Author: <span>Griff Wigley</span>

A couple months ago I paid a visit to FIT to be TRI’d (just after it moved to the Tiny’s Building in downtown Northfield) to ask owner Tom Bisel if he could recommend a base layer that would help me deal with the problem of sweating when mountain biking in cold weather.

Craft Pro Zero Extreme base layerHe didn’t hesitate to recommend the Craft Pro Zero Extreme base layer because it not only is very effective at wicking moisture away from the body but it dries in 8 minutes.  Sure, Tom… 8 minutes? I didn’t think it possible. But it’s turned out to be the best piece of sports clothing I’ve ever purchased.  It’s wicking is amazingly effective and it really does dry that fast. Read this review for more details.

Last Sunday I tossed my 20 year-old lightweight snowboarding jacket into the wash (I’ve been using it as my mountain biking jacket) and it pretty much disintegrated.

Griff Wigley in his Craft Pro Zero Extreme base layer and Sugoi RPM JacketSo back to FIT to be TRI’d I went this week to see what Tom would recommend for a waterproof, ventilated jacket that I could use during the cool/cold months of the year and that would resist abrasion. I walked away with the Sugoi RPM Jacket and promptly crashed on the ice while riding the upper Arb.  It resisted.  We’ll see how it does when I race at the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout next week and then during the spring rains which we’ll hopefully have soon.

Tom’s been one of the people to get the Cannon Valley Velo Club off the ground in the past year and is currently the president.  It’s looking like the club’s going to cater to mountain bikers this year, too. More to come on that soon.

Dealers Equipment


I got hooked on mountain biking after attending the grand opening of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails last June.  So it’s only fitting that my first race be at another Cuyuna festival and a winter one to boot: the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout on March 2-3.

The Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout is a winter festival to celebrate the new Sagamore Winter Trails and to benefit the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC), a division of MORC/IMBA. (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists / International Mountain Bicycle Association). All event profits will fund continued expansion and maintenance of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails in Crosby-Ironton.

The organizers have a terrific Tumblr blog site for the event that they’re updating regularly. I signed up for the Cuyuna Lakes Avalanche Pass ($40) which covers all events and includes some swag. The online registration via the NGIN platform is fast and easy. I’ve put myself in the beginner class for both the Sagamore SnowXross Country Race in the morning and the Serpent Lake Ice Bike 500 Race in the afternoon.

Looking at the schedule, my dilemma will be whether or not to skip the afternoon Ice Bike 500 Race in order to have more time to play in the Yawkey Unit as it’s only open for riding on Saturday, sunrise to sunset.  I only had a little time to ride in the Yawkey last year during the Squirrel Fest when the dewpoint was 80 degrees.

Here’s a teaser video created by Aaron Hautala, Creative Director at RedhouseMedia in Brainerd and newly elected president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC). The video features CLMTBC Director of Trail Maintenance Nick Statz. (See Aaron’s blog post on how the video was created: Worst winter ever. Best winter riding ever?):


I’m not surprised that QBP is the Presenting Sponsor for the event, given how much Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s Director of Advocacy, has been involved in getting Cuyuna off the ground.

Competition Trails

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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:

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Bucky Bill Nelson IMG_20120216_170856 IMG_20120216_170842 IMG_20120216_170609
I went mountain biking with fellow Northfielder Bill Nelson along the Minnesota River bottoms this week and he showed me an area just east of Cedar Ave. where beavers have been gnawing away at a dozen or more large trees.

The Wikipedia entry for beaver says:

Beavers fell trees for several reasons. They fell large mature trees, usually in strategic locations, to form the basis of a dam, but European beavers tend to use small diameter (<10 cm) trees for this purpose. Beavers fell small trees, especially young second-growth trees, for food.

But it’s puzzling because the trees above are not in place where the logs could be used to “form the basis of a dam” and they’re much too large for beavers to move.

So Bill and I have a formulated a theory: it’s a training facility.


QPB headquarters MORC board meeting at QPB headquarters MORC board meeting at QPB headquarters

I attended the Feb. MORC Board meeting on Monday, held at QPB headquarters in Bloomington.  I’m interested in getting more involved in the organization, though I’m not sure yet what it might be. I asked about the existence of MORC committees (eg, membership, volunteers, marketing, finance, events, etc.) and evidently some are in the works.

MORC’s About Us page has info about the board and the organization, though it looks like that page needs some updating. 

Gary Sjoquist, QPB Director of Advocacy

Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s Director of Advocacy, graciously hosted the meeting and provided pizza.  Gary’s got a new mugshot on the newly revamped QPB website.  I had a chance to meet with him before the meeting. He had the upcoming Frostbike on his brain, of course, followed by developments with the Minnesota High School Cycling League. More on that to come.


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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.

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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.

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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. 


[I posted this here in the Trail Discussion thread for the MN River Bottoms in the MORC forum tonight.]

I’ve only ridden the MN River Bottoms three times now but I notice that in the Trail Conditions thread, people only refer to the conditions of the east and west segments of the River Valley Trail but not the River Valley Trail – 77/Cedar Segment.

This a flat, sandy segment that doesn’t seem affected by the freezing/melting conditions like the main east/west segments are. And while it’s flat, it’s full of fun turns and quick ups and downs… and a wide variety of challenging technical obstacles. The sand is mostly hard packed, at least this winter, so that I have little trouble with my 29’er. It’s not just for fat bikes.

The MN River Bottoms wiki review doesn’t describe this segment in any detail so I’m wondering if many newer riders are missing it. (I discovered it completely by accident.) And when riders report on the Trail Conditions thread that "the trail" is icy or muddy, I’m wondering how many would still go ride if they knew that the ‘sandy segment’ is just fine.

Here’s a screengrab of the 77/Cedar segment from Phil Westover’s terrific Google Map that I’m referring to (red arrows are mine):

MN River Bottoms - sandy segment map


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.)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.


Last week I went for a night ride from downtown Faribault to the nearby River Bend Nature Center (RBNC). Earlier this year I rode a few of the trails at RBNC but mainly the wide, well-traveled ones.  I didn’t really see it as a good place for mountain biking. But I was wrong.  I rode a single track trail to get to RBNC that was very fun, even though I only had a weak handlebar light.  And once there, I discovered many other fun single tracks that I had no idea existed.

So I went back this week in the daylight to get a better idea of what I’d just experienced.  (My apologies for the semi-lousy photos. I took them with my smartphone.)

IMG_20120102_163130 IMG_20120102_163232 mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center
The best mountain bike trail from downtown to RBNC begins at the eastern edge of Teepee Tonka Park, underneath the Hwy 60 viaduct that crosses over the Straight River at the southeast corner of downtown Faribault. There’s another route, the recreational trail that begins at the southern edge of the park on the west side of the river but if you take that, you’ll miss the fun stuff.  See this City of Faribault Parks and Trails map (PDF) for more detail.

Right photo above: within a few yards, you have the option of taking the lower trail that goes along the river (intermediate difficulty) or the upper trail along the bluff (advanced/expert).

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The lower trail has several well-constructed bridges over the creek beds.

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The lower trail has the potential for lots of technical areas, with many logs and rocky creek beds.  I say ‘potential’ because with a few exceptions, the technical stuff is in ‘raw’ form, ie, not constructed to make it rideable or interesting for most riders.

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_162555 IMG_20120102_162155
The upper trail has some fun ups and downs, and is solidly constructed with rocks and logs along the steeper parts to prevent erosion. While not too difficult technically, the trail is narrow in many places, along some steep drop-offs and thus would be a little freaky for an intermediate rider.

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There are some fun tunnels to explore.

Next time out, I’ll try to find more of the single-track trails in the heart of the park.  But I’m thrilled to find out how much RBNC has to offer, as it’s only 15 minutes from my house in Northfield.

Update 9:40 PMA screengrab of part of the RBNC map with indicators in yellow where the trails start at the north end of the park.

Correction April 13:  the yellow arrow now indicates where the River Bend property line is. I’ve added a purple arrow to indicate where the single track trail actually begins.




I went riding at the MN River Bottoms again yesterday and discovered the trail segment that runs on the east side of the backwater, very close to the river.  The Black Dog power plant is right across the river, about midway between Cedar and I-35W.

Overall it’s flat and very sandy, with lots of small but fun ups and downs. And there are a fair number of optional technical obstacles.  It’s fat bike heaven but I had no trouble on my 29’er.

Sandy trail, MN River Bottoms IMG_20111229_143222 IMG_20111229_152927

MORC member Phil Westover has created this terrific Google Map he calls the South Bloomington Trail Network.

View South Bloomington Trail Network in a larger map


With temps nearing 50 and Christmas calories weighing me down, I went  riding on the Battle Creek Park Reserve mountain bike trail system on the east side of St. Paul for the first time this afternoon, early enough to give me time to explore since the MORC reviewer notes:

One common complaint with this trail is that there is no one right way to ride it. This leads to confusion on the part of people who are not familiar with the trail. It also causes some scary near misses by bikers bombing around blind corners not expecting to see people coming the other way.

Mountain bikers at Battle Creek Park Reserve: Tim Larson, David Gavin, Eric Marr and Dan MalechaI got lucky, though: five other guys showed up at the Battle Creek Community Center parking lot at the same time and they let me join them. L to R: Tim Larson, David Gavin, Eric Marr and Dan Malecha. Not pictured: Tim Brinkmann.

I’m not exactly sure where we went, but one of the guys said we covered 17 miles. Looking at the map (jpg)  of the area, I’m guessing we covered 50% or better, including sections called “Jesus Saves,” the “Wall of Death,” and “The Luge.”

The trails were 90% dry, with just an occasional muddy spot.  Despite the warms temps, “The Luge” (a series of big berms) was a combination of ice and frozen dirt as it’s well-shaded. Still, it had surprisingly good traction.

There weren’t any technical areas, though there were a few walls and downed trees for some skinny riding.

Given the two-way traffic on these trails, I’m likely to only ride here in the early spring and late fall when the lack of leaves makes for better visibility.  Oh yeah, warm and dry winters, too.