One of my favorite trails in the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System is the Timber Shaft trail in the Yawkey Unit. The trail’s Double X rock sections and man-made skinnies are at the top of a hill with gorgeous pine trees and boulder-infested gullies. So I was stoked to ride it on a fat bike on Friday before the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout festivities. The trail’s snow conditions were perfect and the weather idyllic.
I purchased an iStabilizer Flex tripod mount a couple of weeks ago so that I could use my smartphone camera to take photos and video of myself riding. It’s not quite a GoPro put considerably cheaper.
Below is a 35-second video of me riding some of the areas pictured above:
The trails in Cuyuna’s Yawkey Unit are about as good as it gets: reasonably hard-packed, just wide enough, and fun. Haul Road trail is truly amazing, almost as fast as riding on dirt. And you really can get some speed on Bobsled. Wheeeeeeee.
However, there are a just a handful of spots on Yawkey’s south-facing trails where there’s a little bit of ice from snow melt so this morning, Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC) member John Schaubach and I rode around and put dirt on them. That’ll make things a little less tricky for tonight’s s Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout group ride.
I came up to Cuyuna yesterday to get in a little riding before this weekend’s Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout. I met Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC) president Aaron Hautala at 2 PM and we rode every trail in the Yawkey Unit, some twice. He and his fellow CLMTBC members had snowshoed the entire network of trails in Yawkey last weekend when the snow was sticky and their timing could not have been more perfect. With yesterday’s colder temps, the trails are hard and fast. In some areas, if you wander too far off the center (the ‘bacon strip’), your tires find the softer snow and you’ll slow down quickly. But generally, it’s primo.
This morning I’m meeting CLMTBC member John Schaubach to do it all over again. Saaaaweeeet. And tonight we’ll do it all again for the night group ride, when Aaron, John and I will be escorting the beginners around Yawkey.
Ben strongly urged me to get it fixed, saying that bad (expensive) things can happen. I was due at a friend’s cabin on Mille Lacs so there was no time to find a local bike shop to fix it.
I arrived in Crosby-Ironton on Sunday at about 10 am and was still undecided about what do to. I drove by Cycle Path & Paddle and thought I was hallucinating. The sign said OPEN. At 10 am on a Sunday? Be still my heart. There’s no way they’ll have a mechanic on duty now.
The Cuyuna gods smiled upon me. Owner Jenny Smith wasn’t there but mechanic Ryan Anderson was and within 45 minutes, he cheerfully fixed my wheel, trued my rotor, and did a few other adjustments. Total labor charge: $16. I tried to tip him $10 but he wouldn’t take it.
I decided I had to spend more money at the store or the Cuyuna gods might extract payment in other ways. I bought a “Shred the Red” hoodie and t-shirt and asked store employee Becky McKay to take my photo. She coached me on how to hold the shirt so “Shred the Red” was visible on the hoodie. Other than my wife, I don’t think anyone has ever coached me when I’ve asked them to take my photo. Very cool.
I met up with Aaron Hautala in the park’s Yawkey Unit (Inset D on the PDF map of the park; screengrab image on the right) and after a warmup (hah!) up and down the amazing Bobsled trail, we headed over to Timber Shaft and its challenging double X rocks. I’d been itching to ride Timber Shaft since I first walked it as a newbie last summer after purchasing my bike.
Here’s a 3-minute video of Cuyuna Lakes Dirt Boss Nick Statz riding Timber Shaft on his fattie in March:
The photo above shows one of the Timber Shaft rocks that gave me trouble (there were, um, others). I thought the left line (red) would be tougher to clean because of the sharp left turn required to get around the small rock (red circle). Not so. While the green line was a straighter approach with a slight down and up, after 5 tries, I hadn’t cleaned it. I kept spinning my rear wheel as I tried to accelerate (green check mark) to get up enough speed to get over the big rock. I finally figured out that if I delayed acceleration a few more inches, the bike was more level and traction was better. As long as I unweighted properly, I was able to get over the rock clean just fine. Lesson learned. For now.
Aaron and I then rode all the other Yawkey Unit trails (Tugger, Little Rock, Grizzley, Man Cage, Manual Drive, Skip). WHEEEE! When he had to head home, I followed him, as it’s a short bike ride. The lucky guy lives adjacent to the park.
I rode back to the park and decided to re-ride all the Yawkey Unit trails again. When I got back to Timber Shaft, I ran into John Seery and Michael Knoll from Michael’s Cycles in Prior Lake who I rode with back in late March at the MN River Bottoms. They and two other friends were tackling the narrow and rocky upper section of Timber Shaft and one of the guys fell and sliced his leg on, you’ll never guess, a sharp rock. Shred the Red became Shed the Red.
Michael had a first aid kit, patched him up, and he promptly got back on his bike and cleaned the section where he’d fallen. Take that! Off they went to the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby to get him stitched up. Just another way that mountain bikers bring economic development to the area.
By chance, I ran into Aaron later in the afternoon. He’d returned with his five year-old son Caleb who has gotten quite adept at riding Man Cage. I also happened upon Cycle Path & Paddle proprietor Jenny Smith out riding Haul Road. I told her she saved my butt by having her shop open on Sunday, and for being savvy in hiring these two talented young adults at her store, Ryan Anderson and Becky McKay.
So after 5+ hours of riding Yawkey, I reluctantly headed home. Cuyuna, I do love thee so. I will be back. Soon.
On Saturday, local dirt boss and MORC member Nick Statz (right photo above) led the morning ‘fast’ ride group, mainly through the Yawkey Unit. (See this Silent Sports article featuring Nick: Cuyuna Lakes Reclaimed.) I’d not ridden Yawkey before so I was thrilled when we rode through its fabulous technical area.
I went back later in the afternoon to further explore the technical area of Yawkey and met MORC member Troy Lawrence who showed me how to do it without crashing. Some day when I get a little older…
In the evening, Don MacNaughton organized squirrel sled competition. Here’s his promo for it:
Have more in the tank? Did you drop your nuts? Let’s take it up a notch! Here are some details. Miniature bike, a sled, and the desire to pedal until you puke! Do you have what it takes? Can you pedal longer than your fellow squirrels? Game on!
With the dewpoint nearing 80, I declined but most everyone else punished themselves to the delight of the crowd.