Minnesota Mountain Bike Group Rides

Now that Summer is in full swing and the weather has been cooperative, the mountain bike trails have had a chance to dry out from a very wet Spring.  Conditions are becoming tacky to dry in most areas prompting more mountain bikers to hit the trails.  I was recently asked by a fellow mountain biker who was interested in riding with others, "Where do you find out about group mountain bike rides?"  I pointed him in the right direction to some sources that I knew of.  This got me thinking, I should put together a list so everyone can easily find out about rides in their area.  I did some research and gathered the information I could find for this post.  If I missed your group ride or one that you know of, send me an email with a link to more information and I will get it listed.

Twin Cities Area

Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists
(Year round - various locations)

Penn Cycle
(Through September 10th - various locations)

Freewheel Bike
Theodore Wirth Singletrack

Maple Grove Cycling
Elm Creek Park Reserve
(Through September 15th)

Carver Mountain Monday
 Chain Gang Mountain Ride
Burnsville MTB Ride
TNT - Tuesday Night Theo
Battle Creek Run Around
The Dirty Sprocket
Thursday Night Off-Road Ride
MTB @ Elm Creek
(Through August - Various locations and days)

Michael's Cycles
(Wednesday's - Various locations)

Southern MN

Mankato Area Mountain Bikers
More info on the MAMB Facebook page 
(Through November - Kiwanis Recreation Area)

Nicollet Bike
(Summer - Mount Kato)

Northern MN

Ski Hut
(Through September 8th - Duluth Area Trail Network)

Grand Rapids Itasca Mountain Bicycling Association
More info on the GRIMBA Facebook page
(Legion Trailhead - Grand Rapids)


Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation Project is Underway

After many years of discussion, debate and extensive studies, the rehabilitation project for the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake is finally underway.  Since its closure in 2002 to pedestrian and bike traffic, the old steel truss bridge has been deteriorating and considered an undue safety hazard.

Now that the City of Bloomington has secured Federal and State funding for the rehabilitation project, construction will begin in 2015 and open to cyclists and pedestrians in the Spring of 2016.  A team of  bridge engineers and historians has been hired to consult and develop the final project design plan which will wrap up in November.  Bid letting for the project is expected to take place in December and project commencement in January 2015.

This project has been long awaited by cyclists and will be a very important river crossing not only for bike commuters, but recreational riders and pedestrians alike.  A public meeting on the project was held in June and another will be held this Fall.

For more information about the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge visit the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake - History Frequently Asked Questions page on the City of Bloomington website.  For a background of the bridge, project status and information on public meetings about the project, visit the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Over Long Meadow Lake website.   Subscribe to receive email updates on the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Project.


The River Valley 100 Takes Riders Through the Scenic Countryside Around Mankato

Are you an experienced century rider or a century virgin that wants a challenge?  The River Valley 100 is your chance to ride with other cyclists through the scenic river valleys around Mankato and St. Peter in South-Central Minnesota.  This is a non-supported century ride with two route options, a 100 mile paved road ride and a 100 km gravel ride.  *A new 100 km gravel race option has been added.

http://rivervalley100.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/rivervalley-poster-2014.pdfThe ride will take place on September 21st starting and finishing at the Mankato Family YMCA.  Registration starts at 7 am and the ride at 7:30 am.  This is a free ride, but you need to register because space is limited.  Registration can be done online or by mailing your Name, Address, Email, Age (on date of ride) and Route Choice (Gravel or Paved) with a signed waiver to:

  River Valley 100
c/o Julie Larsen
316 Woodshire Drive
Mankato, MN 56001

Helmets are required and donations will be accepted to offset costs.  For updates on the River Valley 100, "like" their Facebook page.


Two New Gravel Rides Taking Place in Northern Minnesota Later This Summer

Gravel riding/racing in Minnesota is gaining steam in its popularity and new events keep showing up all over the state.  Here are two more that are happening late this Summer in Northern Minnesota that you can get in on.

Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder
August 23, 2014
Image Credit: Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist

The Fiddlin' Fifty Gravel Grinder is a 50+ mile unsupported free gravel ride in Balkan TWP that will venture mostly through the Superior National Forest north of the Laurentian Divide.  The ride is organized by Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist and will start and finish from their home on Saturday, August 23rd.  There are no stops along the way for food or water so come prepared.  Cue sheets will be handed out the morning of the ride detailing the route, but not until then.  Afterward there will be a potluck for those cyclists that would like to bring a dish to pass.

Image Credit: Susan Hoppe & Scott Dahlquist

Postcard registration is now open and the organizers will take the first 100 entrants they receive by August 20th.  Send a postcard with your name, address, primary and secondary telephone numbers, e-mail, and age to:

Fiddlin' Fifty 
c/o Scott Dahlquist 
6479 Colombe Rd. 
Chisholm, MN 55719

Check in will be from 7:30-8:00 am the morning of the ride where you will need to sign a waiver.  Ride starts at 9:00 am and helmets are required for all riders.  Visit the Fiddlin' Fifty Facebook page for updates.

Legendary Laurentian
Adventure Bike Ride
September 20, 2014
Image Credit: Giants Ridge

Image Credit: John Filander
The Legendary Laurentian Adventure Bike Ride is a 50 mile gravel ride being hosted by Giants Ridge in Biwabik.  The route will take you on lots of gravel roads, snowmobile & ski trails, fire roads and a portion of the Mesabi Trail.  With this kind of terrain, John Filander (ride organizer), who has ridden the course on his cross bike recommends cross bike tires of 33mm and larger.
This ride will kick off at Giants Ridge on September 20 at 9:20 am.  Registration is required ($20 entry fee) and includes a post ride BBQ with craft beer and door prizes.

To register for the Legendary Laurentian, send an email to John Filander or call 218-865-8021.  Giants ridge also has lodging available, email Giants Ridge Central Reservations or call 866-409-6650.


Product Review: Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk

The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk is a versatile bag that I have come to love.  I have put it to the test it in all types of weather on the fatbike and my road bike.  One of the things I like most is it gives me that extra carrying capacity without having to install a rack for a trunk bag.  This bag has a big 400 cubic inches (12.5” L x 7” H x 8.5” W) of space to carry what I need for those longer rides or commutes to work.

Installation is easy and only takes a few seconds.  With two straps that attach to the seat post and two more that secure to the saddle rails, it stays in place even when fully loaded.  Depending on the load of the bag, the saddle rail straps and the flap closure can be adjusted for a snug fit.

The outer pocket on the back flap of the Saddle Trunk is nice for little things like keys, money or a multi-tool and tire levers.  There is even a spot to attach a tail light.

The "waterproof" part of this bag is made possible by a replaceable welded liner.  I have been caught in the occasional downpour and my stuff didn't get wet, even without fenders.  This proved invaluable when commuting to work and arriving with a dry change of clothes. 

I found this bag especially useful for rides on the fatbike in the fall and winter.  It came in quite handy on those cool morning rides that turn into warm afternoon rides.  The compartment is big enough for me to ditch the jacket and gloves to continue riding without overheating.  Other items like goggles, pogies/gloves, snacks and extra water bottles easily fit into the Saddle Trunk so I was always prepared for changing weather conditions or an all day ride.  The waterproof qualities of the Saddle Trunk made sure my items stayed dry on warmer days where slush and puddles are common.

My overall impressions of the Waterproof Saddle Trunk are it is a quality bag at a reasonable price that keeps my items dry and has the extra storage space I need.  What more could I ask for?  With easy on and off installation it is very convenient to use with multiple bikes making it a flexible bag choice.  Along with the Banjo Brothers Frame Pack, it is standard equipment for all my long distance gravel/road rides and commutes to work.   

The Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk is available from the Banjo Brothers Online Store, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Disclosure:  Banjo Brothers provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


Cyclopath Now Helps Find Bikeable Routes Throughout Greater Minnesota


Cyclopath is a geo-wiki bike route planner that is operated by GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota.  Until recently, this useful route planning tool was limited to the Seven County Metro Area.  Now Cyclopath has added the MnDOT road network to their map making easier to find routes throughout the state based on your own bikeability ratings for roads and trails.  Using Cyclopath is easy and can be done either on the website or on your Android device with the Cyclopath app.

Cyclopath's map is editable where anyone can add information about roads, bike trails, locations and cycle routes.  Your input will help Cyclopath and MnDot improve the data contained in the map.  For more information on the privacy policy and what is done with the data collected, visit the Cyclopath User Agreement page.

Now you can find a bike route anywhere in Minnesota based on your biking preferences.  Do you want to find the fastest route with the shortest distance?  How about traveling a little or a lot further to include highly rated roads?  Would you like to travel a little or a lot further to include trails and bike lanes?  These preferences can be chosen on both the website and the Android app.

Android App


When you are ready to find your route, enter your starting point and desired destination using the website or Android app and select your bikeability preferences.  For demonstration purposes, I chose to search for a route from Cannon Falls to Mankato using a higher bikeability preference.

After the route is found on the website, you can view the overview of the route, route directions, print a cue sheet and download a GPX file to be imported into most GPS devices or for upload to sites like Runtastic, MapMyRide and RideWithGPS.  When logged in, routes can be saved to your library for later use or on the Android app.

In the app, the route will be displayed and (with GPS enabled) it will show your location along the route.  Switch between the route map and route directions by selecting the menu button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.  The app even has an option to record your GPS track.  Saved routes from the website and the app can be accessed and loaded, too.

These are just a few of the features that are possible with Cyclopath.  For more information including video tutorials, FAQ, guidelines for map editing and the User Manual, visit the Cyclopath Geowiki Help page.  To sign up for a free Cyclopath account to contribute and improve map data or save routes to your library, visit the Log in/ Create Account page.  The Cyclopath app is free on Google Play.


Minneapolis Bike Tour Returns for 8th Year

The Minneapolis Bike Tour has become a yearly tradition for cyclist of all ages and abilities since its inauguration in 2007.  This event allows participants to enjoy a tour of Minneapolis on segments of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and the Midtown Greenway at their own pace with the parkways and roadways free of traffic.  Proceeds from the tour will benefit  bike safety and education events for Minneapolis youth as well as bike trail improvement projects throughout the system.

The Minneapolis Bike Tour takes place on Sunday, September 14th and will start and finish on Boom Island in Minneapolis.  There will be 16, 25 and 32 mile routes to choose from complete with hydration stops, mechanical and medical support.  Don't forget your helmet, wearing it is a requirement of  all participants during the ride.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

Stick around for a post-ride party with live music and beer (available for participants 21+ with ID).  Local food vendors will be on hand as well as exhibitor booths and Bike Tour merchandise will be available for sale.  The post-ride party will open from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

Registration is available online until September 10th at 9:00 am.  Register early, after September 10th the fee goes up $5.  On-site registration will be available on September 13th from 8:30 am to 12 noon and  September 14th from 6:30 to 8:00 am.  Registration fee for adults (18+) is $40, youth (ages 6-17) is $15 and children under 5 are free.

Image Credit: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Photographers

For more information about the Minneapolis Bike Tour, visit the FAQ page, Bike Tour Details page and the About the Minneapolis Bike Tour page.  If you have additional questions contact the Minneapolis Parks Customer Service at 612-230-6400 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or send an email to specialevents@minneapolisparks.org.  More than 150 Bike Tour Volunteers are needed to make this event a success.  If you would like to volunteer or get more information about volunteering, call 612-313-7779 or send an email to smcgrath@minneapolisparks.org.


Product Review: Quad Lock Bike Kit

I take my smartphone along on all of my rides for navigation, ride tracking, taking photos and to listen to my favorite podcasts and music.  Usually I would stash it in my jersey pocket, but the problem with that was anytime I needed to check the map or change what I was listening to I would have to stop and grab it.  After seeing the Quad Lock Bike Kit on the web, I wanted to give it a try and see if it would do the trick to put my smartphone within easy view and hold it secure whether I was mountain biking or riding on the road.

Image Credit: Quad Lock
One of the key features of the Quad Lock Stem/Bar mount that I liked was the dual action locking mechanism that would allow me to easily attach or remove my phone from the bike.  This would come in handy for taking photos during a ride or taking my phone with me when parking my bike.

I ride in all types of weather, so keeping my phone dry while still having access to it mounted on my stem would be necessary.  The Quad Lock Bike Kit comes with a rain-resistant cover called a Poncho that would accomplish this.

Would the Quad Lock Bike Kit hold my $600 smartphone securely to my stem on rough terrain?  I would put this to the test on three bikes (fatbike, mountain bike and road bike) covering a variety of road and trail conditions.

Installation of the mount took only seconds and could be mounted with o-rings for easy removal or zip ties for a more permanent fixture.  The case for the kit (Galaxy S4 for this review) is made of a polycarbonate core and a soft TPU outer material that made it easy to slip onto my phone.

On the fatbike and mountain bike, it held my phone securely on everything from bumpy gravel roads to singletrack scattered with rocks, roots and log crossings.  The position of the phone on the stem made it easy to see where I was using Google maps or other cycling apps.

On my road bike is where I really came to love this mount kit.  Many times when I head out for a ride I don't have a route plan and will navigate using Google Maps on Strava.  With the Quad Lock Bike Kit I no longer have to stop to see where my next turn might be.  I simply turn on my phone's display and take a quick glance to see where I'm at. 

Phone removal and attachment from the bike mount is quick and can be done using only one hand. Push down on the blue collar and twist to remove, twist until the lock snaps into place to reattach.  This lets me get a quick photo or two without fumbling around with the mount.

The rain-resistant Poncho cover slips onto the case with a little maneuvering providing a pretty good seal against rain, sweat and dust.  While it keeps your phone dry during the occasional rain, this cover can make pushing the power, home and volume buttons a little more difficult.  Touch screen functionality works ok but sometimes, especially near the edges of the screen, a little more pressure is required.  Since the Quad Lock Bike Kit doesn't provide any screen protection without the use of the Poncho, a screen protector such as Zagg InvisibleShield may be necessary to protect the glass.  There are no access ports on the Poncho so to use it with headphones or a charger, a paper punch can be used to make the necessary holes.  Use Scotch tape to cover these holes when not in use to keep water from getting in.

I really like this mount, it has made ride navigation much easier, positioning allows for a better GPS signal and I can remove or reattach my phone in an instant.  I never had any problems with my phone moving or jostling out of position, this mount definitely held secure.  If you use your smartphone as a bike computer or for ride tracking and navigation, you'll like the convenience and secure hold of the Quad Lock Bike Kit.

The Quad Lock Bike Kit is available for the iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5/5S, iPhone 5C, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5 and a Universal Bike Mount Kit (no Poncho) for almost any device with a smooth, flat surface.

Disclosure:  Annex Products provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review. 
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