Minnesota Gravel Grinders You Can Still Get In On

If you missed early registration deadlines or rider caps were reached before you could sign up, here are some gravel rides and races that are still taking registrations.

The 2014 Mammoth Gravel Classic is Saturday, April 19th in St. Croix Falls, WI.  Registration opens at 7am at the new Cyclova XC location the morning of the ride.  There are three route options to choose from, the 100 mile route rolls out at 8am, the 70 and 35 mile routes roll out at 9am.  This ride is free but the 70 & 35 mile routes will require the purchase of a $5 Gandy Dancer Bike Trail Day Pass.  Updates can also be found on the Mammoth Gravel Classic 2014 Facebook event page.

Image Credit:  Drew Wilson

The Dickie Scramble takes place on Saturday, April 26th in Elgin, MN.  Registration is free and there are three ways to sign up.  In order of preference from the ride organizer, they are as follows:
This race is going to be "75 miles of incredible roads, potluck checkpoint, great food/drinks/gathering place at the finish line."


The Dirty Lemming Gravel Grinder is going down Saturday, July 26th in Watertown, MN.  I spoke with race organizer Jim Smith and he informed me that there are still some spots available before they reach their race cap of 80.  Postcard registrations are currently being accepted until the cap is reached and this one is free.  The Dirty Lemming has two route options this year, 100 miles or 100 km and are stated to include "at least three of the following:  water crossing, cornice, cliff, rockband, outcrop, malt shop, church, or small town bar."  Get those postcards in soon as this one is bound to reach its cap shortly.

Head down to La Crosse Labor Day Weekend to get in on the Skullsplitter Ride/Race taking place on Sunday, August 31st as part of the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival.  This half gravel half pavement ride is a challenging 56 mile tour through SE Minnesota with some big climbs and great scenery.  Registration/packet pick up starts at 7am and the ride/race rolls out at 8am at Cameron Park in downtown La Crosse.  Visit the Bicycle Festival Registration page to register for the Festival in advance.

Image Credit:  Derek Chinn

The Inspiration 100 is a free gravel race that starts and finishes in Garfield, MN on Saturday, September 6th.  This is a challenging race with a mix of terrain as the course travels through the Leaf Mountain area around Inspiration Peak providing some great scenery along the way.  Postcard registration opens July 1st and closes July 31st.  This one has a cap, so the first 135 entries are in the race.

Image Credit: Heck of the North

Heck of the North is a 100+ mile gravel race that takes place Saturday, October 4th in Two Harbors, MN.  This race has become a fall gravel classic here in Minnesota and the course takes racers through some spectacular northwoods scenery.  Registration opened March 1st and will remain open until September 15th or when a 400 rider cap is reached.  This one does require a fee and a percentage will be donated to a Minnesota cycling advocacy organization.  To register, visit the Heck of the North online registration page.

The Filthy 50 takes place on Sunday, October 12th in Sterwartville, MN as it enters its second year after a very successful inaugural race last fall.  The racer cap for 2014 was doubled to 600 and over 450 people signed up in the first eight days of registration.  The race is free and space is becoming limited, so sign up quickly if you haven't already.  Online registration is easy and only takes a minute.  I raced this one last year and it was a blast.  It was very well organized, challenging and the scenery along the course was amazing.  Don't miss this one.  Visit my post The Filthy 50 Returns for Second Year & Announces “This Filthy World” Series for all the details from my original announcement.

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Penn Cycle Thursday Night Mountain Bike Racing Returns to Buck Hill

Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

Penn Cycle announces the return of "Thursday Night at the Races" at Buck Hill in Burnsville.  This long-standing Thursday night summertime tradition brings together beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain bikers for some great racing and good times.  It is also a chance to get the little ones into mountain biking with a free kid's race after the adult races, so bring the whole family.

Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

If you've never raced before, this is your chance to give it a try.  The Beginner class race (approximately 20 minute race) starts at 7:15 pm and only costs $5.  For the intermediate and advanced racers, $10 will gain you entry into the Recreational (40 minute race) or the Advanced (1 hour race) class races that start at 6:30 pm.  Registration for the races runs from 5:00-6:15 pm.

Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

2014 Buck Hill Race Schedule

Series 1:  May 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, June 5th and 12th
Series 2; June 19th, 26th, (No race July 3rd), July 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st. Make up race date Aug. 7th.

This is a great opportunity to test yourself in a race setting on a challenging wooded course at Buck Hill.  For Minnesota High School Cycling League racers, here's a chance to get in some early practice for the upcoming season.  After the races there will be loads of door prizes and food and drink is available all evening long.  For additional details you can visit the Penn Cycle Thursday Night at the Races page or call the Bloomington store at 952-888-1427.   A little rain may not always cancel the races, so give them a call if weather becomes an issue.

For more photos, visit Griff Wigley's photo set Penn Cycle Thursday night MTB Race, Buck Hill


The Cottage Grove Bike Park is a Finalist for a Bell Built Grant and Needs Your Vote

The Cottage Grove Bike Park is one of the twelve finalists eligible for a portion of the $100,000 grant from IMBA and Bell Helmets and needs your help.  Competition is fierce as the Cottage Grove Bike Park goes up against two other bike parks and a flow trail in the Central Region.  Voting begins April 21st will continue through May 4th with the winner being determined by popular vote and announced on May 5th.  Spread the word to friends and family and use social media to help the Cottage Grove Bike Park make this dream a reality.

Image Credit:  Cottage Grove Bike Park Facebook page

MORC Press Release:

Bell Helmets is giving away $100,000 in a trailbuilding contest, and we’re a finalist! Vote for us to make this dream a reality.

Do you support healthy active recreational opportunities for Minnesota youth? Of course you do and that’s why we’re seeking your support! The Cottage Grove Bike Park is among 4 finalists in the region, competing for a third of the $100,000 grant offered by Bell Helmets in conjunction with the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The winner will be determined by popular vote occurring between April 21 - May 4.

Cottage Grove Bike Park, located within West Draw Park (7050 Meadow Grass Avenue), has already received great community support and has been constructed by volunteers via partnership of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists & the City of Cottage Grove. The final vision of the park will contain a 4X race track, two pump tracks, a tot track, slope-style course, mountain bike skills course and dirt jumps.

Supporting this great project is easy, simply visit the below website between April 21st and May 4th to cast your vote!

“Young people of today need more venues that encourage fitness and exercise.” David Bole, owner of The Bicycle Chain

“Cottage Grove currently has one of the best publicly supported parks and has the opportunity to be an example of what other cities should be doing to support their local BMX bikers.” Glen Dussl, BMX Sales Manager, Quality Bicycle Products

“This project is important for our community as it offers a venue that is free while providing a physically dynamic environment to be enjoyed by all.” Kevin Zimmerman, Cottage Grove Lions Club member

“This project is a great asset, not only for Cottage Grove residents, but for the entire Minnesota cycling community as well.” Jason Lardy, President MN Cycling Center

“As a parent, I was excited (my children) were getting exercise while making many new friends. I would visit the park frequently and felt my boys were very safe and enjoying the activity the park had to offer.” Candi Pierre, local resident and parent to Blake (14), Brock (12), and Kate (8)

Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists is a volunteer driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
MORC – Gaining and Maintaining Trails

The grant funds will cover the design and construction of a World Class Dirt Jump Plaza.  To learn more about the Cottage Grove Bike Park, watch video above.  Download and print a Cottage Grove Bike Park "Vote for Us" informative poster or download the first image in this post for use on Facebook or Twitter to help spread the word.  Remember, the voting begins April 21st.


Get the Latest Mountain Bike Trail Conditions and Check for Closures Before You Ride

With the changing of the seasons comes mountain bike trail closures, especially during the freeze/thaw cycle.  These closures are put into effect to prevent trail damage and erosion.  Mountain bikers are anxious to get out and ride during the Spring but need to respect these closures and stay off wet trails.  This will save MORC and other IMBA Chapter volunteers hours of trail repair time.  Bookmark this post and check back often to see current MORC trail conditions, get trail information and maps.  For the latest Cyclecast, visit 2WheelWeather's MORC Weather Blog.

Afton Alps*

Battle Creek Regional Park
Image Credit:  MORC

Carver Lake Park  
Map     Trail Info     Facebook  
Image Credit:  Mountain Bike Geezer

Eagan Bike Park
Image Credit:  Eagan Bike Park Facebook page

Elm Creek Park Reserve
Maple Grove
Map     Trail Info     Facebook
Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

Hillside City Park* 
 Elk River
Image Credit:  Griff Wigley

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve
Map      Trail Info
Image Credit:  MORC

Lebanon Hills Regional Park-West
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter

Mendota Trail (MN River Bottoms)
Map     Trail Info

Minnesota River Bottoms
MORC Trail Conditions

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Image Credit:  MORC

Salem Hills/Harmon Park Reserve
Inver Grove Heights  

Terrace Oaks Park West

Theodore Wirth Park
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter
Image Credit:  Mountain Bike Geezer

*fee required

MORC Trail Condtions from around the state:

From MORC:

Why Are Trails Closed?

Sustainable trails are built so that water will run across the trail, not down it. When water runs down the trail it focuses the water and increases erosion. Riding wet trails creates ruts that will focus the water and increase erosion.

Riding wet trails also increases cupping of the trail surface and causes puddles to get deeper and wider, both of which slow the recovery of the trail.

Trails are closed (and often fenced off) during the freeze/thaw cycle in the fall and spring. During these times, trails are especially susceptible to significant damage.

Trails may also be closed after significant weather events, or if there are unsafe trail conditions.

The trails around the Twin Cities metro area are particularly sensitive due to the very large numbers of users these trails get every year.

When trails turn into maintenance headaches, land managers start to consider closing trails for good... PLEASE do your part to ensure that we have access to great trails by riding responsibly. Together we can keep these mountain biking opportunities available for generations to come!
Wet Trail Conditions
Beyond major closures, knowing when not to ride after a rainfall can be less obvious. Trails will not be posted as closed or fenced off after normal rainfalls/storms, so it is up to you to make an educated decision. Here are some general rules regarding wet conditions:

- Trails should not be used during wet weather, or when the trail is soft or muddy.
- Trails are open if the trail is firm and the surface will not be disturbed by foot or bike travel.
- PLEASE be patient if the trail isn't ready... allow the trail to dry before riding.
- Trails are typically too wet to ride for 18-24 hours after a significant rainfall.
- Riding wet trails damages the trail by creating ruts that increase erosion.

Please check the Trail Conditions Pages above for the most up-to-date information. And if you ride a trail, please take a minute and update the conditions if they haven't been updated in a while... this is a great way to both help out your fellow riders and help preserve the trails we love! 


Product Review: PDW Dave's Mud Shovels

During the seasonal transition periods in the Spring and Fall, riding a fatbike can get a little messy.  Mud, sand, slush and puddles can get a rider all wet.  To combat this and keep riding dry and comfortable, Portland Design Works has made Dave's Mud Shovels.  These lightweight, quick-install fenders are wide enough to keep water, mud and muck from being flung all over your legs and backside from those big fatbike tires.

The Dave's Mud Shovel rear fender installs in seconds with an adjustable clamp and is long and wide enough (22.5" X 5.5") to keep your backside dry on the messiest of rides.  The angle of the fender can be adjusted to fit all makes and sizes of fatbikes.  MSRP $28.

The Dave's Mud Shovel front fender installs quickly with rubber straps that attach to the downtube of the bike.  It is long and wide enough (19.5" X 6.5") to keep your legs dry and clean when riding through the wet stuff.  The rubber straps accommodate a wide variety of tube diameters.  MSRP $20. 

When the mountain bike trails are closed during the spring thaw, I like to hit the gravel.  This allows me to keep riding until things dry out, but it can get a little dirty.  PDW's Dave's Mud Shovels become part of my necessary riding gear at this time of year.  Mud, water, wet sand and sloppy crushed limestone hit these big fenders instead of me.  My riding apparel would be filthy without them and I wouldn't be warm and dry.  At the beginning of winter, those wet snowfalls are another prime time for using the Mud Shovels.

These fatbike fenders are reasonably priced, lightweight and they do the trick to keep you dry.  Both fenders are easy to remove and clean up quickly with just a rinse and a wipe down.  One area that the rear fender doesn't cover very well is at the confluence of the seat stays, top tube and seat tube.  I usually have my frame bag strapped on and it always gets soaked and covered with dirt as the spinning tire throws a steady stream right on to this area.  Good thing my bag is made with water-resistant nylon and zippers keeping my gear dry inside.  Other than that, the benefits of these fenders far outweigh this small negative.  If you are an all-weather fatbiker, I would recommend Dave's Mud Shovels for all of your messy rides.

Note:  Please do not ride wet mtb trails, this causes ruts, trail damage and takes many hours of volunteer time to repair.  Allow trails to dry before use.  Your local IMBA chapter will thank you.

The front and rear Portland Design Works Dave's Mud Shovels are available from the PDW website, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Disclosure:  Portland Design Works provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


Product Review: Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozie

Winter cycling requires a rider to hydrate just as much as during warm weather rides, so slushy or frozen water bottles can be a nuisance.  To help extend the amount of time it takes to freeze up a water bottle, Gup Gum Gear handcrafts the newly redesigned Bottle Cage Coozie right here in the Twin Cites.  This product is fashioned to fit around standard water bottle cages and uses 3/8" thick closed cell foam for insulation to significantly extend the time it takes water to freeze.  Each Coozie has a heavyweight nylon exterior and medium weight nylon interior with holes for bottle boss bolts.

The front panel flap on the Bottle Cage Coozie pulls down for easy installation and removal.  One of the nice features of the Coozie is that it hugs the water bottle allowing removal and placement of the bottle back into the cage without any interference at all. 

My busy schedule lately has not allowed me to ride as often as I would like, but I did get a chance to test the Bottle Cage Coozies several times in varying below freezing temperatures.  For shorter rides usually lasting 1½ to 2½ hours with temps in the teens and twenties Fahrenheit, my 21 oz. water bottles remained ice free.  To extend this test for many hours, after a 2 hour ride with temps in the low 20's, I strapped the bottle cage/Coozie/water bottle combo from my ride to a pole outside and left it to the elements.  When starting this test, I filled the bottle with cold water from the refrigerator instead of using room temperature water.  I wanted to see how the Coozie would perform with water that was already around 40° F.

My results, after the 2 hour ride the bottle was free of ice.  After 6 hours and a temperature reading of 25° F when I checked the bottle, a thin layer of ice had started to form on the inside walls of the bottle.  At 13 hours I checked the bottle again, the outside temperature now was 20° F and the water in the bottle had frozen significantly, but not solid.  I was able to squeeze the bottle breaking up the ice from the sides allowing me to drink from it.  Colder temperatures than this test will speed up the freezing process but still allow a cyclist to get in several hours of riding without their bottles freezing up to the point that drinking from them is not possible.

Image Credit: Gup Gum Gear
Image Credit: Gup Gum Gear

Neil from Gup Gum Gear did his own testing on the effectiveness of the Bottle Cage Coozie and posted the above two photos and his results on the Gup Gum Gear Facebook page.  These are the results from his test:

"Cage Coozie comparison: A couple bottles from Saturday's ride. Green bottle was in a fork mounted coozie from 9:30am til around 2:30 pm. The white bottle was in a seat tube mounted cage (read: vertical) from 9:30 til about 1:30, then the cab of the truck - parked til 2, then driven home with the heater on. Outside temps were between 10 and 20. On the green bottle, the minor valve freezing was easily removed with a whack on a hard surface and was then completely free flowering. The ice inside was very minor. Both bottles were straight tap water; no additives.  The effectiveness of the coozie should be plain to see."

Image Credit: Gup Gum Gear
Ride longer without your water bottles freezing up as quickly with the insulating properties of the Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozie.  And they are not just for winter time use, I plan on using them during the summer to keep my water cold on those hot days.  My conclusion, these Cage Coozies are an effective way to significantly slow down the icing up of my water bottles on cold winter rides allowing me to stay hydrated as needed.

The Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozie can be ordered from the Gup Gum Gear Shop page for $25 each.  All Black Coozies are ready to ship and custom colors can be made to order by contacting Neil for a list of currently available colors. 

Disclosure:  Gup Gum Gear provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.
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