty Lemming is a Summer gravel tradition put on by Jim Smith in Watertown, MN.  This year's running of the Lemmings will be on July 30th.  Two course options include 100 km and 100 mile routes.  This is a free event limited to 100 riders, postcard registration is required and there may be a handful of spots remaining.

Image Credit: Tour de Save Facebook Page

The Cannon Valley Velo Club is holding its 13th annual Tour de Save on July 30th at the Spring Creek Soccer Fields in Northfield, MN.  In addition to the 10, 25 and 62 mile road routes, there will be a 46 mile gravel road ride.  Online registration is available until 6:00 pm the day before the ride.  Registration fee is $25 and a fundraising goal must be established.  Updates for the ride can be found on the Tour de Save Facebook page.

Image Credit: grittygoose.blogspot.com

The Gritty Goose Gravel Grinder is back for its second year in 2016.  It's a free ride that takes place on gravel roads near Monticello, Maple Lake and Buffalo on August 20th.  There will be two route options this year, 70 miles with almost 2,000 feet of climbing or 50 miles with almost 1,500 feet of climbing.  Online registration is now available.  "You'll have to ride it to find out why its called the Gritty Goose."

 The Heck Epic is a two-day (August 20-21) bikepacking staged event that starts in Two Harbors and travels North to Ely where you will camp for the night before returning back to Two Harbors on day two.  Distance covered will be about 205 miles.  Online registration is now available until August 15th or a rider cap of 80 is reached.  Entry fee is $100 and covers a hot breakfast buffet on Sunday when in Ely, camping facilities in Ely and a pint glass filled with beer at the Friday night registration meeting.  Updates for the Heck Epic can also be found on the Heck of the North Facebook page.

Image Credit: Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook Page

The Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder is a 50+ mile unsupported free gravel ride on August 27th in Balkan TWP that will venture mostly through the Superior National Forest north of the Laurentian Divide.  There are no stops along the way for food or water so come prepared.  Afterward there will be a potluck for those cyclists that would like to bring a dish to pass.  Postcard registration is open until August 20th.  Cards should have your name, address, and e-mail; age is optional. Send to: Fiddlin' Fifty, c/o Scott Dahlquist 6479 Colombe Rd. Chisholm, MN 55719.  Updates can be found on the Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook page.

The River Valley 100 returns for its third year on August 28th taking cyclists through the scenic river valleys around Mankato in South-Central Minnesota.  This free event consists of both paved and gravel route options and is non-supported.  For those looking to ride gravel, a 100 km gravel ride and 100 km gravel race are available.  The gravel race details ares still being worked out but there will be a neutral roll out until out of town.  Registration is required and space is limited to 200 riders total (100 rider cap for the gravel race).  There are two ways to register, online or by mail.  Deadline for gravel racing registration is August 23rd.  Updates can also be found on the River Valley 100 Facebook page.

Image Credit: Joshua Stamper

The Gravel Conspiracy is an adventure ride taking place on gravel, dirt and Forest service roads along the North shore.  Dates are September 9-11.  "The tentative route will be to start from around Silver Bay and ride to Ely via double track, dirt roads, and gravel.  Second day will see us on a big loop west of Ely, and then returning to town for a 2nd night. This really simplifies the logistics.  The last day will have us rolling back to Silver Bay."  Registration is required and for more information visit The Gravel Conspiracy FAQ page or contact gravelconspiracy@gmail.com.

The Back Forty is an 80 mile gravel grinder taking place September 10th in Denmark Twp. just North of Hastings, MN.  This isn't your normal gravel ride.  It would probably be best to visit the website and read the full description of the ride and its rules of competition.  Registration is free and can be done by sending an email to the event organizer. Updates may be found on the Back Forty Cycling Facebook page.

Image Credit: Derek Chinn

The Inspiration 100 is a 100 mile gravel race in its fifth year and starts in Garfield, MN on September 10th.  This is a free race and registration is done by postcard only during the month of July.  Registration is capped at 150 racers.  "The 2016 Inspiration 100 will be the final time this event is held. Let's go out strong!"  Updates can be found on the Inspiration 100 Facebook page.

Image Credit: Drew Wilson

From the gravel enthusiast that brought you the Dickie Scramble comes an event entering its 3rd year that showcases the beauty and challenge of gravel roads in the Root River Valley around Lanesboro, the Tour of Filmore"77 of the hardest and most rewarding miles of gravel in southern MN."  There will be grilling and a party at the finish and camping is available near the start the night before.  Registration is open until the start of the event and can be done by stating you are going on the Facebook Event Page or sending an email to drew@cyclocarbon.com.
These events are unsupported (except Tour de Save) so bring everything you will need to get you to the finish.

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2016 Almanzo Stories

The 2016 Almanzo Gravel Races took place May 13-14 in the small town of Spring Valley, Minnesota.  What was started by Chris Skogen with a small group of friends back in 2007 has grown over the years into something truly special.  The gravel community has embraced the Almanzo 100 as the "Granddaddy" of gravel races.  Spring Valley Tourism with the assistance of Penn Cycle & Fitness made sure that one of the largest free gravel races in the country continued with the traditions that founder Chris Skogen set forth for this yearly event.

Once again, the 2016 Almanzo 100, Royal 162 and Alexander 380 did not fail to challenge racers.  Those racing the Alexander 380 faced strong winds, rain, sleet, muddy conditions and very cold temperatures while Royal 162 and Almanzo 100 racers experienced wind gusts up to 35 mph and a 34 degree temperature at race start.  I have compiled a list of racer accounts from blogs as well as links to photo galleries, some videos and local press.

Almanzo 100

Race Report: 2016 Almanzo 100 by 5th Place Finisher, Eric Thompson
Gravel Cyclist

This was my 4th year racing the Almanzo 100 and its become a yearly tradition for myself, my family and a few friends. It all started with my dad seeking out the newly created gravel scene in Minnesota, and with his excitement, momentum started between myself and several friends, also drawn to the event.  Read the full story

Race Report: 2016 Almanzo 100 – by Top 10 Finisher – Charlie Schad
Gravel Cyclist

The 2016 edition was my fourth year of participating in the Almanzo 100 event and I was pretty excited about going. Unfortunately I had to miss last year’s race, but was hoping to make amends with a good result; a decent block of training was bound to help. I examined the rider list and a few doubts began to creep in, namely due to the strong list of folks scheduled to take the line.  Read the full story

Almanzo 100: Wind and Gravel and Wind

Standing in line for a porta-potty, I was shivering uncontrollably. It was 37°F and extremely windy. The weather forecast for Spring Valley, MN slowly changed over the preceding days – wind increased up to 30mph gusts and temperature slowly dropped. Ted and I didn’t pack well for a cold, windy day. He forgot his knee warmers and ended up cutting arm warmers to fit over his legs. I just had thin knee warmers.  Read the full story

Hoven returns to biking during recovery
Rubicon Online

Widely known for his passion for biking, Upper School English teacher Matthew Hoven has picked himself up and dusted himself off after a fall in September and a severe concussion earlier this year. He recently participated in the 100-mile Almanzo 100 Gravel Bicycle race in Spring Valley, Minnesota, for the third time.   Read the full story

A Tough 2016 Almanzo 100
MN Bike Trail Navigator

2016 was my third year doing the Almanzo 100, on my third bike. I had finished it on my 29'er in 2014 and my cross bike in 2015, this year I would do it on my carbon Farley 9.6 with a 27.5+ wheelset. While I struggled last year on some of the big hills with my bike's gearing, this year I thought shouldn't be a problem with my Farley's 1x11 drivetrain. I was feeling good about the race even though I hadn't trained as much as I would've liked to. It would be a fun, but challenging day of riding with a lot of old friends and some new ones.   Read the full story

Almanzo 100
Mary Grove and John Ingham

Image Credit: Mary Grove and John Ingham
I had the pleasure of riding with Suzanne for much of the ride to Forestville. Suzanne called it quits at Forestville. The click in her bottom bracket was getting loud, and anyway she had been up at the crack of dawn to toss in an extra 40 miles BEFORE the start of the race in Spring Valley! That's grit for you, and you should have seen her bombing the downhills. Would that I had her skill and courage. But then again, maybe not. When you get to be an old codger you should probably be careful what you wish for. Suzanne's husband Jeff was serving up hot dogs at Forestville for any and all, on such a cold, windy day a nice precursor to the hot bacon at Cherry Grove.

Royal 162

Royal 162 2016 - A Woolly "Race" Report
Woolly Bike Club

My attempt at the Royal started last year when Herr Woolly Starr rode Almanzo for the first time. She rode it on her mountain bike as her first century of any kind, let alone on gravel. At the end of it she said she was coming back next year, but if she was going to be on her bike for 11 hours, I had to be as well and I therefore had to do the Royal.  Read the full story

The Royal 162
Cup O' Dirt Challenge

After completing the Burleigh County Cup with no knee or bike issues, I was ready for the Royal 162. I headed down that Friday, took care of registration and found the city campground two miles out of town. I set up my tent and ate at the Dairy Queen in town. Two days prior, out of nowhere my knee was a bit sore. It was enough to make me cautious, because I knew the hills and distance would be a workout for it. I thought “I’ll just see what happens”. Hope for the best!!  Read the full story

Alexander 380

380 miles of gravel mixed with rain, wind and cold-Survival, not speed, key in 2016 Alexander 380 bike race
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

The Alexander 380 held the weekend of May 14 is one of the most challenging gravel road races in the country under normal circumstances, but Friday’s driving rain, which included snow and hail for some riders, Saturday’s brutal 20- to 30-mile-per-hour headwinds and Saturday night’s sub-freezing temperatures made the 380-mile race even more daunting in 2016.  Read the full story

The Alexander: Part 1
melissa bikes

The Alexander. The little known big brother of its famous baby sibling Almanzo and the middle child, the still popular but slightly less known Royal. These three races make up a trio of notorious gravel rides in southeastern Minnesota. The Almanzo is 100 miles, the Royal is 162 miles, and the Alexander is 380 miles. Three. Hundred. And. Eighty. Miles. On gravel, unpaved roads, and with a few minimum maintenance roads thrown in just for kicks. The route travels through the driftless area of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, back to Iowa, and finally back north to Minnesota.  Read the full story

The Alexander: Part 2
melissa bikes

As we left the first gas station stop at mile 70-something, we soon crossed over highway 52. It was so tempting to cruise down the big hill to Decorah, to a hot shower, a warm bed, and excellent ice cream. Ugh. We pedaled on, and not long after leaving Kwik Trip the rain started to fall. First it was a few drops, and then the sky opened up with a vigorous rain. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and had no choice but to keep pedaling. I enviously eyed bars and outbuildings on the side of the road, pondering if we could seek shelter in there until the rain passed.  Read the full story


Partnership keeps spirit of Almanzo 100 alive-Local gravel bicycle races still a draw due to efforts of partners
Spring Valley Tribune

Although founder Chris Skogen stepped away from the Almanzo 100 and related races two years ago, they continue to draw a dedicated group of gravel bicycle enthusiasts thanks to the efforts of the Spring Valley Tourism Committee and Penn Cycle & Fitness of Minneapolis.  Read the full story

Riding Gravel Supports The Almanzo 100
Riding Gravel

The Almanzo 100 is, quite likely, the most popular grassroots gravel grinder event in the nation. Started by Chris Skogen in 2007, the free event has grown to have over 1000 riders yearly and encompasses three events ranging in distance from the original 100 miler to the crushing Alexander 380 which takes participants through three states and takes well over 40 hours to complete.  Read the full story

Almanzo 100 Report: Ringing the Bell
Guitar Ted Productions

Things changed when on Thursday I found out that my partner in RidingGravel.com was going to be stepping in for a company that had pulled out of supporting the third checkpoint on the Almanzo 100 course. Originally, Ben had thought he'd hang out, take a few images, and do a bit of a photo gallery, maybe, for the site. Well, when the opportunity came up to be the checkpoint support, he jumped in and well.......I couldn't just let him do it alone! I got with Mrs. Guitar Ted, did a bit of reconnoitering, found a willing partner in "New York Roll", and on Friday evening we were piling 20 gallons of water on a shopping cart along with some other supplies to take up to the Almanzo 100.  Read the full story


Almanzo 100 2016
The Morgan's Creations

Almanzo 100 & Royal 162
TMB Images

2016-05-14 Almanzo100 Royal 162
TMB Images on Facebook

Almanzo 100 Spring Valley Gravel Road Race


Almanzo 100 Roll-out


Central Lakes Trail
Get out and enjoy 
the beautiful gem known as 
the Central Lakes Trail!


Mn DOT Releases County Level Bicycle Maps

At the request of many cyclists, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has just released the first county level bicycle maps.  These 125 PDF maps can be printed on 8.5x11 or 11x17 paper to take with you to navigate during a ride or help you plan for one.  While most counties are contained on one map, larger counties have been split into several map sheets.

Information on these maps will help you determine which roads are paved or gravel, which have shoulders greater or less than 4 feet, the amount of traffic volume and also includes Federal, State and Regional bicycle trails.

For those of us that enjoy riding gravel, these maps will help us to better plan out rides throughout the state in areas we may be unfamiliar with.  For road cyclists, planning rides on roads with lower traffic and wider shoulders are now possible by using the information contained in the map's legend.

When planning out rides, I would recommend using these county level maps as a base guide while plotting your course with websites like RideWithGPS, MapMyRide, Strava or others that implement Google Maps.  Then you can navigate using one of the above mentioned cycling smartphone apps or a gps device and leave the paper map at home.  Use the Google Maps satellite mode to verify paved or gravel roads and those with narrow or wide shoulders.

Mn Dot admits that because this is their first effort to show this data on a county scale that there will be some gaps in the information contained in these maps.  They welcome your comments to help improve these maps in future versions.  Your feedback or recommendations can be emailed to  bicyclemap.dot@state.mn.us.


Fourth of July Bike Rides in the Twin Cities

Fourth of July is right around the corner and if you want to celebrate Independence Day in the saddle there are a few longstanding rides that have become tradition for many cyclists year after year.  Continue an old 4th of July cycling tradition or start a new one riding your bike with friends or fellow Twin Cities cyclists.

Freedom From Pants Ride X
Image credit: Garrick Yoong

Celebrate the Fourth without the constraints of pants on this tenth annual underwear ride through the streets of Minneapolis.  Meet up takes place in the vacant lot near the White Castle in NE Minneapolis at 6:00 pm.  Roll out begins at 7:00 pm.  Visit the Fourth of July Freedom From Pants Ride X event page on Facebook for more details, to join or share with friends.

Great Scott 50 Classic Bike Ride

The Frank Wicker Great Scott 50 Classic Bike Ride is a Prior Lake Fourth of July tradition going into its 29th year.  Take a 25 or 50 mile ride through the rolling hills of Scott County.  The 25 mile short course is geared more towards recreational riders and has one rest stop along the way.  The 50 mile long course is what the ride is named for and will have three rest stops.  Mechanical support and SAG provided by Michael's Cycles.  The 50 mile ride leaves Lakefront Park in Prior Lake at 8:00 am and the 25 mile ride at 9:00 am.  There will be lunch provided after the ride.  Register online through Active.com, download the ride brochure and register by mail or register on-site the day of the ride beginning at 7:15 am at Lakefront Park.

Tour D'Amico

The Hiawatha Bicycling Club will be hosting the 17th Annual Tour D'Amico with three scenic routes to choose from complete with hydration stations and rest stops at D'Amico & Sons restaurants along the way.  These full SAG supported rides include a 29 mile tour that is suitable for all riders, a 45 mile tour and a new metric century tour (62.2 miles) for intermediate and endurance riders.  Visit the Tour D'Amico About the Rides page for more information on these routes. 

Registration can be done online or by mail with a check.  Day-of registration and packet pick up starts at 8:00 am and goes until 10:00 am July 4th at the D'Amico & Sons in Golden Valley.  After the ride, participants will be treated to an Italian buffet lunch that will be served from 11:30 to 3:30.  Proceeds from the Tour D'Amico benefit Twin City bike education and trail maintenance programs.  This is a rain or shine event.

Watermelon Ride

The Twin Cities Bicycling Club will be hosting the 35th Annual Watermelon Ride with a choice of 15, 25 or 55 mile routes.  The 15 mile route is geared for beginners getting into cycling and families with children.  The 25 mile route is ideal for both the novice and experienced rider.  Full support is provided for both the 15 and 25 mile routes and the routes will be marked.  The 55 mile route is unsupported so bring the necessary items to make repairs and fix flats.  Route maps will be handed out to riders at the registration table the day of the event.  Snacks will be supplied at rest stops and a picnic lunch will be held at Snail Lake Park following the ride until 2:30 pm.

Online pre-registration deadline is June 26th, after that the price goes up $10.  Day-of registration will also be available by printing and filling out the Registration Waiver and bringing a check made payable to the Twin Cities Bicycling Club to the registration table.  Twin Cities Bicycling Club members receive a discount for registration.  Registration for the 15 & 25 mile routes is from 8:30-10:00 am and the 55 mile route is from 7:30-9:00 am.  Registration and ride start is at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview.  This is a rain or shine event.


A Tough 2016 Almanzo 100

2016 was my third year doing the Almanzo 100, on my third bike. I had finished it on my 29'er in 2014 and my cross bike in 2015, this year I would do it on my carbon Farley 9.6 with a 27.5+ wheelset.  While I struggled last year on some of the big hills with my bike's gearing, this year I thought shouldn't be a problem with my Farley's 1x11 drivetrain.  I was feeling good about the race even though I hadn't trained as much as I would've liked to.  It would be a fun, but challenging day of riding with a lot of old friends and some new ones.

After working with the Penn Cycle crew in setting up the finish chute at Willow Park, I headed back to the hotel to relax a bit, grab a bite to eat and get my bike and gear set up for the morning.  The only thing that had me a little nervous was the strong winds that were forecast for raceday.  I knew I could do the miles and the elevation gain, but the wind would make a challenging race a bit tougher.

With a good night's rest and some breakfast I was ready to head to the Spring Valley Community Center to get some video of the roll-out of the Royal 162 and to chat with friends before the start of the Almanzo 100.  Our group of friends (Velo Lush) lined up for the start and we all rolled out together at the sound of the starting gun.  The fast guys in our group (you know who you are) pulled ahead on the roll-out and I stayed back with Sarah and Michelle who were riding their first Almanzo 100.

The morning air was a bit chilly and the winds were steady with some gusting but I was feeling good and maintaining a steady pace.  Coming around a bend on Nature Road, about 8 miles in, an oncoming car forced me and many other riders to move to the far right side as it passed.  This is where I would have my first and only crash of the day as my front tire washed out in loose wet gravel sending me down at about 12 mph smashing my left knee.  I got up and dusted myself off as I jumped back on my bike, trying to ignore the pain in my knee.  After a while the pain dulled and I felt good climbing the first big hill on 181st Ave.

The winds were pretty strong out in the open areas and I was looking forward to rolling into Preston to take a break, eat something and get some more water to last me until I reached Forestville.

A brief stop in Preston was my plan where I fueled up on snacks and chatted with Pat from Penn Cycle who hooked me up with a whiskey coke before I took the climb out of the Valley.  I was still feeling very optimistic about the rest of the day.  I knew there were a lot of hills ahead of me and my 1x11 drivetrain made climbing them much easier than the year before on my cross bike.  Because of this, I wasn't so much worried about the hills but rather the consistently strong winds that took a lot out of me as the day went on.

Riding on 27.5+ tires made the downhills very fast and fun allowing me to make up some time from the long, slower climbs.  I hadn't experience any cramping in my legs yet which was due to keeping hydrated and taking a Saltstick capsule every hour to replace my electrolyte salts.  This was a nice change from my previous two Almanzo 100's where I had intermittent leg cramps.

Somewhere between Preston and Forestville I would end up rolling from time to time with my friend Drew.  I would pull ahead or he would do the same but we would manage to end up riding together for quite a few miles as we chatted to dull the sound of the crushing gravel beneath our tires.  By this time I was in need of a break, some more food and was looking forward to the stop in Forestville.

As I pulled into the checkpoint at Forestville and got off my bike, I could feel the inflammation in my knees and lactic acid burn in my quads.  I ate, drank and talked with Pat and Andrew from Penn Cycle for a little bit.  I was starting to feel a little drained from riding in the wind for so long.  Pat asked me if I was feeling OK and I told him I was starting to get worn out.  He asked me if I wanted a ride in the Penn Ambulance and I told him I'm going to try to finish this thing.  I knew I only had about 34 miles to go and I didn't want this to be the first year I didn't finish.

The next ten miles to Cherry Grove would be the toughest of the day for me.  The winds started to pick up even more out in the open and it felt like the temperature, most probably the wind chill, was beginning to drop.  Somewhere in the middle of this ten mile stretch I was passed by some fast riders on a tandem bike who said "hi" to me, It was Tina and Joe Stiller who were doing the Royal 162.  I recognized them right away and said "Hi Joe and Tina".  They were moving at a pretty good rate and climbed the hills quickly sending them out of my view in a short time.  I continued on my way but the winds were very demoralizing.

By the time I reached Cherry Grove and the Riding Gravel oasis, I knew my day was over.  I had tried to eat and drink enough to keep my energy up but the strong winds kicked the shit out of me and I knew I didn't have it in me for the final 25 miles.  I didn't want to take a DNF this year but my energy stores were spent and I was getting cold.

I had no cell phone reception so I asked Ben from Riding Gravel to give Pat a call to see if he could pick me up.  It turns out that Teri who was recording the results at the finish line had become very ill so Pat and Andrew had to take over for her.  It would be some time before one of them could pick me up.  So I sat in the Cherry Grove Community Center and had a couple of beers while trying to warm up.  It felt good to be out of the wind.  I chatted with another group of riders who's day was also over and they were waiting for their rides.  The wind was really rough on them and a major factor in their decision to drop out.

A Cherry Grove Community Center volunteer by the name of Ross asked me if I had a ride back into town and I told him "eventually".  He said he could give me a ride to Spring Valley after he dropped off some trash he had in his truck from the oasis.  I thanked him and he returned a short while later where I loaded my bike into his truck for the ride back.  We swapped stories about this and last year's Almanzo.  He thought us bikers were crazy to do that kind of distance on gravel with all of the hills, but loved to hear our stories.  When we got into Cherry Grove I slipped him some cash for the ride and thanked him once again.  He was happy to help out.


I had gotten back to the finish line while several of my friends were still out on the course.  I was able to be there to record video of them as they came across the line.  The first two were Erik and Aj.  They looked physically and mentally wore out.  Aj proceeded to collapse on the ground and rest for a little bit after a very tough day out on the gravel.


Next across the line were Tina and Joe who passed me miles back.  They were greeted with cheers and hand claps by those gathered at the finish.

Sarah, who I had started the day off riding with came across the finish before I could get any video of her first Almanzo 100 finish, so I had to settle for a photo.  Great job Sarah!


The most emotional finish was when Michelle came across the line at her first Almanzo 100.  She has only been riding since last October and had come along with me and many other friends on several gravel training rides leading up to Almanzo.  She had a lot of determination that day and it paid off.  Way to go Michelle!

And finally,  Drew was the last of our crew to cross the finish line.  We were all proud of each other's accomplishment on that long tough day.  I had mixed feelings about taking a DNF for the first time at Almanzo but I was glad I was able to be at the finish to capture the moment and cheer on my good friends.  I am already looking forward to next year and the challenges it may bring us.  A big "Thank you" goes out to Spring Valley Tourism and Penn Cycle from all of us for keeping this iconic race alive and free.


My Favorite Gravel Gear

When it comes to gear for riding gravel, I have used a lot of different products over the years and some I have abandoned while others have become a staple for every ride.  Below I will highlight some of my favorite gravel gear.

Garmin Edge 1000

The Garmin Edge 1000 has helped me explore many new gravel routes that I have planned out on RideWithGPS and others that were recommended by friends.  Loading GPX and TCX files into the unit is easy and they keep me on course without ever missing a turn.  With a long battery life and customized settings, I can set it up the way I like it and not have to worry about it dying in the middle of a ride.  The 3-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display is easy to read in a variety of lighting situations.  If I don't have a route in mind I can input a distance and choose from up to 3 round-trip ride options while out on the bike.  The Garmin Edge 1000 takes out all the worry of navigation and lets you enjoy the ride.  Available from Garmin, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $499.99.

SaltStick Caps

SaltStick Caps are new for me but when put to the test at the Almanzo 100 they performed perfectly.  They were recommended by a friend to relieve or diminish cramping on long rides with significant elevation gain.  They are an electrolyte capsule containing sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium that helps keep balanced electrolyte blood levels.  This combination helps minimize cramping, fatigue and heat stress.  With all of the wind and climbing at this year's Almanzo 100, I didn't experience any leg cramping which had been a problem for me at previous Almanzo races.  Not having to deal with leg cramps on big climbs was a huge plus for me.  They definitely work.  Available directly from SaltStick in 30 count ($13) and 100 count ($22) bottles, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Banjo Brothers Large Frame Pack

The Large Frame Pack from Banjo Brothers is a newer addition to their frame pack line.  Made from Heavy-duty 1680 Ballistic Fabric it is a tough bag with waterproof zipper access from both sides.  This pack is big enough to hold your tool kit, spare tube and food for a long day out on the gravel.  It can also accommodate hydration bladders up to 100 fluid ounces (3L) if you prefer to carry water on your bike instead of your back. The easy open zippers provide quick access to food so you can continue your ride without stopping.  Available from Banjo Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $39.99.

GeigerRig Hydration System Packs

The difference between GeigerRig Hydration Systems and other hydration packs is that they provide a pressurized spray to drink.  Pressurize the pack before a ride and simply bite on the valve to deliver water.  This makes hydrating much easier, especially if you are out of breathe after a sprint or big climb.  I have the Rig and Rig 500 and pick the appropriate pack for the distance and conditions of a ride.  When I want to travel light and don't need storage in the pack I will use the Rig.  For longer rides where I may need a little pack storage to peel off and store layers or extra food, I will use the Rig 500.  Staying hydrated is key and I found that I will drink more to replenish lost fluids using the GeigerRig pack because of its convenience more than just water bottles alone.  The Rig and Rig 500 both come with a 2L hydration engine and are available direct from GeigerRig for $115 and $135.

Banjo Brothers Cue Sheet Holder

The Banjo Brothers Cue Sheet Holder has long been a favorite of mine and many other gravel cyclists.  I used it the last two years at Almanzo and it worked flawlessly.  By laminating the cue sheets and rounding off the corners they could be changed to the next one easily while riding.  If you don't have a gps device or are doing a ride/race where the course is revealed at check-in with cue sheets for navigation, you're going to want one of these.  It mounts to bars and stem quickly using Velcro straps, zip ties or twist ties.  Available from Banjo Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $7.99.

Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag

I put the Mountain Feedbag from Revelate Designs to the first major test at Almanzo and loved them.  I mounted two of them on my stem/bars and filled them with a variety of gels, snacks and SaltStick Caps for a long day in the saddle.  The drawcord closure was easy to open one-handed while riding and their convenience made sure I was refueling throughout the day.  The mesh side pockets are perfect for stashing empty gel packs and wrappers.  The lower tension strap that wraps around the fork crown made sure they stayed in place with very little movement, even when digging into them to grab something to eat.  They are even big enough to hold a water bottle.  The Mountain Feedbag comes in a variety of colors and is available from Revelate Designs, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $39.


I have been using TOGS thumb grips for almost a year now for Winter fatbiking, mountain biking and gravel riding and they quickly became a favorite.  I use them mostly when riding gravel as they provide climbing leverage and an alternate hand position on the bars for those long rides.  Unlike drop bars, straight bars don't offer a variety of different hand positions so it's nice to be able to change things up without the use of bar ends.  Pictured above is the carbon hinged model which installs quickly without removal of the grips.  They are available from TOGS for $35.  TOGS also has a Dupont Zytel ring version in a variety of colors for $23.


Buck Hill Launches Mountain Bike Skills Clinics

Buck Hill in Burnsville will be offering several mountain bike skills clinics this Summer.  These camps, workshops and training sessions will be tailored for children, high school athletes, women and men. Sessions begin in June and July and offer a discount for early registration.

Mountain Bike Skills Day Camp for Kids "are designed with an emphasis on achieving safe, injury-free riding through the establishment and continuous refinement of core skills."  There will be an Intro to Mountain Biking/Basic Skills camp that will be offered twice (June 20-24 or July 11-15) and a Intermediate Mountain Biking/Gravity Intro that will also be offered twice (June 27-July 1 or July 18-22).  Cost is $125 per session ($135 after early registration deadline) and the suggested age for riders is those that are entering the 4th grade in the Fall.

Macho Mondays Mountain Bike Skills Camp for Men "will teach you the physical and mental skills on how to ride balanced, efficiently, fast and smooth."  If you're a guy that wants to develop your skills to become a more efficient and confident rider, then this is the camp for you.  There will be two sessions for the camp (June 13, 20, 27 and July 11, 18, 25).  Cost is $65 per session ($75 after early registration deadline).

Downhill Divas Mountain Bike Skills Camp for Women is taught by women, for women.  This camp "is designed for riders who need guidance in building confidence and skills."  Beginner and intermediate riders will be taught core mountain biking skills during two available sessions (June 15, 22, 29 and July 13, 20, 27).  Cost is $65 per session ($75 after early registration deadline).

High School Hot Laps Mountain Bike Race Training is for those that want to "get a Jump on the High School Race Season with summer coaching at Buck Hill."  Sessions (June 14, 21, 28 and July 12, 19, 26) will be held on Tuesday nights from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm.  These Hot Laps sessions are taught by trained coaches and will be open to all High School athletes looking to develop their mountain bike skills.  Cost is $65 per racer/per session (3 dates per session) ($75 after early registration deadline).

Mountain Bike Yoga will teach participants how it can help them "release tension and increase mobility in the hips, legs, back and shoulders, increase awareness of the muscles and body parts needed for biking, develop balance and core strength needed for mountain biking and free your body to make biking more dynamic, pleasurable and fun!!"  There will be two sessions (August 21 and September 11).  Cost is $40 per 3-hour session ($50 after early registration deadline).
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