Summer Getaway to True North Basecamp

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

Since opening last Fall, True North Basecamp has become the place to go when visiting the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails for some "shred the red" fun.  They offer cyclists a great place to stay just blocks from downtown Crosby and they are "trail-connected" to the World Class mountain biking that the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area has become known for.  Whether you like a little comfort or choose to rough-it, True North Basecamp has the accommodations for you.

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

I'm not much of a camper, so when I visit Cuyuna I like to stay in one of True North's rustic lakefront cabins.  They offer me and my friends a comfortable place to settle in or to just take a break from riding.  Being trail-connected I can ride for a few hours and head back to the cabin to cool off in the air conditioning, grab a cold one and a bite to eat.  For those chilly evenings the cabins have heat and a fire ring outside for a campfire.  Each of their six cabins has a wonderful view of the Armour Mine Pit #2 Lake, one full and three twin beds, Wifi access to stay connected, USB charging ports for electronics and is right next door to the shower house.

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

For those that prefer to camp, there are 33 wooded campsites each with a fire ring and picnic table.  In addition to tent camping, True North Basecamp does allow pop-up and teardrop campers but they do not have hook ups or pull through sites.  Vault toilets are located throughout the campsite area and it's a short walk to the shower house.

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

After a day of riding in the Summer heat one of the first things you're going to want to do when you get back to the Basecamp is get out of your sweaty cycling clothes and take a shower.  The shower house which is located right behind the lakefront cabins has what you need to get feeling refreshed.  After a shower with conditioned water and a change of clothes you're ready to relax back at your campsite or cabin.

True North Basecamp has the simple things needed to make your stay comfortable but you will need to bring your bedding/sleeping bag, pillow and towels for your stay whether you camp or rent one of the lakeside cabins.  If you plan on doing some cooking during your stay you will want to bring a cooler with ice to keep your food cold, a crockpot for cooking/reheating prepared meals, a campstove to cook on or cook over the open fire of the provided fire pit.

For those that would rather have someone else do the cooking, Crosby is just a couple of blocks away with restaurants and bars that serve up food.  If you would rather stay in, Louie's Bucket of Bones now delivers to True North Basecamp.

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

Access to 30+ miles of Minnesota's best mountain biking is right on the premises and the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail is just across the lake.  If you want to cool off after a day out on the trails, there is a sandy swimming beach on the shores of the Armour Mine Pit #2 lake.  Another new addition this Summer is that pets are now allowed, so bring your trail dog with for the trip.

If you are in need of a bike rental during your stay, Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby delivers bike rentals to True North Basecamp.  Rates for a hardtail mountain bike are $35/half day or $45/full day.  Fat bikes, road bikes, canoes/kayaks and paddle boards are also available for rent.  Delivery schedule information is available on their website or call 218-545-4545 for more information.

Image Credit: Dan Jurek

True North Basecamp has special weekday rates that can save you a bunch of cash.  Rent one of the lakefront cabins Sunday through Thursday for only $69 a night, Friday and Saturday nights are just $125 a night.  Camping is even more thrifty Sunday through Thursday for only $19 a night and $29 a night on Fridays and Saturdays.  Check in time is at 4:00pm and check out is at noon.

For a list of frequently ask questions about True North Basecamp visit the FAQ page.  To book your stay visit the True North Basecamp Booking page for Cabin and Camping reservations.  For updates and more information visit the True North Basecamp Facebook Page, Twitter Page or send them a message on their contact page.


Summer '16 Minnesota Gravel Events

Gravel racing season traditionally has been in the Spring and Fall but with the growing popularity of "riding gravel", Summer events have seen an increase in number in recent years.  In addition to established Summer gravel events, several new ones have been popping up over the last year or two.  By now, some of these events may be close to the rider cap while others still have plenty of room available if you want in.

Image Credit: Jim Smith

The Dirty Lemming is a Summer gravel tradition put on by Jim Smith in Watertown, MN.  This year's running of the Lemmings will be on July 30th.  Two course options include 100 km and 100 mile routes.  This is a free event limited to 100 riders, postcard registration is required and there may be a handful of spots remaining.

Image Credit: Tour de Save Facebook Page

The Cannon Valley Velo Club is holding its 13th annual Tour de Save on July 30th at the Spring Creek Soccer Fields in Northfield, MN.  In addition to the 10, 25 and 62 mile road routes, there will be a 46 mile gravel road ride.  Online registration is available until 6:00 pm the day before the ride.  Registration fee is $25 and a fundraising goal must be established.  Updates for the ride can be found on the Tour de Save Facebook page.

Image Credit: grittygoose.blogspot.com

The Gritty Goose Gravel Grinder is back for its second year in 2016.  It's a free ride that takes place on gravel roads near Monticello, Maple Lake and Buffalo on August 20th.  There will be two route options this year, 70 miles with almost 2,000 feet of climbing or 50 miles with almost 1,500 feet of climbing.  Online registration is now available.  "You'll have to ride it to find out why its called the Gritty Goose."

 The Heck Epic is a two-day (August 20-21) bikepacking staged event that starts in Two Harbors and travels North to Ely where you will camp for the night before returning back to Two Harbors on day two.  Distance covered will be about 205 miles.  Online registration is now available until August 15th or a rider cap of 80 is reached.  Entry fee is $100 and covers a hot breakfast buffet on Sunday when in Ely, camping facilities in Ely and a pint glass filled with beer at the Friday night registration meeting.  Updates for the Heck Epic can also be found on the Heck of the North Facebook page.

Image Credit: Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook Page

The Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder is a 50+ mile unsupported free gravel ride on August 27th in Balkan TWP that will venture mostly through the Superior National Forest north of the Laurentian Divide.  There are no stops along the way for food or water so come prepared.  Afterward there will be a potluck for those cyclists that would like to bring a dish to pass.  Postcard registration is open until August 20th.  Cards should have your name, address, and e-mail; age is optional. Send to: Fiddlin' Fifty, c/o Scott Dahlquist 6479 Colombe Rd. Chisholm, MN 55719.  Updates can be found on the Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook page.

The River Valley 100 returns for its third year on August 28th taking cyclists through the scenic river valleys around Mankato in South-Central Minnesota.  This free event consists of both paved and gravel route options and is non-supported.  For those looking to ride gravel, a 100 km gravel ride and 100 km gravel race are available.  The gravel race details ares still being worked out but there will be a neutral roll out until out of town.  Registration is required and space is limited to 200 riders total (100 rider cap for the gravel race).  There are two ways to register, online or by mail.  Deadline for gravel racing registration is August 23rd.  Updates can also be found on the River Valley 100 Facebook page.

Image Credit: Joshua Stamper

The Gravel Conspiracy is an adventure ride taking place on gravel, dirt and Forest service roads along the North shore.  Dates are September 9-11.  "The tentative route will be to start from around Silver Bay and ride to Ely via double track, dirt roads, and gravel.  Second day will see us on a big loop west of Ely, and then returning to town for a 2nd night. This really simplifies the logistics.  The last day will have us rolling back to Silver Bay."  Registration is required and for more information visit The Gravel Conspiracy FAQ page or contact gravelconspiracy@gmail.com.

The Back Forty is an 80 mile gravel grinder taking place September 10th in Denmark Twp. just North of Hastings, MN.  This isn't your normal gravel ride.  It would probably be best to visit the website and read the full description of the ride and its rules of competition.  Registration is free and can be done by sending an email to the event organizer. Updates may be found on the Back Forty Cycling Facebook page.

Image Credit: Derek Chinn

The Inspiration 100 is a 100 mile gravel race in its fifth year and starts in Garfield, MN on September 10th.  This is a free race and registration is done by postcard only during the month of July.  Registration is capped at 150 racers.  "The 2016 Inspiration 100 will be the final time this event is held. Let's go out strong!"  Updates can be found on the Inspiration 100 Facebook page.

Image Credit: Drew Wilson

From the gravel enthusiast that brought you the Dickie Scramble comes an event entering its 3rd year that showcases the beauty and challenge of gravel roads in the Root River Valley around Lanesboro, the Tour of Filmore"77 of the hardest and most rewarding miles of gravel in southern MN."  There will be grilling and a party at the finish and camping is available near the start the night before.  Registration is open until the start of the event and can be done by stating you are going on the Facebook Event Page or sending an email to drew@cyclocarbon.com.
These events are unsupported (except Tour de Save) so bring everything you will need to get you to the finish.


2016 Almanzo Stories

The 2016 Almanzo Gravel Races took place May 13-14 in the small town of Spring Valley, Minnesota.  What was started by Chris Skogen with a small group of friends back in 2007 has grown over the years into something truly special.  The gravel community has embraced the Almanzo 100 as the "Granddaddy" of gravel races.  Spring Valley Tourism with the assistance of Penn Cycle & Fitness made sure that one of the largest free gravel races in the country continued with the traditions that founder Chris Skogen set forth for this yearly event.

Once again, the 2016 Almanzo 100, Royal 162 and Alexander 380 did not fail to challenge racers.  Those racing the Alexander 380 faced strong winds, rain, sleet, muddy conditions and very cold temperatures while Royal 162 and Almanzo 100 racers experienced wind gusts up to 35 mph and a 34 degree temperature at race start.  I have compiled a list of racer accounts from blogs as well as links to photo galleries, some videos and local press.

Almanzo 100

Race Report: 2016 Almanzo 100 by 5th Place Finisher, Eric Thompson
Gravel Cyclist

This was my 4th year racing the Almanzo 100 and its become a yearly tradition for myself, my family and a few friends. It all started with my dad seeking out the newly created gravel scene in Minnesota, and with his excitement, momentum started between myself and several friends, also drawn to the event.  Read the full story

Race Report: 2016 Almanzo 100 – by Top 10 Finisher – Charlie Schad
Gravel Cyclist

The 2016 edition was my fourth year of participating in the Almanzo 100 event and I was pretty excited about going. Unfortunately I had to miss last year’s race, but was hoping to make amends with a good result; a decent block of training was bound to help. I examined the rider list and a few doubts began to creep in, namely due to the strong list of folks scheduled to take the line.  Read the full story

Almanzo 100: Wind and Gravel and Wind

Standing in line for a porta-potty, I was shivering uncontrollably. It was 37°F and extremely windy. The weather forecast for Spring Valley, MN slowly changed over the preceding days – wind increased up to 30mph gusts and temperature slowly dropped. Ted and I didn’t pack well for a cold, windy day. He forgot his knee warmers and ended up cutting arm warmers to fit over his legs. I just had thin knee warmers.  Read the full story

Hoven returns to biking during recovery
Rubicon Online

Widely known for his passion for biking, Upper School English teacher Matthew Hoven has picked himself up and dusted himself off after a fall in September and a severe concussion earlier this year. He recently participated in the 100-mile Almanzo 100 Gravel Bicycle race in Spring Valley, Minnesota, for the third time.   Read the full story

A Tough 2016 Almanzo 100
MN Bike Trail Navigator

2016 was my third year doing the Almanzo 100, on my third bike. I had finished it on my 29'er in 2014 and my cross bike in 2015, this year I would do it on my carbon Farley 9.6 with a 27.5+ wheelset. While I struggled last year on some of the big hills with my bike's gearing, this year I thought shouldn't be a problem with my Farley's 1x11 drivetrain. I was feeling good about the race even though I hadn't trained as much as I would've liked to. It would be a fun, but challenging day of riding with a lot of old friends and some new ones.   Read the full story

Almanzo 100
Mary Grove and John Ingham

Image Credit: Mary Grove and John Ingham
I had the pleasure of riding with Suzanne for much of the ride to Forestville. Suzanne called it quits at Forestville. The click in her bottom bracket was getting loud, and anyway she had been up at the crack of dawn to toss in an extra 40 miles BEFORE the start of the race in Spring Valley! That's grit for you, and you should have seen her bombing the downhills. Would that I had her skill and courage. But then again, maybe not. When you get to be an old codger you should probably be careful what you wish for. Suzanne's husband Jeff was serving up hot dogs at Forestville for any and all, on such a cold, windy day a nice precursor to the hot bacon at Cherry Grove.

Royal 162

Royal 162 2016 - A Woolly "Race" Report
Woolly Bike Club

My attempt at the Royal started last year when Herr Woolly Starr rode Almanzo for the first time. She rode it on her mountain bike as her first century of any kind, let alone on gravel. At the end of it she said she was coming back next year, but if she was going to be on her bike for 11 hours, I had to be as well and I therefore had to do the Royal.  Read the full story

The Royal 162
Cup O' Dirt Challenge

After completing the Burleigh County Cup with no knee or bike issues, I was ready for the Royal 162. I headed down that Friday, took care of registration and found the city campground two miles out of town. I set up my tent and ate at the Dairy Queen in town. Two days prior, out of nowhere my knee was a bit sore. It was enough to make me cautious, because I knew the hills and distance would be a workout for it. I thought “I’ll just see what happens”. Hope for the best!!  Read the full story

Alexander 380

380 miles of gravel mixed with rain, wind and cold-Survival, not speed, key in 2016 Alexander 380 bike race
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

The Alexander 380 held the weekend of May 14 is one of the most challenging gravel road races in the country under normal circumstances, but Friday’s driving rain, which included snow and hail for some riders, Saturday’s brutal 20- to 30-mile-per-hour headwinds and Saturday night’s sub-freezing temperatures made the 380-mile race even more daunting in 2016.  Read the full story

The Alexander: Part 1
melissa bikes

The Alexander. The little known big brother of its famous baby sibling Almanzo and the middle child, the still popular but slightly less known Royal. These three races make up a trio of notorious gravel rides in southeastern Minnesota. The Almanzo is 100 miles, the Royal is 162 miles, and the Alexander is 380 miles. Three. Hundred. And. Eighty. Miles. On gravel, unpaved roads, and with a few minimum maintenance roads thrown in just for kicks. The route travels through the driftless area of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, back to Iowa, and finally back north to Minnesota.  Read the full story

The Alexander: Part 2
melissa bikes

As we left the first gas station stop at mile 70-something, we soon crossed over highway 52. It was so tempting to cruise down the big hill to Decorah, to a hot shower, a warm bed, and excellent ice cream. Ugh. We pedaled on, and not long after leaving Kwik Trip the rain started to fall. First it was a few drops, and then the sky opened up with a vigorous rain. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and had no choice but to keep pedaling. I enviously eyed bars and outbuildings on the side of the road, pondering if we could seek shelter in there until the rain passed.  Read the full story


Partnership keeps spirit of Almanzo 100 alive-Local gravel bicycle races still a draw due to efforts of partners
Spring Valley Tribune

Although founder Chris Skogen stepped away from the Almanzo 100 and related races two years ago, they continue to draw a dedicated group of gravel bicycle enthusiasts thanks to the efforts of the Spring Valley Tourism Committee and Penn Cycle & Fitness of Minneapolis.  Read the full story

Riding Gravel Supports The Almanzo 100
Riding Gravel

The Almanzo 100 is, quite likely, the most popular grassroots gravel grinder event in the nation. Started by Chris Skogen in 2007, the free event has grown to have over 1000 riders yearly and encompasses three events ranging in distance from the original 100 miler to the crushing Alexander 380 which takes participants through three states and takes well over 40 hours to complete.  Read the full story

Almanzo 100 Report: Ringing the Bell
Guitar Ted Productions

Things changed when on Thursday I found out that my partner in RidingGravel.com was going to be stepping in for a company that had pulled out of supporting the third checkpoint on the Almanzo 100 course. Originally, Ben had thought he'd hang out, take a few images, and do a bit of a photo gallery, maybe, for the site. Well, when the opportunity came up to be the checkpoint support, he jumped in and well.......I couldn't just let him do it alone! I got with Mrs. Guitar Ted, did a bit of reconnoitering, found a willing partner in "New York Roll", and on Friday evening we were piling 20 gallons of water on a shopping cart along with some other supplies to take up to the Almanzo 100.  Read the full story


Almanzo 100 2016
The Morgan's Creations

Almanzo 100 & Royal 162
TMB Images

2016-05-14 Almanzo100 Royal 162
TMB Images on Facebook

Almanzo 100 Spring Valley Gravel Road Race


Almanzo 100 Roll-out



Mn DOT Releases County Level Bicycle Maps

At the request of many cyclists, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has just released the first county level bicycle maps.  These 125 PDF maps can be printed on 8.5x11 or 11x17 paper to take with you to navigate during a ride or help you plan for one.  While most counties are contained on one map, larger counties have been split into several map sheets.

Information on these maps will help you determine which roads are paved or gravel, which have shoulders greater or less than 4 feet, the amount of traffic volume and also includes Federal, State and Regional bicycle trails.

For those of us that enjoy riding gravel, these maps will help us to better plan out rides throughout the state in areas we may be unfamiliar with.  For road cyclists, planning rides on roads with lower traffic and wider shoulders are now possible by using the information contained in the map's legend.

When planning out rides, I would recommend using these county level maps as a base guide while plotting your course with websites like RideWithGPS, MapMyRide, Strava or others that implement Google Maps.  Then you can navigate using one of the above mentioned cycling smartphone apps or a gps device and leave the paper map at home.  Use the Google Maps satellite mode to verify paved or gravel roads and those with narrow or wide shoulders.

Mn Dot admits that because this is their first effort to show this data on a county scale that there will be some gaps in the information contained in these maps.  They welcome your comments to help improve these maps in future versions.  Your feedback or recommendations can be emailed to  bicyclemap.dot@state.mn.us.
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