7/26/2020

Five Twin Cities Trails to Beat the Heat


The dog days of summer can get pretty hot and steamy in Minnesota but that doesn't have to mean an uncomfortable ride.  The Twin Cities area has quite a few trail systems that run through the cool shade of the woods that I frequent during hot days.  Below I will share some of my favorites to ride to beat the heat.

Brown's Creek State Trail

The Brown's Creek State Trail is a 5.9 mile long rail trail that runs from Grant to Stillwater through a canopy of trees that keeps riders cool on a hot day.  Trail users will parallel Brown's Creek for about two miles and the St. Croix River for another mile as they make their way along this scenic trail.  For those looking to get in some extra mileage, the trail connects to the Gateway State Trail, local trail systems and the newly opened 4.7 mile St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail.  Parking for the Brown's Creek State Trail can be found in Downtown Stillwater, the Brown's Creek Nature Preserve and under the Gateway State Trail bridge in Grant.

Dakota Rail Regional Trail

The Dakota Rail Trail has been a long time favorite of mine for its scenic ride through woods and along lakes and wetlands.  This 14.84 mile paved trail connects Wayzata with Lake Waconia and extends another 12.5 miles (Carver County segment) to the county line just west of New Germany.  A frequent stop along the trail for me is Cathy Mackenthun's Meats & Deli in St. Bonifacius for a quick lunch and to stock up on some of their award winning smoked meats, bratwurst and jerkey.  Parking is available at numerous locations along the trail making it easy to pick the round trip distance you would like to ride.

Mendota Trail

When I want to get in some dirt riding through the cool of the woods, the Minnesota River Bottoms' Mendota Trail in Fort Snelling State Park is my "go-to" spot.  This trail travels 6 miles along the Minnesota River's south bank from underneath the 77 Bridge in Eagan to the Sibley House Historic Site in Mendota. With connectors like the 494 Bridge, Mendota Bridge, Big Rivers Regional Trail and Minnesota River Greenway, different mileage route options for a multi-surface ride are quite numerous.  Parking can be found in Mendota and underneath the 77 Bridge in Eagan.

Gateway State Trail

The 18 mile Gateway State Trail takes cyclists northeast from St. Paul to Pine Point Park just outside of Stillwater.  With plenty of connections including the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and Brown's Creek State Trail and numerous parking locations along the trail, varying routes can be planned for the mileage you would like to do.  The scenery changes from urban to rural as riders pass lakes, woods and wetlands on the way towards Stillwater.  With plenty of trees along the trail this is one ride that will help you stay cool on those hot summer days.

Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail

The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail has been a longtime favorite of mine for its scenery as well as shade on hot days.  This 15.92 mile aggregate trail stretches between Hopkins and Carver Park Reserve in Victoria as it passes by Lake Minnetonka and through numerous communities along the way.  Make sure to stop in Excelsior for a pint at Excelsior Brewing or Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream at Tommy's Tonka Trolley on the waterfront.  For those that like a little longer ride, take a trip around Lake Minnetonka by traveling through Carver Park Reserve to St. Bonifacius and jumping onto the Dakota Rail Trail on your way to Wayzata and back to Hopkins.  Parking can be found at numerous locations along the trail but I tend to start near the Depot Coffee House in Hopkins at the junction of the Cedar Lake Trail and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail.

Central Lakes Trail
The Central Lakes Trail is a 55-mile trail 
that runs through the heart of 
west-central Minnesota 
from Osakis to Fergus Falls

6/10/2020

Weekly Summer Group Rides in Minnesota



As restrictions from the COVID-19 outbreak begin to ease we will see the return of weekly group bike rides of all kinds.  These rides will include mountain biking, gravel, road and trail that recur on specific days of the week.  Check the Facebook event pages for more information on specifics and locations as some ride details may change from week to week.  I will continue to update this post as more group rides become available.  

Monday

Michael's Cycles in Chaska has started their Mammoth Mondays mountain bike ride that will continue on through the end of the year.  Meet at the Mammoth MTB Singletrack in Chaska for a 6:00 pm ride.

This ride will primarily be on the Mammoth MTB Singletrack.  If trails are to wet then the ride will take to the surrounding gravel and paved trails.  Meeting point will be the shelter at the park. 

Tuesday

If you're looking for a group mountain bike ride that rotates among south metro singletrack trails, then Micheal's Cycles' Weekly MTB South Metro Trail Ride is for you.  This ride will have two start times, 5:30 pm for more experienced riders and 6:30 pm for newer riders.  Going on now through November 24th.

Weekly rides that will rotate to different south metro single track trails.  If trails are closed on a Tuesday we will most likely ride Wednesday.  We will have two set times.  The first will be 5:30 PM and this will be designated for faster and/or more experienced riders.  The later time of 6:30 PM will be for those newer riders and those that are in no hurry.  This will be a no drop lap and will be focused on helping others.  We do ask that riders bring spare tube/CO2 for emergencies.  Bring water and snacks if needed.  Helmets are required.  

Wednesday

Life Wellness Center will once again be holding their weekly summer mountain bike rides on Wednesday nights at various singletrack trails around the metro area.  Join the Life Wellness Group Rides Facebook page for all updates & ride locations.


Join Mesabi Outdoor Adventures on Wednesday nights for a relaxed roll along the Mesabi Trail out of Virginia.  The Wednesday Evening Ride on the Mesabi Trail meets at Olcott Park for a 5:30 pm roll out on a two hour ride.  Going on now through September 30th.

With the governor's new stay safe Minnesota rules going into affect 5/18/20, we are now able to gather with friends in groups of 10 or fewer for outdoor activities like biking so long as we maintain social distancing standards. Join us on a Wednesday evening for a leisurely bike ride on the Mesabi Trail. We will meet in the upper portion of Olcott Park in Virginia near the fountain and head out for a couple hour ride. If more than 10 people show up, we will split into groups of 10 or fewer and go separate directions. Hope to see you there!

Thursday

Trailhead Cycling in Champlin is now hosting their Thursday night Ladies MTB Ride Group at Elm Creek through October 29th.  This no-drop group ride for riders of all levels takes off from the Elm Creek singletrack trailhead (Hayden Lake Road) at 6:00 pm weekly, as long as the trail is not closed.  

Ladies! Join the Ambassadors of Trailhead for a Fun No-Drop Socially Respectful Ride at the Single Track of Elm Creek! We Meet Every Thursday Evening at 6 pm; as long as the trails are open; we ride! Helmets Required, Lights Strongly Recommended. We will stagger starts, depart in small groups, wait at intersections, be helpful, supportive, encouraging and most importantly: HAVE FUN RIDING OUR Mountain BIKES!!! Bring a Friend and a Smile! 

Saturday

Trailhead Cycling has started up their Back in the Saddle Again Saturday morning road ride.  This no-drop weekly ride will cover 35 to 50 miles at an 18 mph pace.  Ride departs the shop at 7:30 am.  Going on now through October 3rd.

Folks it's time to get back to (socially distant) group riding. We'll be respectful and stay 6' apart; but we miss you - so let's Get Back In the Saddle Again!

Announcing:
Saturday Morning Road Bike Ride; a non-competitive, no-drop ride; sticking to county roads, obeying all traffic signs and waving in a friendly fashion to all passers-by. Routes will vary from 35-50 miles, pace: 18mph, meeting 7:30 am Saturdays at Trailhead. First ride is This Saturday, July 11th. In accordance with Social Distancing Protocol; we are asking for riders to break into smaller groups of 10-14, stagger start times if necessary and maintain a distance of 6'. 

Helmets Required. Lights Strongly Recommended.


Micheal's Cycles has started its Mixed Surface and Destination Rides out of its Prior Lake shop Saturdays at 9:00 am.  Routes, ride surface and starting location will vary from week to week.  Now happening through December 12th.

Saturday morning rides that we will mix up each week.  These rides may be road, gravel, trail, MTB, fat bike, etc.  The routes will vary, the milgage will vary, and the Ambassador will rotate.  Each Ambassador will have their pick for the week they lead the ride.  Please follow event by indicating Interested/Going to insure you see updated posts.  We will try to keep the time the same each week.  This is a co-supported weekly ride by both the Prior Lake and Chaska shop Ambassadors.  Starting location may also vary.  These rides are all about fun and enjoying the ride.  


For more group rides not listed in this post visit Groupride.com.  Users of the site can search the interactive ride map, view the ride directory or post up a ride.

If you are a ride leader that would like your group ride listed on this post contact me by sending an email to Mnbiketrailnavigator@gmail.com with the ride details, Facebook event page or website link to more information.

Fo//ow Ho//ow
Alpaca Socks
All Day Comfort // Performance

5/25/2020

Bikefishing Basics To Get You Started


Bikefishing is something I have come to love over the past couple of years because it combines two things I really enjoy doing, riding bikes and fishing.  Living in Minnesota with its bike infrastructure and abundance of lakes, rivers and streams makes it a perfect place to marry these two activities.  As a kid I used to do this all the time and I've revisted it again as an adult.  Now, getting to my fishing spot is half the fun.  One of the nice things about bikefishing is you don't need a lot of fancy equipment to do it, just the basic gear and a bike.  This post will go over some of the techniques and items needed to get started on your own fishing adventures via bicycle.


I like to travel light on the bike with regard to fishing gear.  I only bring what I think I'll need for the fish I am targeting.  For panfish I usually just bring my ultralight collapsible rod/reel combo, jig box, forceps, line cutter, a depth finder weight, towel and waxies/nightcrawlers for bait.  These can all fit in a bar bag, frame bag or backpack.


Three of the other species I like to fish for are catfish, carp and northern pike.  For these I use a medium action collapsible baitcasting pole and reel with 30# braided line.  Targeting these fish requires me to bring along a little extra gear such as a small tackle box, blood bait, live bait and a rod prop for bank fishing.


I prefer collapsible fishing rods for their convenience of storage and transport on the bike but multi-piece travel rods will do the trick also.  Some of the other things I will bring along for the trip are a portable digital scale with tape measure (can be found on Amazon for under $15), vinyl or latex gloves for handling fish and bait, a collapsible stool, a small cooler with beverages and snacks, zipper bags and of course, a fishing license.


I usually use live bait for panfish which includes waxworms, nightcrawlers and crappie minnows.  Transporting these is pretty easy, for waxies I use a bait puck, nightcrawlers in the package they came with and minnows in a Bait Up container.  When the weather heats up it is a good idea to keep your bait cool.  I'll store my bait puck and worms in a small cooler or bring along a frozen gel ice pack to place against them in my bike bag or backpack.  The Bait Up container can be stored in a cooler, with a frozen gel pack or in the body of water I'm fishing to keep the minnows alive and active.


There are a couple of different methods and bikes I use depending on the terrain involved and the species of fish I am targeting.  Traveling light is a must for me but I also want to make sure I have everything I need for a successful and comfortable outing.  A backpack or commuter bag is usually my first choice when I don't want to bring along a lot of gear but still have room for a couple of beers, snacks and my portable folding stool.


For longer distance travel to get to my fishing spot I will take my gravel/commuter bike.  These are usually lakes within 20 miles of my home that I fish for panfish or northern pike.  I also have some secret spots along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers that are easily accessible for skinny tires where I frequently try my luck for channel catfish and jumbo carp.


For those harder to reach areas like sandy beaches along the river or hidden spots that require some bushwhacking to get to, I will opt for my fatbike.  Since there are no rack mounts on my carbon Farley I have to carry everything I need for the outing in one of my appropriately sized backpacks.  This method is great for moving along the river bank and trying multiple spots in search of catfish.  I usually go by the old catfisherman's words of "if no bites in 15 minutes, it's time to move on."


When I want to carry a few more items or just want to skip the backpack I will strap on the panniers and let the bike carry the weight.  This allows me the extra storage space to bring along more tackle, extra rods and live bait for those longer outings or times when I want to target several species of fish.


For those short fishing trips or when I want to go after panfish only I will pack very light, usually only a rod, jig box, towel, forceps and waxworms or nightcrawlers.  All of this fits nicely in a small handlebar bag.


Living in the land of 10,000 lakes means there are probably several of them within biking distance from your home.  The Minnesota DNR website is a terrific resource to find out more information about the lakes, rivers and streams near you.  Visit the Where to fish page to get started.  Here you will find helpful links including a LakeFinder for desktop or mobile, river maps and accessible places for shore fishing.  If you are new to fishing visit the Learn to fish page for tips and links to get you started.


Minnesota has more than 200 fishing piers and on-shore platforms around the state and finding them is easy with the DNR's Fishing piers and shore fishing sites page.  Here you'll get the information you need about the location, a link to the LakeFinder page that contains size, depth and fish species and directions to get there using Google Maps and Bing.  When using the Google Maps link make sure you select bicycling directions to find the most bike-friendly route to get there.

When I want to learn more about the structure and depth of the area I will be fishing I use the Navionics Boating Marine and Lakes app on my phone.  Another handy feature of this app is that it allows me to set markers on the map with notes about the structure or fish species so that I may return to that exact spot later.  This app does have an optional paid subscription that has access to more advanced features and downloadable chart layers.  Available for both Android and IOS.



If you have questions or would like to learn more about bikefishing from those that do it regularly, put in a request to join the Bikefishing Facebook group.  This is a private group and membership will need to be approved by the admins or moderators to see posts and who is in the group.


Fatbikers that use their bikes for fishing those hard to reach areas may be interested in joining the Sport-Utility Fatbikers Facebook group.  In addition to fishing, this group is also for the cyclist that uses their fatbike for hunting, bikepacking, bikecamping, bikejoring, winter commuting or adventure riding.  This is also a private group and membership will need to be approved by the admin to see posts and who is in the group.


When the open water season comes to an end that doesn't mean that bikefishing has to also, it's just time to shift gear and methods for hardwater season.  For more information about ice fishing by bike see my updated post "Fatbike Ice Fishing and How to Do It-Revisited."


Bikefishing can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.  This usually depends on the duration of time to be spent and the fish you'll be going after.  For me it was trial and error to see what was convenient and what worked best.  Travel light or bring extra gear, it all depends on how you are going to carry it on the bike to your fishing spot.

Make sure to follow all Minnesota fishing regulations for the body of water you'll be fishing.  These can be found online on the MN DNR's Minnesota fishing regulations page, be downloaded in PDF format to your computer or phone or a paper copy can be picked up at licensing agents around the state.  Minnesota residents over the age of  16 will need to purchase an angling license to legally fish.  These can be purchased online, by phone at 1-888-665-4236 (1-MN-LICENSE) or in person from numerous ELS agents around the state.  A list of these agents can be found on the MN DNR's Where to buy a license page.  Good luck and happy bikefishing!

5/06/2020

The Joys of Riding After Dark


I've always liked biking after dark but in this time of social distancing I am enjoying it even more for numerous reasons.  With Minnesota's current Stay at Home Order people are doing their exercise or getting out of the house for a while during daylight hours.  This has caused congestion on local trails and in parks making social distancing more difficult.  This is where biking after the sun goes down is the perfect time to get in that daily ride.  In this post I will go over the benefits of riding at night and provide you with some helpful tips to be safe and have fun.


The trails at your favorite park are almost empty, go ride them. Just be sure to abide by the park's visitor hours.


Get out a little before dark to take in the sunset.  I've seen a lot of sunsets from the saddle and it never gets old.


Some areas around the city that have too much traffic to ride safely during the day have almost none once the sun goes down.  This is when I ride the areas that I normally would not go during daylight hours.


Mountain biking at night is a blast and in most cases you'll have the trail to yourself.  Work on those night singletrack skills and experience that old familiar trail in a new light.  I ride with a light on my bars and one on my helmet so I can see better through the turns, find my line and navigate obstacles scattered along the trail.


I've been doing a lot of  bike from home rides recently and riding at night is a fun way to explore my local trails in a new way.  Most trail users have gone home by the time the sun sets making it a great time for riding and practicing safe social distancing.

Tips for riding at night


Drivers may not see cyclists after dark so increase your odds of being seen by using reflectives placed on you or your bike.  While lights will get you seen from front and behind, reflectives will let drivers know you are there from many other angles up to 500 feet away.  I use Brilliant Reflective's Stick-on Reflective Strips strategically placed on my bike for maximum visibility when riding at night.


During night rides I will adjust my headlight beam frequently depending on the speed I am traveling.  The last thing I want to do is overdrive my headlight and hit that pothole or fallen tree branch I didn't see.


Intersections are dangerous during daylight hours and the darkness can make a cyclist even less visible.  Approach with caution and use your lights and positioning to let motorists you are there.


The last thing you want when riding at night is to have a light that is giving you a low battery indicator.  Make sure your lights are fully charged before a ride and know the length of run time for its various modes so you don't cut your battery short.  For longer rides I will bring a backup headlight in case I use up the battery on the first light before the end of my ride.  Then I can simply swap it out and continue riding illuminated.


Whether you're a mountain biker, roadie, graveleur or trail rider, getting out on your bike at night is very enjoyable and easy to practice safe social distancing.  The winds have died down, people are at home, the nocturnal creatures are starting to come out and the trail or road is all yours.  Night rides are the perfect way to unwind after a long day or to take that next bike adventure.  For more information on riding at night visit the Night Riding section of Bike MN's Minnesota Bicycling Handbook. Be safe, be seen!

4/11/2020

Twin Cities Social Distancing Ride Planning


Minnesota's Stay at Home Order has all of us experiencing a little cabin fever and riding a bike is a great way to cure it.  Social distancing is key right now to help flatten the Covid-19 curve but since implementation of the order some Twin Cities trails have become quite crowded.  For those not comfortable with road cycling, bike trails are a great alternative but with fewer people driving I've found taking to the road is more enjoyable now and definitely helps avoid getting too close to others.  Lately I've been using a mix of road and trails, low traffic routes, times of day and the weather to practice social distancing riding with great success.  Another tactic I have been using for some time is to ride from home.  This has helped me discover the bike infrastructure in my neighborhood and beyond.  In this post I will introduce you to some ways to find areas to explore and plan rides to help you avoid the crowds and still put on plenty of miles.

Bikeverywhere
Image Credit: Bikeverywhere

Doug Shidell has been producing the most up-to-date, accurate and readable cycling maps since 1984.  His Twin Cities Bike Map has been a staple for cyclists navigating the Twin Cities for just as long.  It is available in tear and water resistant print form from Bikeverywhere and Twin Cities bike shops for $13.50.  For those that prefer to carry the map on their phone there is a mobile version that works with the free Avenza Maps app for both IOS and Android.  The mobile version of the Twin Cities Bike Map sells for $5.99 and covers 1,000 square miles of bike trails and bike friendly roads.  It works with the GPS in your phone to show you exactly where you are on the map so you can never get lost.  Pick up a print map today or download the mobile version and start exploring the roads and trails in your neighborhood.

Google Maps
Google Maps for mobile has been a long time favorite of mine for getting from point A to point B while cycling.  Using Bicycling Directions in the app, it will help you get to where you want to go by offering several route options showing mileage, elevation gain/loss and estimated travel time.  I have used this many times over the years to find the fastest or best bicycle friendly route to get home when I'm out on one of my ramblings.  

By visiting Google Maps on the web you can plan out a destination ride and send the route directly to your phone to use in the Google Maps app.  A pair of earbuds or a Bluetooth speaker to get turn-by-turn audio directions in real time can be used so you don't have to keep looking at your phone.  Google Maps is a free app that is available for both IOS and Android.

Gravelmap

I've been a gravel advocate for a very long time and these low traffic roads are perfect for practicing social distancing cycling.  With the help of Gravelmap.com you'll see that you don't have to travel far to find gravel roads and routes close to and within the metro area. 


In addition to the changing scenery you'll find that in most cases you have the road all to yourself making gravel a great choice to avoid people out exercising.  Search the map for gravel roads and routes near you today and go on a bike adventure away from everyone.

Tips

Off peak times are perfect for getting out and riding to avoid crowds.  One of my favorite times is early in the morning when everyone is still in bed.  Pedestrian and cycle traffic is very light or non-existent which makes it very easy to practice social distancing.


My other favorite time is just after dark.  By now most others have already got in their walk, ride or errands done and are back home for the night leaving the trails and roads empty.  I can ride areas that are normally busy during daylight hours without having to come near or pass others.


Being a year round cyclist I've ridden in every type of weather and just because conditions aren't ideal doesn't mean it won't be an enjoyable ride.  Staying warm and dry during the spring months is pretty easy with the proper ride apparel for the conditions.  Get out there and ride during the rain, most everyone else will be inside.  Windy days are fun when the gusts are at your back and they add some resistance training to make you a stronger cyclist when they're not.  It's these times when the weather isn't as favorable that there are few people out recreating on the paths and trails.


Housing neighborhoods are another good place to ride to practice social distancing.  Depending on the proximity to main roads and trunk-ways, they can be low traffic making them a good area to do some road riding for those not comfortable with riding on higher traffic roadways.


When I want to get in a road ride but avoid the hustle and bustle of the city I will venture out to the lower traffic country roads near my home.  I've been riding these roads for years and have my favorite routes and roads.  If you are unfamiliar with country roads in your area, plan out a route using Google Maps in the satellite mode.  By zooming in you will be able to tell if the roads you want to ride have a wide shoulder or no shoulder at all.


If I'm riding during hours of the day that tend to see more trail users I will avoid the high traffic areas and opt for those that don't get used as much.  If you are familiar with the trail systems near your home, chances are you already know which ones to steer clear of during peak times. 


Make yourself visible to drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians.  Drivers may not be used to seeing cyclists as much this time of year and with more people out biking during the Stay At Home Order we are currently under in Minnesota there will be a lot more of them to watch out for.  Use daytime running lights front and rear and position yourself to be seen by motorists and others.


There are plenty of opportunities to ride bikes and avoid higher pedestrian and cyclist trafficked areas to practice social distancing.  By using some of the resources and tips mentioned above you should be able to put on some serious solo mileage that will lift your spirits and put a smile on your face.  Now get out there and ride your bike.

Central Lakes Trail
The Central Lakes Trail is a 55-mile trail 
that runs through the heart of 
west-central Minnesota 
from Osakis to Fergus Falls
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