Riot Grrravel Returns for Third Year Introducing Women to Gravel Racing

Riot Grrravel returns in 2016 on May 21st with with several distance options to introduce gravel racing/riding to women of all ages and abilities.  What started out in 2014 with 82 riders by Riot Grrravel organizer Ellie Skelton was her way of bringing more women to come to enjoy this increasingly popular style of riding in a non-intimidating fashion.   

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

"The idea for the Riotgrrravel ride came from attending several biking events where the field was predominantly male. After riding the Filthy 50 in 2013, I started thinking of ways to get women to try riding on gravel. The first Riotgrrravel was 30 miles because I wanted to 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 Skelton.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart
2016's race will have distance declarations of 10, 20 and 33 miles to open up the field to women of all abilities and experiences.  The 33 mile course will have more elevation changes from previous year's courses for those that want to challenge themselves with climbing in addition to distance.  While solo men are discouraged from attending, those men that are riding with and in support of wives, friends and daughters are welcome. 

This year's race will be capped at 250 riders and since registration opened a little over a week ago, the roster has reached the halfway point.  If you have never ridden gravel before or would like to challenge yourself with longer distance and/or some elevation change, Riot Grrravel is the event you need to attend.  Ellie's 17 year old daughter, Cedar is even going to be there to ride this year with a group of her friends.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

Ellie hopes to organize some info gravel sessions and possibly an in-town gravel pre-ride (weather dependant) before raceday.  Stay tuned to the Riot Grrravel Facebook page for details.  If you or your company would like to support women's gravel riding/racing, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are available.  Donations for swag and race prizes are also being accepted.  Please send a message to Ellie on the Riot Grrravel Facebook page if you would like lend your support. 

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

Riot Grrravel will take place on Saturday, May 21st at Hope Lutheran Church in Hastings.  Roll out is 9:30am sharp for 33 miler, 9:35am for the 20 miles and 9:45am for the 10 mile riders.  This free unsupported women/family friendly event is being held rain or shine so dress accordingly and bring everything you will need to be self supportive.  The ride will be unsupported with the same, "you are responsible for you," philosophy that other free gravel races have." - Ellie Skelton
Registration is now open for Riot Grrravel 2016 and only takes a minute to sign up online.  Ellie would love to hear why you are riding Riot Grrravel in 2016, just visit the Riot Grrravel Facebook page and tell your story.  Updates can also be found on the Riot Grrravel Facebook Event page.

Men aren't prohibited from racing but we ask that they ride with a woman or teen- this is your chance to introduce someone to gravel racing! More girls on bikes! More women on bikes! More families on bikes! - Ellie Skelton


Product Review: 2016 45NRTH Wölvhammer Winter Cycling Boot

45NRTH introduced its newly redesigned Wölvhammer Winter cycling boot for 2016 late last Fall and the changes they made were a huge improvement on previous models.  Anyone who had a pair of these older models knew the problems with them such as sticky zippers and difficulty getting them on and off due to their double layer boot design.  Gone are all of those problems with this new single layer boot construction.  The outside of the boot now has a full grain leather and Ballistic Nylon Cordura shell for warmth and durability giving it the look and styling of a traditional mountaineering boot.

One of the first things I noticed is the improved Power Strap at the top of the boot, gone is the restrictive D-ring of the older style.  This will make putting them on easier and allow adjustments to be made while wearing gloves.  The lace-up design with gusseted tongue makes it easy to get the right amount of comfort when putting them on and it keeps the snow and slush out while keeping the warmth in.  The lacing has a Velcro tab on the end that can be tucked underneath the Power Strap so it is out of the way and secure.

With this new gusseted tongue, getting into them is easy.  It's just like putting on a traditional Winter boot.  This is especially handy when wearing thicker wool socks for colder temperatures.

The deep lug pattern Vibram sole provides plenty of traction for those times when you have to hike-a-bike or put a foot down to keep yourself upright.  This new model is two-bolt SPD compatible only but comes with a cleat plug giving it the versatility to be used with flat pedals too.

Where I found these boots really excelled for warmth was in the late Fall and early Winter when temperatures were in the twenties and thirties.  I was able to wear a thin wool sock and be warm and comfortable for hours out on my fatbike.  The wicking properties of the wool socks and the lining of the Wölvhammers kept my feet dry even when I became a little overheated.

My toes tend to get cold easily so when temperatures dipped into the teens and below I would use chemical toe warmers and thicker wool socks to extend the length of my rides.  The larger toe box on the new Wölvhammers still left me with plenty of wiggle room to keep blood circulating properly, even when wearing the thicker socks and toe warmers. 

For really cold temperatures I would pair them with the 45NRTH Bergraven Gaiters to add an extra layer of insulation over the boot and keep the snow out for those first tracks and bushwhacking rides in deeper snow.

During the Winter I will clip in (using Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3's) about 75% of the time.  The times I don't and use flat pinned pedals are during icy conditions, doing a little bushwhacking or on rare occasions like downhill (Fat Bike Gravity Fest).  The Vibram sole of the Wölvhammers really works well with flats providing plenty of grip on the pins of the pedals.

Wölvhammers  keep my feet dry during wet conditions or creek crossings where shoe covers with MTB shoes don't.  Because they are breathable and keep moisture out, I plan on using them through the Spring thaw on some of my cold weather gravel rides on the fatbike.

The real test for the Wölvhammers came back in mid January when temperatures got really cold here in the Twin Cities.  Some friends and I decided to go out early one Sunday morning for a creek/bushwhacking ride through the Minnesota River Bottoms.  At ride start the temperature was -14° F and after 2-3/4 hours it had warmed up to -6° F.  I had used chemical toe warmers and thick wool socks for this ride and by keeping my core temperature up with constant movement the Wölvhammers kept my feet warm but my toes were beginning to get a little cold near the end.

In conclusion, 45NRTH Wölvhammer boots are an excellent choice for both clipless and flat pedals in the Winter.  Their comfort rating is 0° F to 25° F and in these conditions they work quite well at keeping feet warm and dry.  Everyone is different so sock choice and chemical warmers will definitely help those who's feet get cold easily.  These boots are very comfortable and don't seem bulky like other non-cycling specific boots.  The new design is a huge improvement over the older models and has become much more user friendly.  For those that race ultras or ride many miles in extreme temperatures the Wölvhammer may not keep your feet warm during these extended periods of a sub-zero climate.  For this reason 45NRTH spent several years developing the ultimate extreme cold weather boot, the Wølfgar with its comfort rating of -25° F to 10° F.  But for most of us recreational and enthusiast riders, the Wölvhammer does a fine job.

45NRTH Wölvhammer boots are now available in Mens extra wide 38–50 (no size 49), full sizes only at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $325.

Disclosure:  45NRTH provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 3

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

Garmin Edge 1000

After using a smartphone with Strava for the past few years I finally upgraded to a Garmin Edge 1000 for ride tracking and navigation.  Battery life was always an issue using a smartphone but with the Garmin Edge 1000 I don't worry about it anymore and it doesn't seem to be affected by very cold temperatures like other rechargeable battery devices.  It's full of functions for both road and off-road riding making it a great choice for cyclists that ride a little of everything.

This unit comes preloaded with Garmin Cycle Map and has a round-trip routing feature that allows the input of a ride distance and it will calculate three ride options to choose from.  Ride statistics are very accurate and after a ride they can be uploaded to Strava through a Bluetooth connection with my smartphone.  Incoming call, text and weather alerts are also displayed when connected to my smartphone.  The large 3" touchscreen display is easy to read and with an ambient light sensor I can view it in a variety of lighting conditions.  Creating routes on Garmin Connect is easy and they are synced with the Edge 1000 so I'll never miss a turn or get off course again.  

These are just a few of the many features the Edge 1000 has making it my every bike, every ride cycling computer.  Available from Garmin, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $499.99.  A bundle version (speed sensor, cadence sensor and heart rate monitor) is also available for $599.99.

45NRTH Wölvhammer Boots

45NRTH's Wölvhammer cycling boot is my choice of footwear during Winter fatbike season.  Redesigned for 2016, this boot is easy to get on and off with its new gusseted tongue lace-up drawstring that does away with zippers.  I pair the boot with the appropriate thickness of wool sock based on the outside temperature.  My toes tend to be the first to get cold so sock choice does help and with a larger toe box the Wölvhammer has room to wiggle my toes increasing blood flow.  This boot claims a 0°-25° F comfort rating and my feet stay warm for hours with just light to medium weight wool socks when temperatures are in the 20's° F.  When temperatures dip into the teens and single digits I will switch to a medium or heavy weight wool sock.  For longer rides, the addition of chemical toe warmers give that little bit of warmth to extend my time outside by hours.

This is a very comfortable boot that is waterproof and breathable.  200g of Primaloft ECO Gold insulation with a fleece lining wick away moisture keeping feet dry and warm.  It can be used with flat pedals or install 2-bolt cleats for use with clipless pedals.  The NASA approved Aerogel insulation of the footbed eliminates cold transfer from cleats.  A deep lug pattern Vibram sole provides plenty of grip on a variety of snow and ice covered surfaces.  Pair these boots with gaiters for extra warmth and to keep the snow out when bushwacking or making first tracks.

45NRTH Wölvhammer boots are now available in Mens extra wide 38–50 (no size 49), full sizes only at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $325.

Outdoor Tech Wired Chips
Universal Helmet Audio

I enjoy listening to podcasts and music while I ride but the use of earbuds can interfere with hearing approaching vehicles or passing cyclists.  I recently got a Smith Vantage helmet and like most snow helmets it has snap fit earpads with an audio drop in.  Immediately I purchased Outdoor Tech's Wired Chips snow helmet audio kit to take advantage of this feature.

The Wired Chips have 40mm drivers for great sound and plenty of volume.  They function fine in cold temperatures and the right ear chip button controls everything form playing/pausing a track, changing tracks and answering phone calls.  There is also a built in microphone, secondary control button and volume wheel control.  They even have Siri and Android voice activation.

I have really come to like the Wired Chips because of the great sound quality, the simple controls and they still allow me to hear outside sounds so I can be more aware of my surroundings.  If I receive a  phone call I can take it  while riding without having to stop and grab my phone or take my gloves off.  It's a simple design with great sound that is easy to use.

Outdoor Tech Wired Chips Universal Helmet Audio are compatible with Bern, Giro, Smith, Anon, Pro Tec, Bolle, and others that have slots for audio drop ins.  Available from Outdoor Tech and sporting goods retailers for $39.95.  A wireless version is also available for $129.95.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 Pedals

This is my second Winter riding with Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals and I absolutely love them.  I never have any problems with them or my cleats packing up with snow where I have difficulty clipping in.  I like their minimalistic design that lets me unclip quickly if I need to put a foot down or perhaps misjudged a technical feature.  Made of stainless steel, I don't have to worry about corrosion or the occasional pedal strike.

Eggbeaters can be customized for angle of release (15° or 20°) and still allow some float while pedaling.  I have my cleats set to release at a 15° angle so I can get out of the pedal in a hurry if I need to.  They have become my year round choice for mountain biking in all kinds of weather and conditions.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals are available in four color choices from Crank Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $120 to $135.  For the more budget minded there is the Eggbeater 1 for $59.99 and the Eggbeater 2 for $94.99.


2016 Arrowhead 135 Stories

The Arrowhead 135 is a human powered ultra-endurance marathon that takes place every year during the coldest part of Winter.  Participants have 60 hours to complete the 135 mile trek from International Falls to Fortune Bay Casino in Tower on the Arrowhead State Trail.  Racers are required to stop at three checkpoints that are spaced about 35 miles apart, where race officials can pull a racer due to frostbite or other medical concerns. Participants must run, ski or bike the distance with their sub-zero survival gear,  no outside help except from other racers or race officials and they must follow a strict set of race rules out on the course.

This year's race was much warmer than sub-zero temperatures of previous years but the snow along the trail was soft instead of hard packed making biking a bit of a challenge.  58 of the 94 cyclists completed the race under the 60 hour cut-off and the top two riders crossed the finish line within 3 minutes of each other.  I have compiled all of the stories, photos, video and news articles of  racers who chose bike propulsion pertaining to this year's epic race.  For full race results, click here.

Map of Arrowhead 135 course

Race Participants:  Bike Propulsion

Jay Petervary-1st

Ben Doom-4th

Paul Zeigle-19th

SvetlanaVold-27th (3rd Woman)

Barry Buhr-30th

Judd Rohwer-41st

Charly Tri-DNF
2016 Arrowhead 135 Press

2016 Arrowhead 135 Photos

2016 Arrowhead 135 Videos
"Release the hounds!"-COGGS on Facebook
"Release the hounds!"And they're off! Good luck to all the Arrowhead 135 racers, but especially the COGGSers ☃As a side note it's 27 ABOVE... With a slight drizzle.
Posted by Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores - COGGS on Monday, January 25, 2016

Perseverance, Tenacity, and Heart. Jim Wilson finishing The Arrowhead 135 


Winter Getaway to True North Basecamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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