2/02/2016

Winter Getaway to True North Basecamp


Now that True North Basecamp is open for Winter riding I had to get up there and check it out for myself.  I have only ridden the red dirt singletrack of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails in the Summer so a visit there was bound to be a real treat.  Co-Founders Dan Jurek and Jeff Bajek invited me to come up for a stay at one of their lakefront cabins where I could ride ride onto the trail system from the front door.  I invited a couple of my ride buddies to join me where we met up there on a Sunday recently and were welcomed by a light coating of fresh snow.


Check in was easy upon arrival to our cabin, I simply used the code from my trip confirmation email to gain access.  The cabin was clean and modern while maintaining a rustic feel.  Amenities included heater/air conditioner, a full and three twin beds, table and chairs, plug in with USB charging ports, picnic table and portable fire pit (firewood is available for purchase in Crosby).  Located just a short walk behind the cabin was the shower house that had heated floors, showers, bathroom and changing area. 


After unpacking and changing into our cycling clothes we were ready to hit the trails.  Trail access was at the end of the row of cabins and down the hill where there was a creek crossing that led uphill to the frozen singletrack. It was nice being so close to the trails so we could hit them as desired and return to the Basecamp for rest and refreshments.


The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails and Cuyuna Lakes State Trail weren't the only riding opportunities available.  With the mine pit lakes frozen over we were able to explore out on the ice.  The snow wasn't too deep yet for riding so we got in some extra exploratory miles on Portsmouth Mine Pit Lake and the Armour Number Two Mine which is the lake that the cabins overlook.


Riding the mountain bike trails, State Trail and the lakes was a blast.  The Crosby area had received a light dusting of fresh powder the day we arrived letting us get first tracks in a lot of areas.  The convenience of being so close to the trails allowed us to ride as we pleased.


While the cabins do supply comfortable shelter for the trip, there are no kitchen facilities so I would recommend bringing drinking water, convenience foods and a tabletop grill, crockpot or campstove for easy meal prep during the stay.  Crosby is just a few blocks away if biking into town to grab a meal and drinks at one of the local establishments is preferred.  A cooler with ice will be needed to keep food and drinks cold.


A few other things that need to be brought are pillows, sleeping bags or bedding for the beds as none are provided.  Towels and toiletries are also a must.  We brought a piece of rope to tie between the top two bedposts at the end of the beds for use as a clothesline to dry our wet gear and by throwing a blanket over it we had a private changing area.  Don't forget to bring your camera or GoPro for the amazing scenery here and out on the trails.  With a cell tower close by the mobile phone/4G reception was very strong allowing us to keep in touch with loved ones or to post about the trip on social media.


In conclusion, my friends and I had a great time at True North Basecamp.  The cabin and shower house were perfect for our bike trip, they provided us a "basecamp" where would could eat, sleep, rest and shower as needed throughout our stay.  Because it was an overnight trip we didn't feel rushed to get in as much riding as possible.  We were right on the trail system allowing us to relax, enjoy the stay and ride at will.  We are definitely looking forward to returning to True North Basecamp to "shred the red" when the warmer seasons roll around.


Reservations for a stay at the True North Basecamp cabins or to check availability can be done online.  Winter '16 cabin rentals are $99/night Sunday through Thursday (weekday cabin rate) and $125/night for Friday and Saturday (weekend cabin rate).  For more information about True North Basecamp visit http://truenorthbasecamp.com/.

Disclosure:  True North Basecamp provided one night's stay for the experience to write this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

Penn Cycle & Fitness
http://penncycle.com/about/winter-sale-clearance-2016-pg1293.htm
The Season Never Ends.
Save on Indoor Trainers,
Bike Gear & Clearance Bicycles.

1/28/2016

My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 2


Winter is my favorite time of the year to ride my fatbike, it opens a whole different world of exploration possibilities.  But, cold weather does present its own challenges that that can be overcome with the right gear.  I have tried a lot of products over the last four Winters and have come up with a new list of some of my favorite items that I use regularly.  This is part two of a three part series where I highlight my favorite Winter fatbike gear.

Bontrager RXL Waterproof
Softshell Split Finger Glove

When the temps dip into the teens and below I like to continue to ride without pogies but I need a pair of gloves that will keep my hands warm.  To achieve this I wear the Bontrager RXL Waterproof Softshell Split Finger Glove.  When it gets below zero I can extend my ride time by adding pogies to my bars if the conditions demand.

These gloves have a Profila Softshell outer lining that is windproof/waterproof combined with 100 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation and a full finger fleece lining providing a comfort zone for hands in extreme cold weather.  The split finger and inForm cushioning allow for dexterity when braking and comfort in the pressure areas of the palm that mittens can't provide.  Available in XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $69.99.

45NRTH Bergraven Gaiters

After last weekend's trip to Cuyuna where over the two days I was there we received about 5 inches of fresh powder, I was glad I had my 45NRTH Bergraven Gaiters.  The snow was deep on the trails and lakes and the groomer hadn't been out yet so keeping the snow out of my boots and my legs warm was definitely a plus.

My friends and I like to venture off the beaten path in the Wintertime for areas normally not available during the warmer months and that will take us to places like lakes, creeks, marshes and woods where the snow is deeper and may involve some "hike-a-bike" sections.  These definitely do the trick for this type of riding. 

Bergaravens are easy to put on and take off and have tear-resistant outer shell with 100 grams of Primaloft Eco Gold insulation.  They will keep your legs warm and make sure snow stays out of your boots.  Available in 38-40 (Small), 41-43 (Medium), 44-46 (Large), 47-50 (X-Large) at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $85.

HotHands Toe Warmers

Sometimes those expensive cycling boots or regular Winter boots need a little boost to help keep your toes warm when riding for hours out in the cold.  My toes have a tendency to get cold easily, even in the 20's°F.  HotHands Toe Warmers are super thin and can be placed on the top or bottom of your toes with a stay-in-place adhesive that sticks to your sock.  They last for hours, are pretty inexpensive and will extend your ride time.  When it is really cold out I will place a set on the top and bottom of my toes to really keep my feet warm.  HotHands Toe Warmers are available at sporting goods and hardware stores for around a $1 for a two pack.

Sticky Pod

The Sticky Pod is a product I highlighted earlier this Fall and I've continued to use throughout the Winter as my compact tool kit for rides.  Depending on how light I travel, I will put it in my hydration pack or back jacket pocket.  The larger model holds everything I need for trailside repairs including my compact frame pump in the event of a flat or change in tire psi.  This compact kit has room for a chain tool, master links, spare derailleur hanger, multi-tool, zip ties, CO2 cartridges/inflator and a tube patch kit.  You can even put your smartphone in the side that has the plastic window for safe keeping and easy touchscreen access.  Available from Miles-Wide Industries in two sizes and color choices from $14.99-$17.99.

Central Lakes Trail
http://www.centrallakestrail.com/
Get out and enjoy the beautiful gem known as the
Central Lakes Trail

1/22/2016

My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 1


Winter is my favorite time of the year to ride my fatbike, it opens a whole different world of exploration possibilities.  But, cold weather does present its own challenges that that can be overcome with the right gear.  I have tried a lot of products over the last four Winters and have come up with a new list of some of my favorite items that I use regularly.  This is part one of a three part series where I highlight my favorite Winter fatbike gear.

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Balaclava

Keeping your face and head warm while protecting them from sub-zero windchills is where the Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Balaclava excels.  It fits comfortably, is breathable, can be worn with goggles and stops wind's bite preventing frostbite on the coldest days.  It has a thermal stretch fabric that is very thin and fits like a glove.  When the temps dip into the teens or the wind kicks up, this balaclava is my choice for face protection.  It folds up small enough to fit in my jacket pocket so I have it with in case the weather takes a turn.  Available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $39.99.

G.H. Meiser Low Pressure Gauge

Keeping your tires properly inflated is key to speed, control and traction.  Colder temperatures can cause tire pressure to decrease as much as 2% for every 10° F drop, so checking your tires to ensure proper inflation should be done before each ride.  A change of as little as a pound or two of psi can make a huge difference to how a fatbike tire reacts to the conditions you are riding.

I use the G.H. Meiser Low Pressure Presta Valve Dial Gauge to give me accurate readings at very low pressures that regular gauges might not be able read.  This model reads tire pressure from 0 to 30 psi and is not affected by cold temperatures unlike some digital tire gauges.  It's an excellent choice for fatbikers looking to dial in that that precise inflation for the conditions, whether they be soft/hard pack snow, "mash potatoes" or fresh powder.  With a little experimentation you will learn to set pressures exactly to your liking and know what they feel like when squeezing your tires.  Available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $20.99.  Also available in a 15 psi version for $14.99.

Smith Vantage with MIPS Helmet

My wife got me the Smith Vantage with MIPS helmet for Christmas and it is by far the best I've used for Winter riding.  It's a little on the spendy side at $260 but the features and design make it well worth it.  With its 21 vents, vent closures and Aerocore construction it is easy to keep your head cool or warm depending on the outside temperature.  The snapfit ear pads keep ears warm and can accommodate helmet audio systems for listening to music or podcasts out on the trail.  The adjustable Boa FS 360 Fit System assures a comfortable custom fit.

It works great with goggles and even has a removable goggle lock on the back of the helmet.  The MIPS system will limit the rotational forces to the brain in the event of an oblique impact during a crash or fall.  Available at REI and fine bike shops.

SKS Fatboard Fender Set

When the weather gets warmer you are going to want a good set of fenders to keep you dry when pedaling through slush, water and mud.  SKS Fatboard Fenders come in a set and just became available at your local bike shop.  I got a set from SKS before they available and tried them out on some of my wet commutes to work.  They really did the job of keeping me dry and the quick-release rear fender with an adjustable two-hinge arm to accommodate my bike's geometry made it a perfect fit.  The front fender straps quickly and easily to the downtube and prevents the continual spray of my front wheel and puddle jumping  from soaking me.  Made of rigid plastic, they have plenty of coverage to keep you dry on those messy Winter/Spring rides. MSRP is $54.99 for the set.  Available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

1/14/2016

More Ski Resorts Offering Access to Fatbikes


As more cyclists are extending their riding season with fatbikes, ski resorts are taking notice of the sport.  Ski resort access for fatbikes first started a couple of years ago at the Gran Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming.  Gran Targhee Resort was the first in the nation "to embrace and endorse winter fat bikes on the Nordic trail system".  As ski resorts see this opportunity for extra revenue during the Winter months, many have opened up their Nordic trails to fatbikes.  But the most exciting trend beginning to happen now is fatbike downhill with lift access.


Last March the Mankato Area Mountain Bikers in coordination with Nicollet Bike Shop and Mount Kato held the first ever Nicollet Bike Fat Bike Gravity Fest.  With over 100 fatbikers in attendance that day, the event was a huge success and promises to be even bigger and better than last year with an exclusive chair lift for bikers only, more distance and different trailsFat Bike Gravity Fest 2016 takes place on Sunday, March 6th from 12:00 to 4:00pm with open practice/ride time on the fatbike specific trails and hills from 12pm to 3:30pm and race against the clock in the downhill time trial (Super D format) that starts at 3:30pm.  This is your once-a-year chance to ride Mount Kato so don't miss it.  For more information see my post Fat Bike Gravity Fest Returns To Mount Kato.

Image Credit: Spirit Mountain

Spirit Mountain in Duluth announced this week that it will start lift-served, downhill, Winter fatbiking on Sundays from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  The fun kicks off Sunday, January 17th during the 2nd Annual Ski Hut Weekend

Image Credit: Spirit Mountain

Tickets can be purchased in advance online for the Sunday of your choice through February 28th.  Tickets are limited per day and to reserve your spot it is recommended you purchase them online.

Details from Spirit Mountain:
  • Minimum tire width 3.5″
  • Helmet Required
  • Brakes for each wheel are required
  • A seat/seat post inspection  is required prior to allowing bike on chair lift
  • All tickets, parking, inspections happen out of our Grand Avenue Chalet located at 8551 Grand Ave Duluth, MN.  Please note: due to winter snow tubing operations, mountain bike parking and access to trails is not available from our Adventure Park.  
  • Must abide by Bike Responsibility Code & Trail Code
  • Terrain open will vary during the season based upon snow pack, conditions, etc.  Visit out snow report for updates.
  • Planned open trails are Timber Cruiser, Juggler Joe as well as Mountain Bike trails of Candy Land, Happy Camper & Lower Calculated Risk


Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado just last week announced that it "will allow winter biking before and after ski resort operating hours".  This would allow fatbikers access to the mountain with a similar policy already in place for uphill skiers.  With more ski resorts beginning to allow access to fatbikers, I hope the resorts here in Minnesota will see the value in adopting their own policy allowing fatbikes.  Two Minnesota ski resorts have already granted access to fatbikes on their Nordic trails.


Two Winters ago Giants Ridge in Biwabik was one of the first in Minnesota to allow fatbikers to ride on their groomed Nordic trails.  This Winter they are opening 60km of Nordic trail access to fatbikes.  A proper trail day pass or season pass is required.  Fatbike rentals are also available at the rental shop.

Image Credit: Detroit Mountain Rec. Area
Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes will have bike trails open to snowshoeing/fatbiking with "Select Groomed Ski Trails may be available for Fat Biking depending upon Daily Snow Conditions."   Fatbike rentals are available at the Detroit Mountain Lodge.

New this year as part of the Detroit Lakes Polar Fest, Detroit Mountain will be hosting the SNOway But Round Fat Bike Race on February 7th.  "The SNOway But Round Fat Bike Race is Detroit Mountain's first winter fat bake race. A specially designed 5 mile course will wind it's way around the base area and through our Nordic ski and XC flow trails. Choose from one or two laps."

Fatbikes are not a fad that is going away and as more ski resorts offer access to them it is my hope that other resorts will also join in.  Please be sure to always follow IMBA's Fat Bike Best Practices to ensure a good relationship with the landowners granting access as these practices will help open more riding opportunities in the future.

1/08/2016

Twin Cities Area Winter Fatbike Trail Opportunities


Winter fatbiking is big in Minnesota and the Twin Cities have quite a few trail systems that are groomed or snowshoe stomped by volunteers to pack the trails for riding.  With the ever increasing popularity of  these wide low pressure tire bikes, new trail riding opportunities have popped up.  I have compiled a list of these trails open to winter mountain biking with links to maps, trail information, trail conditions and Facebook/Twitter pages if available.  Trails that have Facebook or Twitter pages will post trail openings and conditions or closures due to warm weather.

Low tire pressure, usually 10 psi or lower and tires 3.8 inches or wider are recommended for use on these trails in the Winter.  Skinny tires can be used when trails are firmly packed enough to not cause ruts or damage.

Image Credit: Bertram Lakes Singletrack Facebook Page
Bertram Chain of Lakes
Monticello
Map     Trail Info     Facebook  

Winter fatbiking is allowed but please stay off the cross-country ski trails.  Group ride information can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Image Credit: Brookview Golf Course website
Brookview Golf Course
Golden Valley
Facebook

Brookview Golf Course has multi-use trails that are open to fatbiking for the second year.  Fatbike rentals are available and the Fattyshack grill is open on weekends serving up food and cocktails.  For more information see the City of Golden Valley's recent article.
Carver Lake Park
Woodbury
Map     Trail Info     Facebook  

Carver Lake Park is host to the Cold Catfish Cup that takes place January 24th.  Watch the MORC Racing Forum for updates.  Group ride information can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum  and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Image Credit: Three Rivers Park District
Cleary Lake Region Park
Prior Lake
Map     Trail Info     Facebook

Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake grooms trails for cross-country skiing and according to Explore Minnesota it also has a "fat tire" trail with bike rentals available during the winter.  Call Cleary Lake Regional Park (763-694-7777) for more information.

Elm Creek Park Reserve 
Maple Grove
Map     Trail Info     Facebook

Elm Creek is home to the Fatbike Frozen 40 taking place on February 13, 2016 and two of the the four races in the Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series.  Group ride information can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Image Credit: Bonnie Moebeck
Fort Snelling State Park 
Maple Grove
Map     Trail Info     Facebook

The Minnesota DNR added 6 new miles of packed multi-use trails last year as part of its Winter Fat Biking Pilot Project

Credit: Mistermoose.org
Hillside City Park* 
 Elk River

Hillside is home to FatBikeFest taking place on February 28th.  Watch the MORC Racing Forum for updates.  *Day Pass fee required.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park-West 
Eagan
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter
 

Check in with the Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail Facebook page for trail openings and closures from Dakota County Parks due to weather.  Group ride information can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Mendota Trail (MN River Bottoms) 
Eagan
Map     Trail Info

This multi-use trail has access points in Eagan at the Cedar Ave. bridge and in the town of Mendota.  It follows the Minnesota River through Fort Snelling State Park and access to the Minnesota River Bottoms on the North side of the river can be done by taking the pedestrian bridge on the Cedar Ave. bridge.
 
Minnesota River Bottoms 
Bloomington

The 4th Annual Get Phat With Pat Winter fatbike races will be held at the Minnesota River Bottoms on January 23rd and January 30th.  These races will include new and challenging groomed trails through sections of the Minnesota River Bottoms you don't normally get to ride through.  There are several weekly group rides held here and more information can be found about them on the MORC Group Rides Forum and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Image Credit:  Deathrider
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve 
Savage

Murphy-Hanrehan hosts two of the the four races in the Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series.  Group ride information can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum  and the MN Fatbike Group Rides Facebook group.

Salem Hills/Harmon Park Reserve
Inver Grove Heights
Map     Trail Info     Facebook


Credit: Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates Facebook Page
Theodore Wirth Park 
Minneapolis
Map     Trail Info     Facebook     Twitter

The mountain bike trails at Theodore Wirth Park are monitored and maintained by MOCA volunteers.  Closures and trail conditions can be found on the MOCA website in the upper left-hand corner of the page and rider reports are listed on the Theodore Wirth MORC Trail Conditions Forum page.

Other informative Twin Cities mountain biking links can be found below and remember to always follow IMBA's Fat Bike Best Practices to maintain and gain more trail access and give our sport a good name.

MORC-Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists
Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates

For a complete listing of this Winter's fatbike events, see my post Winter '15-'16 Minnesota Fatbike Events.

Bookmark this post for quick reference. 

12/31/2015

Fat Bike Gravity Fest Returns To Mount Kato


Fat Bike Gravity Fest is coming to Mount Kato in Mankato on Sunday, March 6th.  This will be the second year of this event hosted by Nicollet Bike Shop and the Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB).  I had a chance to make it to last year's event and had the time of my life.  What could be better than riding fatbikes down ski slopes?


This year promises to be even bigger and better than last year with an exclusive chair lift for bikers only, more distance and different trails.


Come early for the open practice/ride time on the fatbike specific trails and hills from 12pm to 3:30pm and race against the clock in the downhill time trial (Super D format) that starts at 3:30pm.  After your done, watch your friends try to beat your time during their runs and either cheer them on or throw a few heckles their way.


$30 gets you an unlimited lift ticket for the open practice/ride time and downhill time trial race.  A portion of the proceeds go back to the Mankato Area Mountain Bikers for their trail building efforts.  Fatbikes with tires 3.8" or wider are required to attend.


This is definitely one fatbike event you're not going to want to miss.  It's a rare opportunity to ride on some great downhill runs and put your skills to the test.  Last year over 100 riders showed up and this year will bring even more out.  Hopefully the success of Fat Bike Gravity Fest will get other ski resorts thinking about hosting events like this one.


If you would like to see all of my pictures and video from the 2015 Nicollet Bike Fat Bike Gravity Fest visit my Flickr album.
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