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, 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 2017 Minnesota Bike Tours, Rides, Races & Events Schedule, please send me an e-mail.
The"Trumpit"-March 18, 2017
Two Harbors, MN
Lakeville-Milltown-Lakeville-March 25, 2017
Ragnarök 105-April 1, 2017
Red Wing, MN
150 rider cap
Postcard registration November 25-December 31, 2016
Ride Like A Girl Cycling Dirty Girl Gravel Series #1-April 2, 2017
House of Coates
35, 29, 25, 18 miles
Lakeville Gravel: Will Bike for Donuts V3-April 8, 2017
Mammoth Gravel Classic-April 15, 2017
St. Croix Falls, WI
100, 70, 30 miles
Facebook Event Page
Dickie Scramble-April 22, 2017
Miesville FiftySix-April 30, 2017
Jack Ruhr Stadium
Registration is full
Alexander 380-May 19, 2017
Spring Valley, MN
Facebook Event Page
Almanzo 100/Royal 162-May 20, 2017
Spring Valley, MN
162, 100 miles
Facebook Event Page
Party in the Park at Wilderfest-May 20, 2017
Spring Valley, MN
Le Grand Du Nord-May 27, 2017
Grand Marais, MN
100, 50 miles
Online Registration opens January 14, 2017
Riotgrrravel-June 3, 2017
Hope Lutheran Church
33,20, 10 miles
Facebook Event Page
Luce Line Loops-June 10, 2017
Crow River Winery
75k Gravel Grinder
50, 25, 12 miles
Westside Dirty Benjamin-June 10, 2017
Facebook Event Page
Dirt Church Gravel Ride-June 18, 2017
Elk River, MN
50-60, 32 miles
Dirty Lemming Gravel Grinder-July 29, 2017
100 miles, 100 km
Tour de SAVE-July 29, 2017
Spring Creek Park Soccer Fields
62, 25, 10 miles paved
46 miles gravel
Facebook Event Page
Day Across Minnesota (DAMn) Gravel Road Race-August 5, 2017
Gary, SD/Hager City, WI
Registration is full
The Heck Epic-August 19-20, 2017
Two Harbors, MN
Approx. 110 miles
Gravel Cyclist Link
Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder-August 26, 2017
Balkan Township, MN
Approx. 50 miles
Riding Gravel Link
2017 Gravel Grovel-September 24, 2017
Approx. 80 miles
Life Time Gravel Fondo-September 24, 2017
Waconia Brewing Company
50, 25 mile
Heck of the North-September 30, 2017
Two Harbors, MN
105, 51 miles
Gravel Cyclist Link
The Filthy 50-October 8, 2017
52, 24, 12 miles
Dirt Bag-October 15, 2017
Now that we are finally seeing some arctic temperatures here in Minnesota, don't let that discourage you from riding. Clothing choice is only one part of winter cycling, hydrating in freezing temperatures is another. Keeping hydrated in sub-zero temperatures can create some challenges. I have had the last four winters to to do some product testing and below ares some of my recommendations for keeping hydrated and preventing your water from freezing up.
Hydrapak Soft Flasks
The Hydrapak Soft Flask is a product that has been out for a while now that I have tested and found that it worked great during very cold temperatures. This soft water bottle works best during winter rides when you put it in a jacket pocket (I have a Gore Bike Wear jacket with 3 pockets on the back like a jersey) where your body heat keeps it from icing up. The nice thing about these flasks is that they collapse as you drink from them making them smaller in your pocket. If the bite valve does freeze up, bite on the valve crushing the ice to restore water flow. Hydrapak Soft Flasks come in various sizes and are available from Hydrapak.
Water Bottle with Tall Boy Coozie
This one is a little trick I learned from friends who race some of coldest endurance fatbike races in the Great White North including one of the toughest, the Arrowhead 135. You can implement this practice with insulated or non-insulated water bottles. Tall boy coozies (for 16 & 25 oz. cans) work the best because they cover almost all of the bottle. The shorter (12 oz.) version can be used but only protect half the bottle. I used packing tape to secure the top of the coozie to the bottle so it wouldn't slide off when removing it from my bottle cage.
I recently tested this idea using an older model non-insulated Camelbak Podium 21 oz. water bottle with the Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozie mentioned below during single digit temps for 3 hours. Stored upside down in my bottle cage kept the water drinkable for the whole time. It had just began to ice up after the three hours but storing the bottle in this fashion kept the valve from freezing up. I've found that the jet valve on the Camelbak Podium bottles performs better in the bitter cold than the standard water bottle valve.
Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozies
My friend Neil from Gup Gum Gear set me up with a pair of these Bottle Cage Coozies a couple winters ago and they are now standard equipment for my cold weather rides. Paired with a water bottle/tallboy coozie stored upside-down, this combination keeps my water drinkable in very cold temperatures for hours. The Gup Gum Gear Bottle Cage Coozies work with any standard size bottle cage and the flip open front panel makes installation easy. Available from Gup Gum Gear for $25 each or a pair for $45.
Hydration Pack with Drink Tube Insulator
On all day rides where temperatures are in the teens and twenties Fahrenheit I like to use my hydration pack. The problem is if you don't insulate the drink tube or bite valve, they will freeze up. I came across the Platypus Bite Valve and Drink Tube Insulator at REI and an idea was sparked. I used only the Drink Tube Insulator since my pack was a GeigerRig and the bite valve was not compatible. To keep my bite valve from freezing up I simply tucked it into my jacket at the top of the zipper where my body heat kept it from freezing and I was able to drink for hours. To further keep the hydration bladder from forming ice during extended rides, chemical warmers can be placed around it inside the pack. The Platypus Bite Valve and Drink Tube Insulator is available from Cascade Designs, REI and various other outdoor retailers for $19.95.
Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag
The Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag puts snacks and water bottles in your cockpit for easy access while riding. Store water bottles upside down in the Mountain Feedbag to prevent the nozzle from freezing up. Smaller (21 oz.) bottles work best so they don't stick out too much from the top of the bag. Pair this set up with some chemical hand warmers inside the Feedbag for extra warmth to keep your bottle ice free on longer rides or colder temperatures. The Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag is available from Revelate Designs, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $49 each.
Salsa Anything Cage/Anything Bag
The Salsa Anything Cage or Anything Cage HD paired with the Anything Bag is a great way to store that insulated thermos filled with your favorite hot beverage. This cage/bag combo can be mounted on forks with bottle boss bolts or in your frame triangle where you would normally mount your bottle cages. The Anything Cage or Anything Cage HD available from Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $30 and $35. The Anything Bag is also available for $32.
Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Bottle
|Image Credit: Stanley|
Bring along your favorite hot beverage to warm you up out on the trail in the Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Bottle. Designed to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold using vacuum insulation, this bottle will work great with the Salsa Anything Cage and Anything Bag mentioned above. It is made from 18/8 Stainless Steel and the insulated lid doubles as a cup. This 25 oz. version is available from Stanley, REI and other outdoor retailers for $35.
Winter is finally here and and that opens up a lot of new opportunities to ride fatbikes. Some of these opportunities are made even better with the right gear. This will be my fifth year of winter cycling and I have a few favorite items that help make fatbiking out on the snow and ice much more enjoyable.
Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals
Riding in slippery or technical conditions while clipped in can be a bit unnerving for some whether you're a commuter or a fatbike enthusiast. For those that want to clip in some or most of the time while having the option of a flat, there's the Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals. This hybrid pedal is flat on one side with moulded pins and ribs for grip and clipless on the other side that can be set up with the included cleats for a 15 or 20 degree release angle. This is my go-to pedal for winter because it gives me the confidence of a flat when I need it for technical or icy sections. Clipping back in after using the flat side is as easy as rotating the crank arm one half revolution and stepping on until clipped. Crank Brother Double Shot Pedals are available from Crank Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $89.
Bontrager Barbegazi Tires
Orange Seal Subzero
Going tubeless for winter riding allows you to run lower pressures for the conditions without the risk of pinch flats which can happen when using tubes. If you're like me, riding in the extreme cold is common and I want a tubeless sealant that will still perform in sub-zero conditions. With Orange Seal Subzero Tubeless Sealant in my TLR tires I don't worry about it freezing up and not working. Orange Seal Subzero is available in 8 and 16 oz. bottles for $14.49 and $21.99 from Orange Seal, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.
Swapping out tires can be a pain, especially if you have them set up tubeless. For this reason I have built two extra wheelsets instead of buying another bike so I have the freedom of choosing the wheel/tire combo for the trail conditions. For fast hardpack I have a pair of Bontrager Hodags (27.5x3.8) mounted on Mulefut 50 SL wheels, for deep snow and bushwhacking I'm ready with Bontrager Barbegazis (26x4.7) on Mulefut 80 SL wheels and for the icy stuff I will be mounting a pair of the new Bontrager Gnarwhal (27.5x4.5) studded tires on my Jackalope wheels as soon as they are available. Switching out wheelsets is easy and only takes about 5 minutes giving me the option of the right tire for the conditions. Wheelsets can be expensive but you'll love the freedom of choice they give you not only in the winter, but year round. Visit your local bike shop to discuss a wheel build that works within your budget.
Global Fat-Bike Day is a worldwide grassroots campaign that started four years ago to bring people from the fatbike community together to ride and make new friends. In honor of Global Fat-Bike Day there are several rides scheduled here in Minnesota on December 3rd that you may want to get in on as well as the Winter Bike Expo, and the Superfat Crit. I have complied a list of them so you can get your "fat on" and ride with others of the "well-endowed tire crowd".
COGGS will be holding their 2016 Global Fat Bike Day Ride in Duluth with a meet up at 8am and ride at 9am with multiple ride lengths.
Nicollet Bike in Mankato will be hosting their Global Fat Bike Day 2016 group ride from 1:30pm to 4:30pm starting from the shop. "Riders of ALL levels are welcome! This is a no drop ride and will be very social. There will be a social gathering after the ride with some refreshing treats! Hope to see all of you there!!!"
The Woolly Bike Club has decided to move their Global Fat-Bike Day 2016 group ride adventure from the Woolly singletrack to the "Sand Barrens north of St. Croix Falls, where weather is not going to be a factor. This ride will be a 20ish mile loop, and should take between 2 and 3 hours. This will be an unsupported, no-drop casual-paced ride, with as many rest breaks as necessary. The course can be easily short-cut, or modified to keep us within the 2-3 hour time frame."
The adventure begins from the Wolf Creek Bar in St. Croix Falls, WI at 9am and will cover all types of terrain along the way. The ride will conclude at the Wolf Creek Bar for food and beverages afterward.
Trailhead Cycling is hosting their Global Fat Bike Day Ride at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park in Coon Rapids at 10am. "Global Fat Bike Day! Everyone grab a fattie and join us for a super fun ride at the Coon Rapids Regional Park off West River Road. there are trails along the river bottoms, as well as trails across west river road at the BP environmental area. feeling like a longer ride? follow the Rush Creek trail (there is a single-track trail along side the paved trail) that (almost) takes one to Omni Brewing! Food truck day!! bring a fat bike, helmet, lights (hey, it gets dark early) and some $$. FATNESS!!!"
Join Tonka Cycle & Ski for their Global Fat Bike Day Ride that starts at 11am from the shop parking lot in Minnetonka. "There will be 3 different groups (speeds) Mellow, Mid Mellow and Fast." A limited number of fat bikes are available for rent and can be reserved online. Free beer and brats will be available under the Tonka tent after the ride.
The Global fat bike day ride will leave the Touright Bicycle Shop in Little Falls at 10am. "Come celebrate global fat bike day. Free fat bike rentals first to reserve. We will ride form the bike shop to Lindbergh state park. Hopefully snow will be good. Pizza, coffee and donuts available for energy. If you are interested come on out. Great time to try that fat bike fad you keep hearing about."
Global Fat Bike Day with Downtown Bicycles will start from their shop in Northfield at 2pm for a ride around town and then back to the shop for refreshments. This is the 3rd annual Global Fat Bike Day ride that Downtown Bicycles has hosted.
Salsa Cycles Global Fatbike Day River Bottoms Ride will begin at the Henry H. Sibley House in Mendota at 10am. This family friendly event will require a participation waiver to be signed by all who attend. "Salsa sponsored rider and musician Ben Weaver will perform a short set at some point during the ride. Conditions will most likely keep us from riding the River Bottoms trail, but we will still have a ride. The route will be determined day of. Be there!" For updates, check the discussion section of the event page.
Women on Wheels Liv/Giant and Trailhead Cycling will host Women's Global Fat Bike Day Ride with a meet up at the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park. "Meet at 10 am. we'll ride along the river bottoms. It's a fun place to explore on your fat bike. the ride will last about one hour. For those that want to ride loger; we'll pedal over to Omni Brewing in Maple Grove. There is a single - track trail that parallels the Rush Creek trail. bring some $$ for food truck and liquid refreshments. Lights recommended (it gets dark early) Helmets and Fat Tire Bike required."
The Winter Bike Expo presented by Freewheel Bike returns for its sixth year December 3rd & 4th to the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center. The expo draws hearty cyclists from all over to see and demo all that manufacturers have to offer for winter commuters & fatbikers. Admission is free and the fun kicks off at 9 am each day. Winter biking seminars will be held throughout both days and there will be fatbike demos, raffles and beer! For a schedule of events, visit the Winter Bike Expo link above.
|Image Credit: Freewheel Bike|
Stick around after the Winter Bike Expo on Saturday night for the Superfat Crit, a criterium race for fatbikes set up on a feature laden course along the railroad trench of the Midtown Greenway. Racers must have fat tires of at least 3.7" or wider and lights since the race will be conducted in the dark. Racing starts at 6:00pm and entry requires you to bring "a pack of something to share with your new friends." Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is located at 2834 10th Ave. S. in Minneapolis right on the Midtown Greenway.
The Turkey Day Fatbike Ride takes place on Thanksgiving morning at the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington. This group ride will give you a chance to get out of the house for a fatbike ride through the floodplain forest of the Minnesota River in the morning and have you home in time for your feast. The ride will start at 8am and last about 2 1/2 to 3 hours encompassing multiple areas along the Minnesota River. You will have to "Bring everything you need to get yourself out of a jam as you are responsible for you." Ride details will be updated on the Facebook Event page.
The Black Friday Ride is based on Koochella Racing's Black Friday Ride. "Meet up at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Vis Center Parking Lot ( 3815 American Blvd E, Bloomington, MN 55425) at 10:45 for an 11am roll out. Plan on a no-drop fun cruise. Run what ya brung - fat, cross, mountain, tevs. Be prpared for beer and snack stops - bring stuff! Dress for success. We'll ride 'til we don't want to and go where interest dictates. A post-ride migration to The Midtown Global Market for Taco Cat and East Lake beer should probably happen. If anyone has a venue for an evening bonfire and wants to step up, that person would be the star of the day."
Turkey Vengeance is a group ride that will be held on Black Friday so you can ride your bike instead of participating in the madness at the malls. This ride hosted by Ride Like a Girl Cycling's Teri Holst and Mel Cherry is open to everyone that would like to attend. Taking place at the Minnesota River Bottoms from the Lyndale Ave. parking lot near the 35W bridge on the Bloomington side of the river, the meet up will be at 12pm with a roll out at 12:15. Mountain bikes or fatbikes and helmets are required. There will also be a Penn Cycle Otso Demo at the same time if you would like to test ride one of the new Otso Voytek fatbikes.
The second annual Joyful Riders Club: The Leftovers Ride will be held on Black Friday with the start point at Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis. The meet up will be at 4pm with the ride starting at 4:30 and lasting until around 8pm, so bring your bike lights for this one.
The "Pie Burner" Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride is now in its fourth year and will start and finish at Palmer's Tavern in Hibbing. "the Pie Burner Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride has a ride fee..... a simple donation of new unused toys, books or stocking suffers.... or a cash or check donation. These donations stay local, and help underprivileged children have a bit more of an enjoyable holiday season."
The ride will have two route options to choose from, 15 or 30 miles. Fatbikes or plus bikes are recommended for the terrain and possible snow conditions along the route. Full details can be found at the Facebook Event Page and my post, The Pie Burner Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride Returns for Fourth Year.
Cross Fer Tots-will be held on Sunday, November 27th at the Cambridge City Park in Cambridge from 10am to 1pm. "A great way to wrap up the Minnesota cyclocross season by helping with the Toys for Tots fundraiser with Cross Fer Tots." Additional information and updates can be found on the Cross Fer Tots Facebook page.
Penn Cycle & Fitness will hold their annual Get Phat With Pat Fatbike Races for the fifth year at the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington on January 21st and January 28th, 2017. They are co-sponsored by and are a part of the Bloomington Winter Fete.
Both races will be held at the Russell A Sorenson Landing at the end of Lyndale Ave. S. in Bloomington, MN underneath the 35W bridge. Registration will start and 9 am the morning of each race and closes 30 minutes prior to race start. Registration will require a $10 entry fee and also a $5 donation to MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) which will help the non-profit volunteer organization pay for trail maintenance, equipment and fund their 2017 season.
Fat bikes (3.8” tires and wider) are recommended. Spectators are encouraged and welcome! There will be three race classes for each race day; Beginner, Recreational and Advanced. The Beginner class race will start at 10:15 am, the Recreational class race starts at 10:00 am and the Advanced class race starts at 12 noon. Distance and laps for each race class yet to be determined based on the course layout.
Start and Finish will be under the 35W bridge with the course heading west on existing trails and some new sections. Lap will be a loop with one section of trail heading out and another heading back. Lap distances and number of laps for each race class to be determined based on trail conditions. An agreement with the City of Bloomington will allow many temporary sections of trail for the races. The race course will be groomed and ready to ride one week before the first race. Riding the temporary course once established is encouraged to pack down the trail.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers in each category. There will be plenty of swag given away to race participants at the conclusion of each day's races.
Get Phat with Pat will not only be fun but the weather will also make it challenging as we saw at the second race last year. Thanks to Pat Sorensen and Penn Cycle & Fitness for organizing these races and the City of Bloomington for allowing them to take place at the Minnesota River Bottoms. I'll see you there.
For more information and updates on the races visit the Get Phat With Pat Race #1 and Get Phat With Pat Race #2 event pages on Facebook.
When I first saw the SKS Fatboard Fender Set at Interbike in 2015 I knew this was a product I had to do some field testing with. So I contacted SKS-USA and requested a sample for a review and they were kind enough to send a set out, but with a warning on the package.
For those of you unfamiliar with this product, it is a two-piece reinforced plastic fender set that measures 5.5 inches wide by 19 inches long. The front fender mounts on the downtube using straps with Velcro fasteners that will fit just about any tube shape. The rear fender has a tool-free quick-release powerstrap attachment system that mounts to the seatpost with a two-hinge arm to fit any bike's geometry. These fenders work with tires up to 5 inches wide and weigh in at 353 grams.
I wanted to put them to the test in a wide variety of conditions, so I took some time throughout the following year to see how they performed. This would include mostly wet conditions during the Winter, Spring and Fall. All types of terrain were ridden during this testing period including pavement, groomed winter singletrack, gravel and places where there were no trails.
My first experiences would be on some wet commutes to work on warm December days. Wet pavement and puddles were everywhere along my route and those big tires can really kick up water, especially when rolling fast. As far as keeping me dry in these riding conditions, they did the trick so I didn't have to worry about all of that pavement spray getting on me.
In the early Spring when the singletrack is too wet to ride I switch my focus to gravel. With all of the Spring melt the roads can get a bit messy and I prefer not to get covered with that peanut butter gravel mud. As you may know, Minnesota Springs can be windy and when riding into a headwind, the front fender did act a little like a sail and slowed me down a bit, but the benefit of not having mud kicked up into my face was worth it.
This Fall in Minnesota has been very wet and my local singletrack has had frequent closures so I tend to venture to some spots where I can ride that won't cause trail damage. This is where the Fatboard Fender Set was really put to the test. Lots of puddles, sand and mud would have normally covered me on these rides, but I'm glad I had these fenders on.
They provided plenty of coverage whether I was rolling plus (27.5x2.8), fat (27.5x3.8) or really fat (26x4.7).
For the really wet conditions, my feet still did take on the occasional big splash but I found that if I wore neoprene shoe covers my feet would stay warm and dry. In colder conditions I would wear my 45NRTH Wölvhammer boots which are waterproof making wet feet a non-issue.
With a significant amount of time for testing, the SKS Fatboard Fender Set performed well in regards to keeping me dry and relatively mud free. Installation is quick and the two-hinge arm for the rear fender made it easy to get the right positioning, even with a seat bag installed. The rigid reinforced plastic used in the fenders was strong so I didn't have to worry about cracking them during freezing conditions to knock the ice off.
They did a great job overall and I no longer ride messy conditions without strapping them on. Would I recommend them to my fatbike friends? Definitely yes. I have had other fatbike fenders in the past and these are by far the best I have tried. If you're a fatbiker that likes to ride everything, you'll want to add these to your fatbike arsenal.
The SKS Fatboard Fender Set is available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $55.
Disclosure: SKS-USA provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.