The River Valley 100 Takes Riders Through the Scenic Countryside Around Mankato

Are you an experienced century rider or a century virgin that wants a challenge?  The River Valley 100 is your chance to ride with other cyclists through the scenic river valleys around Mankato and St. Peter in South-Central Minnesota.  This is a non-supported century ride with two route options, a 100 mile paved road ride and a 100 km gravel ride.

http://rivervalley100.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/rivervalley-poster-2014.pdfThe ride will take place on September 21st starting and finishing at the Mankato Family YMCA.  Registration starts at 7 am and the ride at 7:30 am.  This is a free ride, but you need to register because space is limited.  Registration can be done online or by mailing your Name, Address, Email, Age (on date of ride) and Route Choice (Gravel or Paved) with a signed waiver to:

  River Valley 100
c/o Julie Larsen
316 Woodshire Drive
Mankato, MN 56001

Helmets are required and donations will be accepted to offset costs.  For updates on the River Valley 100, "like" their Facebook page.
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Two New Gravel Rides Taking Place in Northern Minnesota Later This Summer

Gravel riding/racing in Minnesota is gaining steam in its popularity and new events keep showing up all over the state.  Here are two more that are happening late this Summer in Northern Minnesota that you can get in on.

Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder
August 23, 2014
Image Credit: Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist

The Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder is a 50+ mile unsupported free gravel ride in Balkan TWP that will venture mostly through the Superior National Forest north of the Laurentian Divide.  The ride is organized by Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist and will start and finish from their home on Saturday, August 23rd.  There are no stops along the way for food or water so come prepared.  Cue sheets will be handed out the morning of the ride detailing the route, but not until then.  Afterward there will be a potluck for those cyclists that would like to bring a dish to pass.

Image Credit: Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist

Postcard registration is now open and the organizers will take the first 100 entrants they receive by August 20th.  Send a postcard with your name, address, primary and secondary telephone numbers, e-mail, and age to:

Fiddlin' Fifty 
c/o Scott Dahlquist 
6479 Colombe Rd. 
Chisholm, MN 55719

Check in will be from 7:30-8:00 am the morning of the ride where you will need to sign a waiver.  Ride starts at 9:00 am and helmets are required for all riders.  Visit the Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook page for updates.

Legendary Laurentian
Adventure Bike Ride
September 20, 2014
Image Credit: Giants Ridge

Image Credit: John Filander
The Legendary Laurentian Adventure Bike Ride is a 50 mile gravel ride being hosted by Giants Ridge in Biwabik.  The route will take you on lots of gravel roads, snowmobile & ski trails, fire roads and a portion of the Mesabi Trail.  With this kind of terrain, John Filander (ride organizer), who has ridden the course on his cross bike recommends cross bike tires of 33mm and larger.
This ride will kick off at Giants Ridge on September 20 at 9:20 am.  Registration is required ($20 entry fee) and includes a post ride BBQ with craft beer and door prizes.

To register for the Legendary Laurentian, send an email to John Filander or call 218-865-8021.  Giants ridge also has lodging available, email Giants Ridge Central Reservations or call 866-409-6650.


Product Review: Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk

The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk is a versatile bag that I have come to love.  I have put it to the test it in all types of weather on the fatbike and my road bike.  One of the things I like most is it gives me that extra carrying capacity without having to install a rack for a trunk bag.  This bag has a big 400 cubic inches (12.5” L x 7” H x 8.5” W) of space to carry what I need for those longer rides or commutes to work.

Installation is easy and only takes a few seconds.  With two straps that attach to the seat post and two more that secure to the saddle rails, it stays in place even when fully loaded.  Depending on the load of the bag, the saddle rail straps and the flap closure can be adjusted for a snug fit.

The outer pocket on the back flap of the Saddle Trunk is nice for little things like keys, money or a multi-tool and tire levers.  There is even a spot to attach a tail light.

The "waterproof" part of this bag is made possible by a replaceable welded liner.  I have been caught in the occasional downpour and my stuff didn't get wet, even without fenders.  This proved invaluable when commuting to work and arriving with a dry change of clothes. 

I found this bag especially useful for rides on the fatbike in the fall and winter.  It came in quite handy on those cool morning rides that turn into warm afternoon rides.  The compartment is big enough for me to ditch the jacket and gloves to continue riding without overheating.  Other items like goggles, pogies/gloves, snacks and extra water bottles easily fit into the Saddle Trunk so I was always prepared for changing weather conditions or an all day ride.  The waterproof qualities of the Saddle Trunk made sure my items stayed dry on warmer days where slush and puddles are common.

My overall impressions of the Waterproof Saddle Trunk are it is a quality bag at a reasonable price that keeps my items dry and has the extra storage space I need.  What more could I ask for?  With easy on and off installation it is very convenient to use with multiple bikes making it a flexible bag choice.  Along with the Banjo Brothers Frame Pack, it is standard equipment for all my long distance gravel/road rides and commutes to work.   

The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk is available from the Banjo Brothers Online Store, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Disclosure:  Banjo Brothers provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


Cyclopath Now Helps Find Bikeable Routes Throughout Greater Minnesota


Cyclopath is a geo-wiki bike route planner that is operated by GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota.  Until recently, this useful route planning tool was limited to the Seven County Metro Area.  Now Cyclopath has added the MnDOT road network to their map making easier to find routes throughout the state based on your own bikeability ratings for roads and trails.  Using Cyclopath is easy and can be done either on the website or on your Android device with the Cyclopath app.

Cyclopath's map is editable where anyone can add information about roads, bike trails, locations and cycle routes.  Your input will help Cyclopath and MnDot improve the data contained in the map.  For more information on the privacy policy and what is done with the data collected, visit the Cyclopath User Agreement page.

Now you can find a bike route anywhere in Minnesota based on your biking preferences.  Do you want to find the fastest route with the shortest distance?  How about traveling a little or a lot further to include highly rated roads?  Would you like to travel a little or a lot further to include trails and bike lanes?  These preferences can be chosen on both the website and the Android app.

Android App


When you are ready to find your route, enter your starting point and desired destination using the website or Android app and select your bikeability preferences.  For demonstration purposes, I chose to search for a route from Cannon Falls to Mankato using a higher bikeability preference.

After the route is found on the website, you can view the overview of the route, route directions, print a cue sheet and download a GPX file to be imported into most GPS devices or for upload to sites like Runtastic, MapMyRide and RideWithGPS.  When logged in, routes can be saved to your library for later use or on the Android app.

In the app, the route will be displayed and (with GPS enabled) it will show your location along the route.  Switch between the route map and route directions by selecting the menu button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.  The app even has an option to record your GPS track.  Saved routes from the website and the app can be accessed and loaded, too.

These are just a few of the features that are possible with Cyclopath.  For more information including video tutorials, FAQ, guidelines for map editing and the User Manual, visit the Cyclopath Geowiki Help page.  To sign up for a free Cyclopath account to contribute and improve map data or save routes to your library, visit the Log in/ Create Account page.  The Cyclopath app is free on Google Play.


Minneapolis Bike Tour Returns for 8th Year

The Minneapolis Bike Tour has become a yearly tradition for cyclist of all ages and abilities since its inauguration in 2007.  This event allows participants to enjoy a tour of Minneapolis on segments of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and the Midtown Greenway at their own pace with the parkways and roadways free of traffic.  Proceeds from the tour will benefit  bike safety and education events for Minneapolis youth as well as bike trail improvement projects throughout the system.

The Minneapolis Bike Tour takes place on Sunday, September 14th and will start and finish on Boom Island in Minneapolis.  There will be 16, 25 and 32 mile routes to choose from complete with hydration stops, mechanical and medical support.  Don't forget your helmet, wearing it is a requirement of  all participants during the ride.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

Stick around for a post-ride party with live music and beer (available for participants 21+ with ID).  Local food vendors will be on hand as well as exhibitor booths and Bike Tour merchandise will be available for sale.  The post-ride party will open from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

Registration is available online until September 10th at 9:00 am.  On-site registration will be available on September 13th from 8:30 am to 12 noon and  September 14th from 6:30 to 8:00 am.  Registration fee for adults (18+) is $40, youth (ages 6-17) is $15 and children under 5 are free.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

For more information about the Minneapolis Bike Tour, visit the FAQ page, Bike Tour Details page and the About the Minneapolis Bike Tour page.  If you have additional questions contact the Minneapolis Parks Customer Service at 612-230-6400 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or send an email to specialevents@minneapolisparks.org.  More than 150 Bike Tour Volunteers are needed to make this event a success.  If you would like to volunteer or get more information about volunteering, call 612-313-7779 or send an email to smcgrath@minneapolisparks.org.


Product Review: Quad Lock Bike Kit

I take my smartphone along on all of my rides for navigation, ride tracking, taking photos and to listen to my favorite podcasts and music.  Usually I would stash it in my jersey pocket, but the problem with that was anytime I needed to check the map or change what I was listening to I would have to stop and grab it.  After seeing the Quad Lock Bike Kit on the web, I wanted to give it a try and see if it would do the trick to put my smartphone within easy view and hold it secure whether I was mountain biking or riding on the road.

Image Credit: Quad Lock
One of the key features of the Quad Lock Stem/Bar mount that I liked was the dual action locking mechanism that would allow me to easily attach or remove my phone from the bike.  This would come in handy for taking photos during a ride or taking my phone with me when parking my bike.

I ride in all types of weather, so keeping my phone dry while still having access to it mounted on my stem would be necessary.  The Quad Lock Bike Kit comes with a rain-resistant cover called a Poncho that would accomplish this.

Would the Quad Lock Bike Kit hold my $600 smartphone securely to my stem on rough terrain?  I would put this to the test on three bikes (fatbike, mountain bike and road bike) covering a variety of road and trail conditions.

Installation of the mount took only seconds and could be mounted with o-rings for easy removal or zip ties for a more permanent fixture.  The case for the kit (Galaxy S4 for this review) is made of a polycarbonate core and a soft TPU outer material that made it easy to slip onto my phone.

On the fatbike and mountain bike, it held my phone securely on everything from bumpy gravel roads to singletrack scattered with rocks, roots and log crossings.  The position of the phone on the stem made it easy to see where I was using Google maps or other cycling apps.

On my road bike is where I really came to love this mount kit.  Many times when I head out for a ride I don't have a route plan and will navigate using Google Maps on Strava.  With the Quad Lock Bike Kit I no longer have to stop to see where my next turn might be.  I simply turn on my phone's display and take a quick glance to see where I'm at. 

Phone removal and attachment from the bike mount is quick and can be done using only one hand. Push down on the blue collar and twist to remove, twist until the lock snaps into place to reattach.  This lets me get a quick photo or two without fumbling around with the mount.

The rain-resistant Poncho cover slips onto the case with a little maneuvering providing a pretty good seal against rain, sweat and dust.  While it keeps your phone dry during the occasional rain, this cover can make pushing the power, home and volume buttons a little more difficult.  Touch screen functionality works ok but sometimes, especially near the edges of the screen, a little more pressure is required.  Since the Quad Lock Bike Kit doesn't provide any screen protection without the use of the Poncho, a screen protector such as Zagg InvisibleShield may be necessary to protect the glass.  There are no access ports on the Poncho so to use it with headphones or a charger, a paper punch can be used to make the necessary holes.  Use Scotch tape to cover these holes when not in use to keep water from getting in.

I really like this mount, it has made ride navigation much easier, positioning allows for a better GPS signal and I can remove or reattach my phone in an instant.  I never had any problems with my phone moving or jostling out of position, this mount definitely held secure.  If you use your smartphone as a bike computer or for ride tracking and navigation, you'll like the convenience and secure hold of the Quad Lock Bike Kit.

The Quad Lock Bike Kit is available for the iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5/5S, iPhone 5C, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5 and a Universal Bike Mount Kit (no Poncho) for almost any device with a smooth, flat surface.

Disclosure:  Annex Products provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review. 


Fourth of July Cycling Events

There are several rides being held on Independence day that will have you celebrating your freedom in the saddle.  All of these have been longstanding yearly events that many cyclists continue to do year after year.  Join in on one of these rides and start a new Fourth of July tradition this year.

 Freedom From Pants Ride VIII
Image Credit:  Garrick Yoong

Celebrate the Fourth without the constraints of pants on this eighth 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 Freedom From Pants Ride VIII Facebook Event page 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 27th year.  Take a 20 or 50 mile ride through the rolling hills of Scott County.  The 20 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 has rest stops at miles 15, 28 and 42.5.  Mechanical support and SAG provided by Michael's Cycles.  A mass-start leaves Lakefront Park in Prior Lake at 8:00 am and there will be a picnic lunch 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 15th 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.  This year's routes include a 29 mile, a partially new 45 mile and an all new metric century 62 mile.  All three routes have full SAG support.  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.  Online registration is available until 12:00 Midnight on July 2nd.  Day-of registration and packet pick up starts at 8:00 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.  This is a rain or shine event and proceeds from the Tour D'Amico benefit Twin City bike education and trail maintenance programs.

Watermelon Ride

The Twin Cities Bicycling Club will be hosting the 33rd Annual Watermelon Ride with a choice of 15, 25 or 52 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 52 mile route is unsupported so bring the necessary items to make repairs and fix flats.  Route maps will be handed out to riders 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 3:00 pm.  Online preregistration deadline is June 30th, 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 52 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. 
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