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.

*CamelBak Podium bottle with Jet Valve was used during testing.

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.


The Filthy 50 Returns for Second Year & Announces “This Filthy World” Series

After the success and all of the positive feedback that was a part of the inaugural Filthy 50, race organizer Trenton Raygor is bringing it back again this fall.  The second annual Filthy 50 will take place on October 12th in Stewartville, MN on some of the best gravel roads in Olmstead and Filmore county. 

The Details 
  • The Filthy 50 will take place on Sunday, October 12th, 2014.
  • The race begins and ends on the north end of Stewartville, MN.  The start will take place at 10:00 am and riders will have until 4:00 pm to officially finish. 
  • Registration will open on Thursday, March 20th and can be completed quickly online.  Visit The Filthy 50 Registration page and fill out the waiver before the registration deadline or the 600 rider cap is reached.  Registration is FREE again this year and first come will be first served.   
  • This race is completely unsupported, you are responsible for you.  Individuals should bring EVERYTHING that they need for the ride and expect absolutely NOTHING to be provided on race day. 
  • A GPX file will be made available for download to all riders on the roster.  Use this file with your Garmin GPS or smartphone cycling app for navigation along the course.  
  • Elevation profiles of the course will be provided in one form or another to those on this year's roster as well as to the general public through Filthy 50 communication channels. 
  • Days before the ride, those on the roster will be sent race day logistics as well as a printable set of cue sheets that they should print out and carry with them to direct them through The Filthy 50 course.

Image Credit:  Trenton Raygor

The Rules
  • You are 100% on your own.  There is no sag, there is no support for this ride.
  • This ride is unsupported.  Bring EVERYTHING with you that you will need. 
  • Wear a helmet. 
  • Do not litter. 
  • Obey all traffic laws. 
  • If you must urinate, please do not do it in front of the locals or other competitors. 
  • Ride safely and use good judgement. 
  • Have fun. 
  • You are responsible for you. 

"Why unsupported? Why so bare bones?  We have participated in many supported rides over the years.  Many of those rides were difficult prior to even getting onto our bikes.  In the end, we all just want to enjoy ourselves in our own way. Right?  We don't want to fill out a pile of paperwork.  That gets to be a little too much like a day at the office.  Riders who are looking to race a super fun gravel course are going to be pleased with the gravel, terrain, and potential top speeds.  Riders who are looking to crush a colorful fall gravel course are going to be super pleased as well.  Personally, we enjoy doing both." - The Filthy 50 Race organizer Trenton Raygor.


A raffle will be held again this year to help generate funds to cover the cost of The Filthy 50.  Prizes raffled off are donated by these generous sponsors:

ADAM TURMAN - A professional illustrator & poster artist from the Twin Cities.
BANJO BROTHERS - Tough. Practical. Affordable. Bike Bags.
 BICYCLE SPORTS - A full service bike shop in Rochester, MN.
FAREWAY - An economical food store located in Stewartville, MN.
 HED - The best wheels on the planet. Seriously.
 PENN CYCLE - Your Twin Cities bike shop.
 ROCHESTER CYCLING - A Rochester, MN bike shop for all of your bike needs.

Despite this being a free event, it wouldn’t be able to happen as intend without the support of these amazing sponsors and incredible volunteers.   If you are interested in sponsoring or volunteering this year, please send an email to thefilthy50@gmail.com.  You can also show your support by donating to The Filthy 50 through their website.

If you have never done a gravel grinder before or are looking add another race this season, here is your chance.  To quote The Filthy 50 website, "Race it and set a record.  Ride it and take in the beauty.  Either way, get filthy."

Trenton congratulated every racer as they crossed the finish line last year.

As mentioned above, The Filthy 50 is free and online registration opens at 12:00am Thursday, March 20th.  Visit The Filthy 50 Registration page and fill out the waiver to get signed up.  I would encourage gravel enthusiasts and registered riders to follow @thefilthy50 on Twitter and Facebook as updates will be posted in the coming months.  For any and all questions regarding The Filthy 50, drop an email to thefilthy50@gmail.com.

News Release From Trenton

We have had many riders who rode last year’s Filthy share the reason for their enthusiasm over what we do.  First and foremost, riders applauded the course citing that it was tough yet do-able.  It was also great to hear how so many really appreciated that it was a free event.  For us, we were inspired greatly by the young folks that came out to ride with us.  Your thoughts resonated a lot with us and inspired to give a little more in 2014.  So, in addition to hosting another free, challenging yet inclusive Filthy 50, this year, we are holding a series of three additional gravel group rides during the summer months that we are calling “This Filthy World”.  These group rides are all about riding with friends and having a filthy good time!

June:  Gravel Night Lights - Twin Cities metro area
This one’s for all of you night owls out there who like a little bit of gravel riding with your pizza and beer.  This ride is all about the fun!  You’re definitely going to need some lights for this one.
July:  The Little Filthy - Twin Cities metro area
This ride will offer a 5 and a 15 mile gravel route.  Yes, we like the number 5.  As always, everyone is welcome to participate, but we’re hoping to see some little gravel grinders out there in a trailer or on a bike of their own crushing it with mom and/or dad. 

August:  Roman Candles - Southeastern Minnesota
This gravel course is shaping up to be memorable.  Prepare for some climbing and some gorgeous remote roads.  Also, bring your tents, lights, and appetites because there will likely be some post ride food, camping, and night gravel to be had.

All of the above rides will be free.  Registration for these group rides will happen the same way as it does with The Filthy 50.  We know that this announcement lacks specifics, but that’s likely because we’re still working out a few details.  To learn more about those details as we lock em down, keep an eye on http://the-filthy-50.com/ , our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.


The Twin Cities 100 Showcases Our Extensive Urban Trail System

The Twin Cities 100 is an urban bike ride in its second year.  Ride founder and director, Ryan Diedrich told me, "We ride a loop based 100-mile course through the existing urban bike trails, lane and boulevards of Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area."  The mission statement for the ride is simple, "The Twin Cities area has one of the most extensive and active urban trail systems in the U.S. We want you to get out there and enjoy it!"
Image Credit:  The Twin Cities 100

This free and unsupported ride is open to all ages and abilities and will be held on Saturday, September 6th starting at a base camp set up at the picnic area near the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.

The Twin Cities 100 recently released the following statement:

 Hello Everyone!

We are very proud to announce that registration is now open for the 2014 Twin Cities 100 Urban Bike Ride!

Following last years incredibly successful 2013 Twin Cities 100 Founder’s Ride we have made some serious upgrades with a brand new website, including streamlined registration, new ways of giving back to support the cause (Donations!) and a shiny new merchandise store (arriving shortly)!

For those of you new to the Twin Cities 100, simply put:
“We are a gathering of passionate cyclists who set out each fall to experience and showcase the amazing cycling infrastructure that the Minneapolis - Saint Paul metro area has to offer.“

Each fall we host a FREE urban bike ride that takes you through 100 miles worth of these two great cities. Last year we held our Founding Ride with a turn-out that was far better than we had ever
anticipated going into this and we met some great people along the way who showed up, had a fun time out there riding the trails, getting to know new people and experiencing what the cities have to offer. And that is what the Twin Cites 100 hopes to stand for.

The 2014 Twin Cities 100 will be held on Saturday September 6th at 7:30am and will conclude when you cross the finish line 100 miles later. The ride is free, open to all ages and ability levels and is a completely self-supporting course. Course details are to follow, but for now get on over to our new website at www.ridetwincities.org, fill out a FREE registration form and do please consider giving a donation.

There is no cap on registration, so please spread the word!

We hope to see you on the trails!

Ryan & The Twin Cities 100 Crew

We wouldn't be able to make it happen without your support!
In order to keep these great rides free and to ensure that we are able to provide the best organization and the most enjoyable events we need your support. Any donations large and small are extremely welcome and will be put to good work in providing the best ride for years to come.

You can contribute to our ride at www.ridetwincities.org/sponsorship
100% of every donation goes directly to programming. We deeply appreciate your support.

Image Credit:  The Twin Cities 100

For more details on the Twin Cities 100, visit the Ride Information page and then head over to the Registration page for your free registration and waiver.  If you would like to be a supporter by making a donation, becoming a sponsor or a volunteer, please visit the Sponsorship page.


2014 Minnesota Gravel Grinders

Rural Minnesota is home to quite a few long standing gravel road races and with the growing popularity of the sport, rides to introduce those new to gravel are beginning to pop up, too.  With varying terrain, minimum maintenance roads, elevation changes, great rural scenery and unpredictable weather in the Spring and Fall, these events are sure to be fun and challenging.  Almost all of them are free, but unsupported requiring the participants to be their own repair and support crew.

This season's calendar will include all types of  gravel races and rides from around the state.  Some of these have registration cutoff dates that have already passed, have a rider cap, or more information and registration details that are yet to be announced.  Below is a list of all of the gravel events in Minnesota that I'm aware of in chronological order.  I will continue to update and add events to this post as they become available.  If you are a race or event organizer and would like your event listed here and on my 2014 Minnesota Bike Tours, Rides, Races & Events Schedule, please send me an e-mail.

Lakeville-Milltown-Lakeville-March 29, 2014
Lakeville, MN
Approx. 80 miles 
100 rider cap

Ragnarök 105-April 12, 2014
Red Wing, MN
105 miles
Registration closed 

Miesville Grinder-April 13, 2014
Miesville, MN
56, 47, 35, 25 miles 
Registration closed

Mammoth Gravel Classic-April 19, 2014
St. Croix Falls, WI
100, 70, 30 miles
100 mile course details 

Dickie Scramble-April 26, 2014
Elgin, MN
75 miles 
Registration open to day of race.
Facebook Event Page 

Trailhead 32/22 Gravel Ride-May 10, 2014
Twin Lakes City Park
Anoka, MN
32 miles (22 miles gravel)
Ride course 

Alexander-May 16-18, 2014
Spring Valley, MN 
Registration closed

Almanzo 100-May 17, 2014
Spring Valley, MN
100 miles
Registration closed

The Royal 162-May 17, 2014
Spring Valley, MN
162 miles
Registration closed 

Miesville Redux - Gents Ride-June 8, 2014
Miesville, MN
40 miles 

Westside Dirty Benjamin-June 14, 2014
Chaska, MN
Approx. 90 miles
Registration closed 

Harlan's Blast Bicycle Loop Around Siouxland Tour-June 20-23, 2014
Sioux Falls, SD/Luverne, MN/Pipestone, MN
Gravel Blast
Day 1: Depart Sioux Falls for Luverne Mn. 37 miles.
Day 2: Depart Luverne for Pipestone, MN. 44 miles.
Day 3: Out and Back to Pipestone. 40 miles.
Day 4: Depart Pipestone for Sioux Falls. 60 miles.
Gravel Blast Online Registration 

RiotGRRRavel-June 21, 2014
Hastings, MN
30-35 miles
Registration closed 

Innuendo Gravel Grinder-June 22, 2014
Climax, MN
200, 100 miles
Details to come. 

Dirty Lemming Gravel Grinder-July 26, 2014
Watertown, MN
100 miles, 100km 
Postcard registration open April 1st 

Gravel Grinder Music Fest-July 27, 2014
French Lake, MN
Approx. 60 miles 

Fiddlin' Fifty-August 23, 2014
Balkan Township, MN
55 miles
Facebook Event Page 
Postcard registration closes August 20
100 rider cap

La Crosse Gravel Classic-August 31, 2014
La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival
La Crosse, WI
56 miles

The Gravel Conspiracy-September 5-7, 2014
Superior National Forest
Duluth, MN
Online Registration 

Inspiration 100-September 6, 2014
Garfield, MN
105+ miles
Postcard registration closed
135 rider cap 

Four H Gravel Ride-September 20, 2014
(Hawley Hills Half & Hundred Gravel Ride)
Hawley, MN
100, 50, 30 miles 

Legendary Laurentian Adventure Bike Ride-September 20, 2014
Giants Ridge
Biwabik, MN
Aprrox. 50 miles 
Registration required: email John Filander or call 218-865-8021 

River Valley 100-September 21, 2014
Mankato Family YMCA
Mankato, MN
100 miles-paved route
100 km-gravel route
Online Registration 

Heck of the North-October 4, 2014
Two Harbors, MN
108 miles
Online Registration  

The Heroic-October 4, 2014 Cancelled
Cannon Falls, MN 

Tour of Filmore-October 5, 2014
Lanesboro, MN
65 miles 
Facebook Event Page 

The Filthy 50-October 12, 2014
Stewartville, MN
Approx. 50 miles 
Online Registration  

Minnesota State Gravel Championships-October 18-19, 2014
Northfield, MN
Postcard registration opens August 2nd 

Rosemount-Miesville Gravel Grinder 105k-October 18, 2014
Rosemount, MN
65 miles 

Dirt Bag 2014-October 25, 2014
Clearwater, MN
Approx. 85 miles
Postcard registration details


The Miesville Grinder: A Scenic Gravel Ride Close to the Twin Cities

The Miesville Grinder takes place April 13th and is a ride through some of the best scenery that country gravel roads close to the Twin Cities can provide.  The idea for the ride comes from Marsh Jones who told me, "The Miesville Grinder is a concept I've had since I started toying with gravel two years ago".  He realized the area around Miesville, New Trier, Vermillion and Welch was "...one of the few places within 45 miles of the metro that had enough gravel roads that were interesting enough to make a complete ride".  "This is a ride for anyone who wants to drag themselves out to the country for a nice ride, be it a rookie or winner of Trans-Iowa.  It's especially well suited for someone who wants to try the sport, but isn't sure how much gravel they can do, or isn't sure about the distance."  

The route runs from the flat farm fields of south Dakota county on down to the bluffs and coulees along the Cannon River, with a turn-around in Welch Village.  It also goes past Chimney Rock State Natural Area, and the Little Log House Pioneer Village.  This is a very non-technical ride, but there is one short (<1/2mi) section of B road that may encourage less experienced riders to walk for a short part of it."

"The route is published at 56 miles, but there will be several options to shorten the route, including easy 'bailout' points in case of bad weather or tired legs.  You are never more than about 15 miles from the start in any direction!"  

The Miesville Grinder is a free ride with no support and no signs.  You are responsible for you, so bring everything you will need.  A route map and GPX file will be posted to the Miesville Grinder page a week or more ahead of the event. Marsh will explain the route and have cue sheets available for those that didn't print them from the website before the start of the ride.

This low-key ride is a great opportunity for those that love gravel and those that want to try it out and experience some great scenery while riding with others.  The complete route is 56 miles, but there are plenty of route options offering scenic rides of 25, 35 and 47 miles.  After the ride there will be a gathering at King's Place for awesome burgers and beverages.

I'm really looking forward to the Miesville Grinder because these roads are my gravel training grounds and I know them well.  It will be nice to ride them with others, especially those that have never experienced them and discover how special this area is.  I rarely come across other cyclist while riding here, but after the Miesville Grinder, I have a feeling that will change. 

Whether you are an experienced gravel rider or would like to give gravel a try, I encourage you to sign up for the Miesville Grinder and crush some gravel.  Registration has reached cap and is now closed.

*All images in this post are from the Miesville Grinder course.


RiotGRRRaveL Debuts to Introduce Gravel Racing to Women, Their Families and Friends

Riot GRRRaveL is new to the Minnesota gravel scene this year with a 30-35 mile free race/ride that is designed to introduce more women to gravel racing.  Cyclist Ellie Skelton wanted to make this happen after watching her friend Trenton Raygor's Filthy 50 race come together. "The idea for the ride came from attending several biking events where the field was predominantly male. After riding the Filthy 50 last fall, I started thinking of ways to get women to try riding on gravel. 30 miles seemed like it would make a low barrier to entry for women who may have heard about longer gravel races but were intimidated by the long distances. Having two teenage daughters, I wanted to expose them to gravel racing as well. That's really the goal: get more women & teens excited about gravel racing."

Ellie at The Filthy 50
Image Credit:  Ellie Skelton
"We wanted something close to the Twin Cities.  Right now we're evaluating course options that are 30-35 miles. We definitely want to develop a scenic route with a good climb or two--but not as intense as some of the climbs on the Almanzo 100 course.  The ride will be unsupported with the same, "you are responsible for you," philosophy that other free gravel races have."

Riot GRRRaveL will be held on Saturday, June 21st south of Hastings, MN and will be limited to 100 riders.  The event will start at 9:30 am and have a time limit of five hours.  Is this a ride or is it a race?  The answer is both.  "We are open to however someone wants to ride this!  Riotgrravel will showcase the speed of  some of the area's amazing female gravel racers and offer an opportunity for new racers to experience an entry ride at their own pace."

Sign up, volunteer for race day or introduce someone new to gravel by visiting the sign up sheet.  Sponsors are also needed for Riot GRRRaveL, visit the sign up sheet to get in touch with Ellie and help her make this inaugural event a success.

For more updates or to share your first gravel racing stories with Ellie, visit the Riot GRRRaveL Facebook page.  Riot GRRRaveL is also on Instagram


Desert Mountain Bike Winter Getaway with Help From Arizona Outback Adventures

I recently took a winter getaway vacation to the Phoenix area of Arizona and after fatbiking snowy singletrack for the last few months, I was ready to do some mountain biking on dirt again.  It has been a long cold winter here in Minnesota and a ride through the desert with the warm sun shining down would be a welcome and much needed change.  It would also be an opportunity to introduce my wife to mountain biking, which she has never done before.

After reading many positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, I contacted Arizona's premier adventure tour company, Arizona Outback Adventures.  For the best possible ride experience I wanted to get set up with quality mountain bike rentals and expert recommendations of where to ride.  This would be my wife's first time out on the singletrack and I wanted her to be confident with the bike, trails and riding conditions while still being challenged making it a positive experience for her.  Annemarie and the rest of the staff at Arizona Outback Adventures made this all possible.

There were several locations nearby to ride with varying terrain and technical difficulty so the AOA staff consulted us and helped select the appropriate trails to match our riding criteria.  Coming from Minnesota, I didn't want to do a lot of difficult rapid elevation climbs and because my wife would be riding with me also, advanced technical trails would not be a good choice either.  We wanted to ride through the desert, take in the spectacular scenery and be challenged while still having some elevation gain and fast downhills.  The AOA staff recommended McDowell Mountain Regional Park which includes the Pemberton Trail and many connecting trails and washes in the area.  Then they supplied us with maps, quality well maintained mountain bikes (Giant XTC 29'er w/ front suspension) for the type of terrain we would be riding, and a bike rack to get them there since it would be about a 40 minute drive to reach the park.

After paying the $6 entry fee to the park, we headed toward the Trailhead Staging Area.  The scenery was already breathtaking with all of the desert vegetation and the McDowell Mountains in the distance.  We decided to ride the 15.4 mile Pemberton Trail in a clockwise loop through the park.

We took it slow during the first 8 miles to take in all of the scenery as we drew closer to the McDowell Mountains, which became about 650 feet of climbing.  The climb was fun and challenging in some of the rocky steeper areas but not too difficult for my wife who is a novice mountain biker.  She had a great time on her first mountain biking expedition.  The only thing that intimidated her was coming across a large rattlesnake that was only two feet off the trail under some scrub brush five minutes into our ride.  It warned us with its rattle and quickly scurried away into the brush.  We kept our eyes peeled for more of them after that brief encounter.

The second half of the Pemberton loop was all downhill and like riding a flow trail.  Not much pedaling and plenty of braking and weight shifting in the turns made it fast and fun.  Arizona Outback Adventures' staff had provided the perfect recommendation of where to ride.  The Pemberton Trail was exactly what we were looking for in our first mountain biking adventure in the desert.  

Below is the RideWithGPS track of our ride with geo-tagged photos.  To view all of our photos, visit my Flickr Set, Mountain Biking McDowell Mountain Regional Park and Map for geo-location of each photo.

To get a video overview of the Pemberton Trail, watch the YouTube video below.

If you plan on visiting the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and want to get in some great mountain biking, I highly recommend Arizona Outback Adventures.  The bike rentals, consultation and experienced staff recommendations were all top-notch.  AOA not only has bike rentals (MTB, Road, Hybrid and Childrens), but has guided Mountain Bike Adventure Tours and Half-Day Mountain Biking Tours.  Escape the cold for warm desert singletrack with the help of Arizona Outback Adventures!

For more information on Arizona Outback Adventures, visit their website or give them a call at 1-866-455-1601.


Product Reveiw: Hydrapak SoftFlask

Hydrapack debuted its new additions to the SoftFlask line at Interbike 2013 now offering 3 new sizes.  These new sizes expand on its original two (5 & 8 oz) that were primarily used for gels to be more water specific.  The three new sizes include the SF350 (12 oz), SF 500 (17 oz) and SF750 (25 oz).  They have a wide cap for easy filling, a shut-off for storage, a newly designed high-flow silicone bite valve with cap and a carry strap.  They are also BPA & PVC free, top-rack dishwasher safe and come with a No Leak Product Warranty.

I have had some time to test the SF 350 and SF 500 in warm and cold weather to see how they perform.  I've taken them with me out on the gravel, singletrack, winter fatbiking and hiking filled with water and water with electrolyte enhanced drink tabs.

I really like the convenience of the SoftFlask over the standard stiff plastic water bottle.  They are easy to fill and clean and don't leak when stored filled for later use.  The bite valve provides a fast flow that doesn't leak, even when not twisted into the lock position.  One of my favorite features of the SoftFlask is the way they collapse as you drink from them.  As they are emptied they crumple up into a very small size that is easily stored in a pocket or bag.

For winter cycling, SoftFlasks work great when stored in the back pockets of a cycling jacket.  The warmth of the perspiration vapor that passes through the jacket seems to be enough to keep them from freezing.  I have biked for hours in all types of below freezing temperatures with filled SoftFlasks in my jacket pockets and have not had any of them begin to freeze up.  In extreme cold, I have had the water in the bite valve freeze, but that was remedied by biting the valve crushing the ice thus restoring water flow. 

I like the SoftFlask for warm weather riding, too.  They fit easily in my jersey pocket and conform to my back for comfort unlike a hard plastic water bottle.  This product works great year round and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a quality alternative to plastic water bottles and bulky hydration packs.

Hydrapak Softflasks are available exclusively at all REI stores nationwide now through May and from the Hydrapak online store.

Disclosure:  Outside PR and Hydrapak provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.
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