Gravelmap Launches Interactive User Submitted Gravel Route Database


Gravelmap is a new website that launched on April 1st and comes to us from a web developer/cyclist from southern Oregon.  After first learning of Gravelmap, I saw huge potential for this budding new resource and decided to get in touch with the site's creator to learn more about it and to give a little feedback about its current features. 

Theo responded filling me in on all of the details of Gravelmap and even implemented several of my suggestions to make the site better and even more user friendly.  He proceeded to tell me, "Last year, I acquired an interest in "gravel grinding," as many others have done. Here in Oregon we have lots of gravel, but finding it can be a challenge. Though the roads are plentiful (BLM/USFS roads, logging roads, etc.), when planning a route using Google Maps or topographic maps, it's not always clear if a road is accessible, legal to access, traversable by bike -- or if it even exists. As I explored, I found many great roads, not to mention a few dead ends here and there. But, more than that, I began to contemplate the idea of a resource to help other cyclists find the roads I was enjoying. As more and more people acquired cross bikes and began searching for gravel, I began to hear the same question from friends on Facebook and elsewhere: 'Does anyone know where the gravel roads are?'"

"While out on a ride about a month ago, I had the idea to build a site that would allow users to "draw" and save routes over a live map. Google Maps offers a very powerful interface for extending and adding to its functionality, and the fact that I had worked with it before made it an easy choice to use as the basis for the tool. I spent a series of late nights and a weekend or two building the route mapping engine (the components that make it possible to click, drag, and delete points on the map to create a route), followed by the pieces surrounding it -- the database on the back end, site pages, user login/registration functions, and so on. Eventually I had something that was bare-bones but functional, and I leased a hosting account and launched the site on April 1." 

Because Gravelmap is so new the route database is very limited, but that's where you come in.  Your added gravel routes will be extremely beneficial to the growth and usefulness of this great new resource. 

"Most people who find the site simply want to know where the gravel is in their area, and new routes will help make that happen.  My sole intent in building the site is to help share the passion that I have for gravel and backroads cycling. I check the stats and the route database multiple times per day and I get genuinely excited when I see new signups or new routes added -- it feels great to know that people are participating."  

I am always looking for new gravel roads to ride and Gravelmap now allows me to find other user's routes in my area and I can share mine.  Getting started is easy, simply click "Log in" on the top navbar and sign up instantly using Facebook or create a user name and enter an email address with a password.  That's it, you're ready to start sharing your routes, voting on routes and leaving comments on routes you've tried.

Using Gravelmap is easy, visit the Gravelmap Help page for an overview of how to browse the map, add your first route and to see what the guidelines are for adding routes.  Once you have added a route to the Gravelmap database or found a route you would like to try, click anywhere on the route to display more details including:
  • Description 
  • Overlapping routes
  • Elevation profile (including reverse direction, if desired) 
  • Export a GPX file for the route
  • Vote on the route
  • Leave a comment
  • Embeddable route profile (copy and paste a HTML snippet to display a route on a webpage or blog)

Future plans for Gravelmap include user profile pages (click on a user's name to see the other routes they've created) and route editing.  Gravelmap is also compatible with Android devices and is iPhone friendly.  Images below are from an Android phone.

Sign up today to be a part of this fledgling resource and help with the growth of its interactive database of gravel/dirt roads and paths.  After getting to know Gravelmap you may find a bug or have an idea to make the site even better, feedback is welcomed from the developer.  Visit the Feedback page to voice your ideas or problems.  For more information, news, terms & conditions and privacy policy, visit the About Gravelmap page.  Follow Gravelmap on Twitter (@Gravelmap) or "Like" on Facebook.

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Product Review: All Mountain Style Frame Guard

The All Mountain Style Frame Guard is a product I came across last fall that offers protection for a bike's frame and paint.  It is made from high impact and rub resistance honeycomb 380 microns semi-rigid PVC and stays in place with an automotive-grade adhesive.  Its simple design and ease of installation peaked my curiosity and I wanted to put it to the test on a fatbike during a harsh Minnesota winter and spring.  This would give me an idea of its frame protection performance and how it stands up to the elements year round.  The AMS Frame Guard would be put through some extreme riding conditions including sub-zero temperatures, ice, snow, mud and wet gravel.  Would it stay put without peeling off and would it protect the bike's frame and paint job?  Only time would tell.

Installation of the AMS Frame Guard was very easy and didn't take long.  I cleaned and prepped the application areas with alcohol proceeded to apply the appropriate pieces.  Each piece conformed nicely to the curvature of the bike frame and the adhesive allowed repositioning if needed.  The down tube extension pieces make for a custom fit on many different frame sizes.  Bottle cage bolts were easily trimmed around with a sharp knife.  Firmly pressing and rubbing on the installed pieces worked all of the air bubbles out providing full contact and the clear frame guards almost disappeared except for their honeycomb pattern.  From a distance, you wouldn't even notice them on the bike.

I also installed the pieces designed to go on the drive side chainstay and trimmed pieces to be placed on brake and shifter cable rubbing points.

After a long, cold winter and quite a few messy spring gravel rides, the AMS Frame Guards did the job at protecting the paint and frame.  There were no impact marks, chips, scratches or rub marks on the covered areas.  Throughout all of the wet conditions experienced, the AMS Frame Guards stayed securely adhered to the frame without any peeling or signs of coming loose along their edges.

If you want to protect your mountain bike or fatbike, then the All Mountain Style Frame Guard is what you are looking for to do the job.  They come in regular or XL for larger diameter frame tubes in clear, black or XLFluor/Neon colors with 10 parts for a custom fit.  AMS Frame Guards can be purchased from the All Mountain Style website and include free shipping.

Disclosure:  All Mountain Style provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


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.


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! 
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