Product Review: BackBottle

From Fix It Sticks creator Brian Davis comes the BackBottle, an innovative new design for the water bottle with a unique shape that cyclists will come to love.  It's not your standard bottle, but one that was carefully thought out and designed with an ergonomic shape that fits perfect in a jersey pocket.  After a successful KickStarter campaign that achieved its goal weeks before the deadline, the BackBottle is now available.
"The BackBottle combines a bottle and a hydration pack into one small, portable package.  Last year I went on lots of long rides and was constantly having to adjust my route for gas stations and stops in a three hour ride.  I had the idea then, but the tipping point was at a cyclocross race when I was told no hand ups were allowed, even for water. With no cages on my cross bike, I got to work.”- Brian Davis

The shape of this bottle is the key that makes it so user-friendly.  I have used a standard cylindrical  water bottle in my jersey pockets before and spent time fumbling with trying to get it back into the pocket after taking a drink.  This is not a problem with the BackBottle.  The sloped pointed bottom makes it easy to slip back into my pocket in one smooth motion.  The BackBottles's flat back with raised ribs for air flow keeps it from rolling and feeling uncomfortable against my back.  After a little while I didn't even notice it was in my jersey pocket.

One design feature I really like about the BackBottle is the raised portion with lip that is on the lower half of the bottle.  This lip sits just below the jersey pocket seam to prevent it from being ejected while riding rough terrain.  I have done a lot of mountain biking and riding gravel with the BackBottle and it simply stays put, I have never lost one and had to double back to pick it up. 

The wide opening is easy to put ice cubes into but the cap could use a redesign.  When the Backbottle is filled with liquid it won't stand up like a traditional water bottle so it must be laid on its side resulting in a small amount of water slowly leaking from the nozzle.  Other than this the BackBottle is a great design that works as intended.  I use a pair of them in my jersey pockets for times when a hydration pack may be more than I need for a ride or one as a backup for those long rides with a hydration pack.  Cyclists that don't like to wear a hydration pack, don't have bottle cages or race road, mtb or cross will really like this product. 

  • 18 ounces of capacity (.53L or 530mL +/-) 
  • 3 ounces in weight when empty 
  • 8.5 inches long and 3 inches wide 
  • 53mm diameter opening (easy to add ice) wedged and ergonomic for easy one-hand operation manufactured from squeezable LDPE plastic made from recyclable components (packaging #3, bottle #4, cap #5) 
  • 100% BPA free 100% 
  • Made in the USA 
  • flat back minimizes roll when climbing or sprinting raised ribs on the flat back allow airflow 
  • top-shelf dishwasher safe

The BackBottle is available from BackBottle.com for $12 and shipping is free for U.S. orders.   

Disclosure:  Fix It Sticks provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


Fourth of July Bike Rides in the Twin Cities

Celebrate Independence Day in the saddle at one of these Twin Cities area events.  All of these are longstanding rides that many cyclists participate in year after year.  Continue an old 4th of July cycling tradition or start a new one riding your bike with fellow Twin Cities cyclists.

Freedom From Pants Ride IX

Image credit: Garrick Yoong

Celebrate the Fourth without the constraints of pants on this ninth annual underwear ride through the streets of Minneapolis.  Meet up takes place in the vacant lot near the White Castle in NE Minneapolis at 6:00 pm.  Roll out begins at 7:00 pm.  Visit the Fourth of July Freedom From Pants Ride IX Facebook Event page to join or share with friends.

Great Scott 50 Classic Bike Ride

The Frank Wicker Great Scott 50 Classic Bike Ride is a Prior Lake Fourth of July tradition going into its 28th year.  Take a 25 or 50 mile ride through the rolling hills of Scott County.  The 25 mile short course is geared more towards recreational riders and has one rest stop along the way.  The 50 mile long course is what the ride is named for and will have three rest stops.  Mechanical support and SAG provided by Michael's Cycles.  The 50 mile ride leaves Lakefront Park in Prior Lake at 8:00 am and the 25 mile ride at 9:00 am.  There will be lunch provided after the ride.  Register online through Active.com, download the ride brochure and register by mail or register on-site the day of the ride beginning at 7:15 am at Lakefront Park.

Tour D'Amico

The Hiawatha Bicycling Club will be hosting the 16th Annual Tour D'Amico with three scenic routes to choose from complete with hydration stations and rest stops at D'Amico & Sons restaurants along the way.  This year's routes include a 29 mile, a partially new 45 mile and an all new metric century 62 mile.  All three routes have full SAG support.  Visit the Tour D'Amico About the Rides page for more information on these routes.  Registration can be done online or by mail with a check.  Day-of registration and packet pick up starts at 8:00 am and goes until 10:30 am July 4th at the D'Amico & Sons in Golden Valley.  After the ride, participants will be treated to an Italian buffet lunch that will be served from 11:30 to 3:30.  This is a rain or shine event.

Watermelon Ride

The Twin Cities Bicycling Club will be hosting the 34th Annual Watermelon Ride with a choice of 15, 25 or 52 mile routes.  The 15 mile route is geared for beginners getting into cycling and families with children.  The 25 mile route is ideal for both the novice and experienced rider.  Full support is provided for both the 15 and 25 mile routes and the routes will be marked.  The 52 mile route is unsupported so bring the necessary items to make repairs and fix flats.  Route maps will be handed out to riders the day of the event.  Snacks will be supplied at rest stops and a picnic lunch will be held at Snail Lake Park following the ride until 2:30 pm.  Online preregistration deadline is June 26th, after that the price goes up $10.  Day-of registration will also be available by printing and filling out the Registration Waiver and bringing a check made payable to the Twin Cities Bicycling Club to the registration table.  Twin Cities Bicycling Club members receive a discount for registration.  Registration for the 15 & 25 mile routes is from 8:30-10:00 am and the 52 mile route is from 7:30-9:00 am.  Registration and ride start is at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview.  This is a rain or shine event.


Get The Latest MTB Trail Conditions Before Riding

To prevent trail damage and erosion it is very important that mountain bikers avoid riding on wet trails.  Riding wet and closed trails creates ruts that take many volunteer hours to repair.  If you are unsure whether the trail you would like to ride is open or closed, MORC, Cuyuna Lakes MTB Crew, COGGS, MAMB and CROCT have made updated trail condition and closure information easy to find.  Be informed and never ride wet trails.  Your local trail work crew will thank you.

Twin Cities


MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) has implemented several ways to keep on top of the latest mtb trail conditions in the Twin Cities area.  The first is the MORC Trail Conditions forum where updates are posted by MORC Forum members.

The MORC Trails app for IOS "Accesses the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists website (morcmtb.org) to get the latest trail conditions for the local MORC trails. Let's the user customize the list of trails to follow, displays reported conditions based on how recently the condition report was submitted, and provides a trail detail page which shows the most recent report as well as providing links to the trail web page and conditions page."   The MORC Trails app is available for free at the App Store on iTunes.

And finally, the MORC @trailconditions Twitter account is updated from the MORC Trail Conditions Forum.

MORC Trail Conditions


The MORC Weather Blog put together by 2WheelWeather meteorologist and MORC member Kristin Clark is updated weekly with cycling weather in mind and how it will impact riders. "Where Cycling & Weather Come Together."  

Cuyuna Lakes


The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew regularly updates trail conditions via Twitter year round.  Know the trail conditions whether you want to "shred the red" or do some Winter fatbiking on the groomed trails here.

For more information on the trails at Cuyuna, visit cuyunalakesmtb.com.



C.O.G.G.S. (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) updates trail conditions for several trails in the Duluth area via Twitter.  These include Hartley Park, Lester Park, Mission Creek, Mont Du Lac, Piedmont/Brewer and PokegamaSpirit Mountain is updated by the Spirit Mountain Twitter feed.

Hartley Park

Lester Park

Mission Creek

Mont Du Lac



For more information on the trails in the Duluth area, visit wp.coggs.com.  More information about the Spirit Mountain Bike Park can be found by visiting spiritmtbike.com.



The Mankato Area Mountain Bikers update trail conditions for the Kiwanis and Ft. LeHillier on their Trail Maps & Conditions page.  Look for the Trail Conditions widget on this page.  Anytime the trails status is listed as "Wet", the trails are closed.



CROCT (Cannon River Offroad Cycling Trails) manages the trails at Sechler Park and updates the trail conditions via Twitter.


Penn Cycle Offers Ten Group Rides for the Summer

Penn Cycle & Fitness has put together ten group rides for the Summer of 2015 and they include road, mountain bike, women's only and triathlete/endurance training.  I have listed all of them with a brief description and link to more information.  Rides run Tuesday through Saturday, so there is sure to be one to fit your schedule and ability.


Tuesday Night Tours
Penn Cycle Bloomington

Skill Level Suggested – 15-18 mph for the length of the ride. Everyone is welcome. If you are looking for more of a challenge, may we suggest our Wednesday night rides? A few more miles and a faster pace (18-20).  All riders must be at least 18 years old, or have a parent signature, along with pre-authorization.  All trips are 20-30 miles in length.  Schedules of rides may be changed at leader’s discretion.  Start time is 5:30pm.  Helmets required.  Visit the Tuesday Night Tours schedule for more information.  

Tuesday Night Road Bike Ride
Penn Cycle Woodbury

If you have ridden the Penn ride any of the previous few years you know the details.  Pace is typically 16-18 mph.  This is a no-drop ride, within reason.  No water stops on this loop around Grey Cloud and Cottage Grove.  Ride leaves from Penn Cycle in Woodbury at 5:30pm.  Please arrive early enough to get your bike ready.  Bring any necessary gear and nutrition.  You are expected to be able to support yourself on the road.  Common courtesy/safety to other riders and rules of the road will be enforced.  All rides run May through August excluding holidays.  Visit the Tuesday Night Road Bike Ride page for more information.

Image Credit: Penn Cycle & Fitness

Every Other Tuesday Road Ride
Penn Cycle Blaine

Coach Leah, Overall Winner of the 2014 TNT TT Series will be leading a ride on the alternative Tuesdays that are not Time Trial Race-day nights from Penn Cycle Blaine.
Time:  Meet 5:45pm Penn Cycle Blaine
Ride Departs:  6-8/8:30pm
A Level Ride:  Tri/Road
Pace:  19/20 mph avg
Distance:  20-30 miles
Visit the Every Other Tuesday Road Ride flyer for more information.

Image Credit: Leah Prudhomme

Tuesday Night Mountain Bike Ride
Penn Cycle Eagan

All rides start and end at Penn Cycle Eagan - 2290 Cliff Road. Eagan, MN. Start time is 5:30 pm sharp.  Ride locations will be determined by ride leaders by Sunday for the following Tuesday and posted on the Penn Cycle Tuesday Night Mountain Bike Ride Facebook Group or call Penn Cycle Eagan at 651-882-1241 for more information.
Ride Dates: May 5, 12, 19, 26
June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
July 14, 21, 28
August 4, 11, 18, 25
September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
Ride Locations: Lebanon Hills - Eagan
Minnesota River Bottoms - Bloomington/Eagan
Murphey-Hanrehan - Savage
Visit the Penn Cycle Tuesday Night Mountain Bike Ride flyer for more information.

Image Credit: Justin Williams Photos


Wednesday Night Tours
Penn Cycle Bloomington

SKILL LEVEL SUGGESTED – 18-20 mph for the length of the ride.   Everyone is welcome .   If you feel uncomfortable with this pace, may we suggest our Tuesday Night Rides.   Fewer miles, slower pace, very n ice, fun rides!  All riders must be at least 18 years old.  All trips are 30 - 40 miles. A one time Free or Deluxe Penn group ride membership form must filed out to ride our rides.  The forms will be kept on file. Schedule of rides may be changed at leader’ s discretion. Start times are 5:30 p.m. Sharp!  Helmets required.  Visit the Wednesday Night Tours schedule for more information.

Wednesday Night Worlds Road Ride
Penn Cycle Eagan

The Eastside group ride leaves from Penn Cycle in Eagan at 5:30 p.m. sharp starting early in the year and ending late.   SKILL LEVEL: Advanced-Expert –This is a fast ride averaging over 21mph. All riders must be at least 18 years old, or have a parent signature, along with pre-authorization, (call ride leader). A release form must be signed before the start of each ride.  For more information visit the Penn Cycle Wednesday Night Worlds page, the Flat City Wednesday Night Worlds page or call Penn Cycle in Eagan at (651) 882-1241.

Image Credit: Justin Williams Photos

Women's Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Ride
Penn Cycle Eagan/Bloomington/Woodbury

Women of all riding abilities are welcome!  Riders must be a minimum of 18 years old.  Helmets required.  Rides leave at 6pm.  Rides run from May 27th to September 16th (end of the season party) and meet at various Penn Cycle locations and MTB parks.  Visit the Women's Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Ride Schedule for dates, locations and more information.

Image Credit: Justin Williams Photos


Thursday Night Road Ride
Penn Cycle Woodbury

Come ride Woodbury, Afton, Lake Elmo, Washington County area with Ride Leader Dave McGrath.  Fun, no drop, group bike ride. The ride leaves Penn Cycle's Woodbury parking lot at 5:30pm.  Average Speed 16-18 mph.  We will have sprints up the hills, but regroup at the top of them to ride together again.  David is a bike sales consultant at the Woodbury location.  The more riders the better.
Helmets are required.  We stop at all STOP signs and lights. All rides are "No Drop Policy, meaning that no one will be left behind.  No worries about getting lost.  All of our rides are intended to have get more people into the sport, have fun, relax after work/school, and promote a healthy life.  Check our website www.penncycle.com after 4pm to see if any rides are cancelled or with any questions about our rides, please call the Woodbury Penn Cycle 651 731-9458 or the ride leader at 530-617-2317.  Visit the Thursday Night Road Ride page for more information.

Image Credit: Dave McGrath


Friday Women's Mountain Bike Ride
Elm Creek Park

This is a fun, all women's ride with frequent stops and a relaxed pace.  (Experienced riders are welcome too!)  For more information email blaine@penncycle.comRide Flyer


Saturday Morning Road Ride
Penn Cycle Blaine

Calling all Tri-athletes, Cyclists and endurance athletes!  Want a ride that will fit in your training?  Sick of riding alone?  Want to push yourself to the next level?  Come ride with Coach Leah and her team.
Time:  Show up by 8:45am.  Ride 9am to 12noon-ish.
Ride Level:  A-Ride Triathletes, Tri-Bikes and Road Cyclists Welcome!
Avg. Pace:  19-20 mph
Distance:  40+ miles
Visit the Saturday Morning Road Ride flyer for more information.


2015 Almanzo Stories

Image Credit: Gal Alon

The 2015 Almanzo Gravel Races took place May 15-16 in the small town of Spring Valley, Mn.  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.  This year was the first without Chris Skogen at the helm as he handed over the reigns for Almanzo to Spring Valley Tourism.  With the assistance of Penn Cycle & Fitness, one of the largest free gravel races in the country continued with the traditions that founder Chris Skogen set forth for this yearly event.

I have compiled a list of racer accounts from blogs as well as links to photo galleries, a couple of videos, some audio and local press.  If I have missed some content, please bring it to my attention by sending me an email and I will add it to this post.

Almanzo 100

I won the 2015 Almanzo 100
Drew Wilson - "Ride on Purpose"

This has been a blog post that has kept me from writing blog posts for a while.  The title says it all, but it wasn't easy to say or accept. Those who follow my blog know what that means to me.  It's hard to say it because of the luck I needed luck to make it happen.  I've come to terms with it now.  Perhaps two years in a row of inopportune flats in the same race meant I was "owed".  Maybe it's more likely that if you just keep trying long enough eventually something works out.  Maybe it makes no difference whatsoever.  At this point it's simpler than that stuff.  I simply rode my best race and the results were the results.  The luck aspect of it is nothing to me anymore but that doesn't mean I don't desperately want to back it up next spring.  Read the full story

Fulton, Almanzo, Many Thanks! and Thank God it's taper time!
April Morgan

This past Saturday was my first Almanzo 100 experience and it was just about as awesome as predicted with over 1000 racers!! I'm pretty sure when Chris designed this course way back when, it was with a big shit grin on his face, as I'm certain he found just about every single hill in southeast Minnesota. Nearly 8,000 feet of gravel torture...I swear I can still taste the suffering.  Read the full story

Take Two

The race started shortly after 9 and we hit the pavement for a brief distance before making the turn for gravel. The rain had settled the dust on the course, but also created mud on the top layer, which resulted in plenty of muddy faces and butts for everyone that day. After hanging with a large pack for a few miles, Loretta and I made a move to start to get ahead of people. It was a little risky at times, due to the loose gravel we were plowing through, but we did finally get ahead and settled in to a quick pace.  Read the full story

Mullin's 2015 Almanzo 100 Report
Cyclova XC

I wasn't positive I was going to ride Almanzo this year even after it was resurrected from the dead. But in the end Starr was able to get the day off so we made our plans and were off to the Maple Springs campground Friday afternoon.  Read the full story

Crushing Gravel part 10: What does www.weatherpessimist.com say about Almanzo conditions?
Two Wheels From Home

I swear I haven't learned my lesson. I still look at weather.com a week before events, then again 5 days, 3 days and 1 day prior. Why do I do this to myself? Who knows. Maybe somewhere deep inside, I feel the need to freak myself out a bit. Of course weather.com was calling for up to 80% chance of rain/thunderstorms and high wind. Did I believe them? You bet. Although I'd like to consider myself an eternal optimist, I'll be honest, I'm not. This is how events go down for me. I plan and check everything within my power...then check again.  Read the full story

Failmanzo : 8 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections
The Minneapolis Musette

Royal 162

Royal Ride
Blowing & Drifting

Saturday’s Royal 162 gravel race was exactly the race I needed to have. In the weeks leading up to the event – my longest-ever, at least in terms of distance – I felt that I hadn’t done nearly enough riding to prepare but that I needed to do well to rebuild my sense of confidence in my ridingRead the full story

Alexander 380

Alexander Race Report, Part I  
Tour Divide

This race report is a hard thing to write (and not just because the Alexander chewed me up, spit me out and then somehow managed to wind itself right into my soul!) Reconstructing the race is difficult, because my affinity for endurance events stems partly from my capacity to retreat deep into my own mind. (I would have made a “good” POW – terrible but true. Sometimes I think this “special skill” ought to be used for some good – some good outside my own good, that is!) But either way, I do have some crazy stories, plus a word or two (or three!) for the beauty and sheer magnitude that is the Alexander.  Read the full story  

Alexander, part II  
Tour Divide
I think there are a few things I skipped over at the end of part I. Riding out of PDC was interesting, and not just because of the fireworks in my stomach. We crossed the Mississippi again (back into Iowa), and there was some sort of party going on in a restaurant suspended above the river. It was a strange clash - my ruggedness and their civility. Shrill laughs and clinking glasses echoed in the dark night - a few garish party lights lacing the dark.  Read the full story

The Alexander 380  

I stood in my kitchen the morning after the Alexander with my wrist in a brace, one arm in a sling, and more sore than I have been in a long time, struggling to remember the basics of making coffee. Scrapes and bruises, swollen legs, a huge knot in my hair that stuck out from the side of my head that I couldn’t get out…I’m sure I looked as dismal as I felt. I hadn’t intended to end up in such a miserable state, but apparently it’s just not a good gravel race unless I arrive home exhausted, starving, and a little battered. Viva la gravel!  Read the full story

Alexander 380 Champion Mark Skarpohl (Audio)
Over the Top Cycling
Over the Top Cycling

Alexander 380 Gravel Race with Balvindar Singh (Audio)
Over the Top Cycling

The Alexander 380 with Sarah Cooper (Audio)
Over the Top Cycling


Almanzo 2015
Penn Cycle/Chris Chavie

Almanzo 100 2015
Brandon Sullivan

Almanzo 100 2015
Kim Mensinger

Almanzo 100
Todd Bauer (TMB Images)

Almanzo 2015
ME Photography

Rode the Almanzo 100 this past weekend. As always, it was a fantastic event. Even with the significant changes of this year…
Fuzzy Images

2015 Almanzo 100
Spring Valley Tribune

Bike Jerks

2015 Alexander 380 by #chubbybike
Balvindar Singh

Fallout: Ursula post-Alexander 380 by Emir (@scrvyknvs)
Balvindar Singh


When the bikers got to gravel!
Valerie Pherson 


Everything comes together for successful Wilderfest weekend
Bluff Country Newspaper Group/David Phillips

Miles and miles of gravel: Riding southern Minnesota's Almanzo 100
StarTribune/Patrick Stephenson

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