Last year, most mountain bike trails in Minnesota opened in late March (see my March 2012 blog posts). This year, we’ll be lucky to have any open by May. It snowed last night in much of the southern part of the state after raining all day and much more snow is in the forecast for tonight.
It’s hard for me to be content with the gravel riding I’ve been doing on the county roads south of Northfield. I get bored, the cold wind bothers my ears, and the brown landscape gets old. So last week I posted a note to Facebook here and Twitter here:
Is there an off-road area in the Twin Cities area right now where a mountain bike can be ridden without doing damage?
And I posted this to the MN River Bottoms topic in the MORC forum here:
The DNR has the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area in Gilbert where erosion is not a dirty word. They even have a Mud Run Area to play in with your truck, ATV or dirt bike (see #9 on this page). Is there anywhere in the metro area where mountain bikers can do something similar?
MORC Dirt Boss (Lebanon Hills) Bob Shephard replied:
One route that I’ve been recommending is start at the Sibley House, ride the dirt to Cedar Ave, cross the bridge, and then ride the dirt along the north side of the river back to 494. Then turn around and head back. There are several trails on the north side around the bass ponds. All guilt-free dirt riding, and probably pretty muddy in spots right now, if that’s what you are seeking. If you want to add some technical stuff, a good play area is underneath of the 494 bridge, especially to the east side where they added all kinds of rocks, and you have a nice gnarly hill heading up to the paved bike trail.
So I gave it whirl on Sunday.
I parked on Hwy 13 in Mendota in front of the DuPuis House (named after my great great grandfather Hypolite DuPuis), rode down the hill past the Sibley House, through the tunnel under the railroad tracks, and made my way slowly through the ice and mud along the bluff to the base of the Mendota Bridge. Once the trail moved away from the bluff (couple of blocks), the double track proved to be mainly solid and snow/mud-free (right photo above).
The area under the 494 bridge had rocks, like Bob said, but I didn’t find them to be much technical fun, as they were either too scattered or too sharp-edged.
But rather than continuing on to the Cedar Ave. bridge, I back-tracked to two areas just north of the 494 bridge that I’d spotted on my way that looked more promising for some technical riding.
- Left photo: The log skinny was more difficult than I anticipated because it was wet. I never did clean it from the direction shown, though after placing a little kicker log to help me get up on it, I sorta cleaned it with only a shoulder/hip dab.
- Middle two photos: I rolled a couple of sawed logs into position on the sand. They were fat enough to require a ‘moving hop’ once on top. The sand was soft so crashing was painless.
- Right photo: the steps provided a perfect spot for me to deploy an old motorcycle trials practice technique. I picked a relatively easy line (red) and once I cleaned it 3 times, I tightened it up (yellow) and kept at it till I cleaned it three times. I then tightened it up again (green) but was only able to clean it once. Just for fun, I tightened it up once more (purple) and tried rear-wheel hops to straighten out the final muddy turn but never got close to cleaning it.
Two hours of technical playing made my day. Thank you, Bob.