I met Caleb Wendel, co-owner of The Bike Shop in Houghton, Michigan that weekend and yesterday, he alerted me that the video he took of me riding the hamster wheel was now up on Vimeo:
As I wrote earlier, Ken and I figured out one way to ride the hamster wheel without putting your feet down: ride in fast and up as high as you can go without falling backwards; lock both brakes until the wheel starts to move, then pedal quarter turns with the same foot to keep the wheel moving; use your elbows against the hub and spokes as needed to keep your balance.
Of course I’m now itching to go back to Ray’s at least one more time before they close for the season and I’ve been thinking about how else the hamster wheel could be ridden. This video shows a Ray’s employee, Dave Barnett, riding the hamster wheel (some of it includes a helmet cam view). It appears as though he’s not pedaling at all, once the wheel starts to move, but rather just throws his body weight forward a few times (starting at the 23-second mark):
I’d like to try that approach, regardless. I’d also like to figure how to ride the hamster wheel perfectly clean, ie, no shoulder or elbow dabs against the hub and spokes. It would seem like hopping the bike left and right as needed to keep balanced might be a way to do that, though doing that at a steep angle while pedaling half turns seems daunting. I’ll report back next time I go but if anyone has ideas or experiences to share, please attach a comment.
Here’s a short video clip on how NOT to ride the hamster wheel:
I was initially shocked by the number of technical obstacles at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee: dozens for novices, dozens for intermediates, dozens for experts. And the cool thing is that most of the obstacle lines that start out at a one level of difficulty end with a ‘safe’ next-level of difficulty. I say ‘safe’ because nothing bad is likely to happen if you don’t make it. For example, the skinnies might be too tough for your level of ability but they’re low to the ground so you go for it. This encourages riders to keep at it because you experience success at the start of an obstacle ‘line’ and maybe the middle but then you get a real challenge towards the end, all in a single attempt. Brilliant.
Above: The lines in the Novice section that end with ‘safe’ intermediate difficulty.
Above: The lines in the Sport/intermediate section that end with ‘safe’ expert difficulty.
This pretty much holds true for the spectacular Expert section, too, i.e., expert lines end with tougher challenges.
Ken Barker from Cedar Rapids, Iowa was there for the weekend with his son Will and buddy Adam Knutson. I first met Ken up at the Cuyuna Lakes MTB Trail System last summer when we both were riding over a big rock out in the middle of somewhere. As you can see from this 90-second video, Ken can do it all, even in his Sunday best sport coat and pigtail hat:
Ken and I figured out one way to ride the hamster wheel without putting your feet down: ride in fast and up as high as you can go without falling backwards; lock both brakes until the wheel starts to move, then pedal quarter turns with the same foot to keep the wheel moving; use your elbows against the hub and spokes as needed to keep your balance. Way fun. I’d like to be able to make it without any elbow dabs.
I saw one guy clean this skinny on Saturday but I didn’t get his name. Ken and I tried it dozens of times, only rarely making it past the highest part. I finally cleaned it once late in the day on Sunday. w00t!
On the far right of the Expert section are two lines constructed of rocks and logs. The left line is much skinnier, dips up and down, and is crooked and slippery. Ken and I tried it dozens of times, only rarely making it past the big stump on the left. Twice I made it to the last 3 feet (red arrow) but then fell off. Neither Ken or I ever made it but a guy from Iowa named TJ Davis (above right with his dad, Tom Davis) made it once. I guess I’ll have to go back.
The entire Lebanon Hills MTB Park will be closed most of the day on Friday August 10 until 3 PM as the Leb Dirt Bosses and Dakota County Parks staff prep for the opening of the new trailhead and skills/terrain park. The current parking lot will be closed and the new one (paved) opened for the first time. Access to all the trails at Leb will then be behind the new trailhead building.
South/adjacent to the trailhead building is the new skills/terrain park. I got a chance to pre-ride it a bit on Monday with the guy who constructed it, Tim Wegner, owner of Trail Source. (Last fall, I blogged about Tim and his contributions to mountain biking, as did Chance Glasford in his blog.) Dave Tait, one of the Leb Dirt Bosses, joined us for the photo/video shoot.
Above: Dave and Tim riding some of the separate beginner and intermediate level skinnies, rock sections, and logs.
All of the advanced rock sections have multiple lines. The series of photos above shows Tim (left) riding an intermediate line down the one side of the rock pile, Dave (center) riding an advanced line down the middle of the same pile, and me (right) riding up the pile.
Riding down these three rocks (above) is challenging because of the gaps between them. Weight back, wheelie, unweight, repeat. Dave made it look easy. Ride up the rocks for a bit less of a challenge.
The same rocks (above) can be criss-crossed in a variety of ways, intermediate-to-advanced. I predict they’ll be popular with intermediate level riders looking to advance their skills as the rocks 1) have round edges and 2) are surrounded by strategically-placed wood chips to soften the, um, unplanned landings.
This rock section (above) is considerably more difficult when ridden this direction because of the slight downward approach to the extremely narrow skinny of rocks in the middle. Dave was able to clean it a couple of times. The video (see below) of him riding it the other direction (easier) also shows the right-turn, then left-turn narrow wooden skinny approaching the rocks section.
Two other tough obstacles: 1) the skinny made of uneven upright logs (left photo above) has a couple of slight bends in it; and 2) the large round bolder in the middle of the field can be tackled from all directions, not all of them successfully (right photo) I discovered.
There are two connected bermed turns in the NW corner of the park. Beginners can take them slow but there’s room to get a good run at them if you want to go fast.
The south end of the park has three lines of rollers and jumps. Tim shows that you can have fun just riding down the them at various speeds; riders can pump and manual over them, too, of course. The back two runs end with two large berms.
Dave shows (photos above in the 50-second video below) that you have fun jumping there, too.
Earlier this week, after Dan gave me a tour of the fabulous trails at Red Wing’s Memorial Park, I got to play in his back yard. What a hoot. Like having a bit of Ray’s MTB Indoor Park right out your back door. A double teeter-totter even.
I had no trouble riding this narrow round log (left photo, above) when using the little cheater ramp. But going the other direction (center) was a quite a bit tougher because of the abrupt edge to the log. It’s definitely a plus to have soft green grass to land on when crashing (right).
After more than a few tries, I finally nailed it and Dan happened to capture it in this photo sequence. A small manual is required to get the front wheel up on the log, then a little unweighting of the rear wheel to help it gently roll up the face of the log. If the rear wheel hits the log too hard, it makes more difficult to keep your balance once you get up on the log. Then it’s a matter of pedaling the rest of the way with a singular focus on leaning the bike to stay straight, keeping your eyes way ahead. If you succumb to steering instead of leaning, you’re hosed.
If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunnyhop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endoing is about the most unsafe thing to do.
Once I learn that, I’ll feel more confident riding the 3-4 ft high skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan.
I rode the all the trails in Elk River’s Hillside Park last Friday and I was stunned at how fun it was. The DirtWirx crew has packed a huge number of challenging technical areas into a twisty 7 miles of fast , switchback-infested singletrack.
The $4 daily fee is a bargain. I don’t understand why more city/county parks don’t charge a usage fee for mountain biking.
And to paraphrase what I wrote yesterday, while Elk River is about 90 minutes from Northfield, it’s very close to the mountain bike park at Elm Creek Park. So a day trip that consisted of a few hours at each park would be saaaaaweeet.
And guess what they’re building?
See the large slideshow (recommended) of 40 photos of Hillside’s technical obstacles (taken with my Android’s crappy camera) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:
And about halfway through the ride I met Tina, a most amazing sculpture by Sue Seeger:
Tina was created from an old stock car found here in the woods of Hillside Park. She took over 2 years to make, using my own time and supplies, and is for everyone who enjoys this park and trail.
Please be cool and help look out for her. Thanks — Sue Leeger.
More info and pics can be found by googling: suelandia — tina’s home
Two weeks ago I rode the trails at Elm Creek Park for the first time. It’s a new trail (June 2011) and relatively long (13+ miles). I think it’s the most picturesque park in the Twin Cities that I’ve ridden thus far.
The MORC review describes the character of its trails well:
At Elm Creek, you’ll ride through a variety of terrain from mature wooded tracks to open prairie areas . Flowing trails with small bumps and rises (designed to keep water off the trail) make sections of this trail feel like a pump track.
When I bring beginning and intermediate riders to Salem Hills and they ask me where they should go next, I’ll strongly recommend this park.
While Elm Creek is about 90 minutes from Northfield, it’s very close to Hillside Park in Elk River. So a day trip that consisted of a few hours at each park would be saaaaaweeet.
See the large slideshow (recommended) of 11 photos of the technical obstacles (taken with my Android’s crappy camera), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:
MORC should encourage more riders to carry a 6 inch folding chain saw (cost about $30) in their pocket or pack. Clearing this would take me between 5 and 10 minutes. Griff, this is not a personal jab at you. Just an opportunity to make a point about fostering the volunteer ethic in riders. Our sport was built on volunteers, authorized or not in the old days, and it continues to depend on volunteers.
Good suggestion! So I brought a hand saw with me on my early morning ride at the MN River Bottoms last Saturday, starting from the Hwy 169 Bloomington Ferry Bridge. I didn’t get far when I noticed that the buckthorn was greening up and infesting this great log section that I blogged about back in Feb.
Besides clearing all the low hanging branches and the buckthorn edging close to the main trail, I opened up an additional route through the small trees (right photo above) to make the approach to the big log more manageable for those who can’t hop their front wheel.
I also cleared out most of the brush around all four of the logs (numbered in red, right photo) on the other side. There’s one more area to clean out (yellow arrow) but I ran out of time.
The last time I rode the Hwy 169 to 35w portion of the MN River Bottoms was mid-December when I rode the entire main trail for the first time. I must have had blinders on as I don’t remember seeing very many technical areas. I rode it again on Saturday and, with my blinders off, discovered a large number of challenging logs and one giant teeter totter.
The most interesting and challenging area is the first set of logs you encounter as you head east from the Bloomington Ferry Road parking lot, hugging the river trail. Only one of the four logs is big. But they’re situated in a way that it’s tough to clean any set of two. I’ll have to get really good at hopping both my front and rear wheels before I’d clean a set of four in either direction.
This big log has been built up at both ends to make it more rideable lengthwise. I added a small log (center photo) as it was too steep riding over it crossways (towards the river). It still took me a dozen times to clean it because the log is so fat and flat on top that either one of my pedals or my chain ring bash guard would cause me to lose my balance. I finally figured out that I needed A) more speed on my approach and B) a larger dose of unweighting once I got up top.
The teeter-totter plank is a hoot. And after you get bored with it (heh) ride the length of the logs (both directions) that serve as its fulcrum. Much more challenging.
And here are photos of six other obstacles (two photos each) at other points along the trail:
Last Sunday I rode the sandy riverside trail on the MN River Bottoms between I-35 and Cedar and was delighted to see that someone had added a big log slice to the section of the trail near the other log slices that I blogged about back in early January. It’s not too tough going over the slice heading north (left photo above) but when heading north (right photo), there’s a slight dip in the trail just prior to the log. So instead of just powering over the log to clean it, I had to do a small manual, keeping my speed up. The chain ring scars on top of the log aren’t from me, as I’ve removed my large chain ring and protected the middle ring with a bash guard.
Heading north from the log slices, I spotted an old cottonwood stump on the left side of the trail where it appeared that riders had not ridden over it in many months because of deteriorating bark slabs that were used as ramps. I cleaned out the old stuff and repositioned a couple of the slabs on one side of the stump to lesson the drop off. It’s fun and very cleanable heading south (nice gentle dirt ramp, right photo) but pretty challenging to get over it heading north.
Further north on the trail, I positioned a railroad tie parallel to the big plank that’s perched on the log. It’s tricky because both the small tree and the big vine on one side of the railroad tie are in the way of your handlebars. It’s pretty doable for me heading south but I wasn’t able to come close to cleaning it heading north. The momentum I needed to get up onto the log would force my handlebars into the tree. If I tried to go slower, I wouldn’t get over the log.
With the warm weather closing Leb and Murphy, I decided to head back to the MN River Bottoms today and further explore the sandy trail along the river to get a better look at all the optional technical obstacles I saw last time. (I parked in the 35W lot at the end of Lyndale Ave. This seems to be the ideal lot because it provides easy access to three routes: two to the east, one to the west.)
Within a few minutes east of the parking lot is this fun play area. It’s the only substantial hilly area along the trail. Plenty here to challenge, with steep ups and downs, tricky off-cambers, ledges to jump off, many roots, and deep sand.
A few more minutes east is this simple but ingeniously placed set of logs. If you ride the length of the log first, you then have to make a quick left turn over the angled log. Going the other way is much harder, because once you get over the angled log first, you have just over a bike length to wheelie up on the set of logs before riding the length of the log. I tried many times but couldn’t clean it.
Next is a huge downed tree. Stay close to the roots for the best lines… still tricky, as it’s not smooth, it’s angled, and you have to unweight. If you don’t stay on your line, it’s a steep drop. I went over the bars a few times till I got the hang of it. For a tougher challenge, take the trunk head-on from either side. I tried but couldn’t make it.
Last week I had fun going over these two sets of logs and upright lot slices. But they were a little too easy so today I added some additional challenges, all optional.
I added two sets of small logs on the right side as you head west. They’re angled and the second set is followed by soft sand. Climb over the next set of logs again at an angle and then quickly get set up for the log slices. Then turn around and come back the other way.
I also made it possible for mere humans to cross the bridge of log slices from the sides by positioning an angled log slice on the trail side and some small logs on the other.
Next along the trail is this big plank on a log. It’s pretty easy heading west (plank first) but much tougher to get up on the log first and then keep your balance on the plank the rest of the way.
The car tire makes the plunge off this log less drastic. I couldn’t get up going the other way, tho (car tire side first).
On the other side of the trail from the car tire log is this log. It can be crossed over in two spots from either direction and it can be ridden lengthwise from the trail end.
Left: It doesn’t look like anyone’s riding the length of this nearby log. Traction on it is good but the tree in the middle is trouble and the ending quite steep. No cleans for me. Center: it looks easy to get up on this log but the drop-off on the other side looks formidable. I didn’t try it. Right: a log that’s straight as an arrow but round and skinny. Harder than it looks.
This downed tree is a monster. Its trunk is as wide as a small sidewalk and if it was laying flat on the ground, it’d be a piece o’ cake. But it’s got to be 8 feet high at the apex and I don’t have the cojones to tackle it. Maybe when I get a little older.
Next to Lebanon Hills, this is my favorite trail for technical riding… so far. I hope to be able to add more obstacles to it.